Best in the world? Jon Rahm makes argument with another win at 2023 American Express
Is Jon Rahm the best golfer in the world?
The computers at the Official World Golf Ranking may say no, but it’s difficult to argue for anyone other than Rahm at the moment. With four wins in his last six worldwide starts, including a one-shot victory at The American Express on Sunday, Rahm seems to be moving from a great player to a dominant one.
Chased all day by rookie Davis Thompson and a flock of other players, Rahm managed to steady a shaky back nine with a birdie on the 16th hole to regain sole possession of the lead on the Pete Dye Stadium Course at PGA West. Solid pars on the final two holes gave Rahm a 27-under winning score for his second win in The American Express in the last six years. It also was the Spanish star’s second victory on the PGA Tour in three weeks and his ninth overall PGA Tour title following his win at the 2023 Sentry Tournament of Champions.
“Body’s been feeling great. My swing’s been feeling really, really good. And it shows, right?” said Rahm, who is expected to move from fourth to third in the new world ranking on Monday. “Even when I’m saying I may not be as comfortable as I would like, I’m shooting 64s because everything is just firing when it needs to.”
Rahm, who started the day tied with Thompson, shot 68 on Sunday to earn the $1,440,000 first-prize check from the $8 million purse. Rahm also moved to No. 1 in the year-long FedEx Cup points race, the first time he has ever led that race at any time during a year.
Rahm was so happy and comfortable with the win that he could even take a jab at himself.
“I’m just going to say that I’m glad I came back and won the putting contest this year. That’s all I can say,” Rahm laughed, a reference to a viral comment he made at the 2022 American Express that the event was nothing but a putting contest.
As low as Rahm’s scoring was with rounds of 64, 64, 65 and 68, he still finished one shot off the tournament scoring record for a 72-hole event that Patrick Reed set in 2014.
Thompson, the first- and second-round leader, fought his driver much of the day but was tied with Rahm on the back nine. A critical missed birdie putt on the 14th hole and an 8-foot Rahm par putt stopped Thompson from taking the lead outright. When Thompson parred the 16th after a poor drive into a bunker and Rahm birdied the hole, Thompson fell one shot behind.
“I had a great week. Competing against the best in the world is my dream, and I did that today and proved that I can hang with them. It was a lot of fun,” the 23-year-old Thompson said. “A lot of nerves and I hit a lot of quality golf shots under pressure, which was really cool.”
Rahm was impressed with the rookie who played college golf at the University of Georgia.
“First time in this situation, teeing off with the lead on Sunday in a PGA Tour event, I think he did a great job,” Rahm said. “He played good golf. It was just, I would say, two bad swings at the wrong time. And that was 5 and 16.
“One could say it was two holes where he was maybe trying to hit it a little bit hard, trying to get some extra distance,” he said. “One cost him at least one shot and the one on 16 cost him half a shot. And that was the difference at the end.”
Rahm and Thompson added some drama in the closing holes. Thompson’s 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole hit the pin and bounced a few inches away.
“I usually always leave the stick in from a long distance. I feel like it helps me with my speed,” Thompson said. “I’ll probably play the “what if” game in my head for a long time, unfortunately.”
Rahm then hit his drive into a fairway bunker on the par-4 18th, but when his next shot found the middle of the green, with Thompson already over the green, Rahm pumped his fist in victory.
Xander Schauffele had the round of the day among the leaders, a 10-under 62 that included a rare albatross on the par-5 fifth hole. Schauffele finished tied for third at 25-under with Chris Kirk, who like other chasers on the day made his move early but couldn’t seem to make a critical putt down the stretch in a round of 64.
A final-hole birdie for a 66 allowed Taylor Montgomery to finish alone in fifth at 24-under.
Rahm jumped to a quick lead Sunday with kick-in birdies on the first and second holes, but then made six straight pars, showcasing a wedge game he said was as good as he’s had in a tournament.
“The amount of tap-ins that I’ve had these four days is unlike anything I’ve ever had,” Rahm said. “If I had to put a MVP to something, it’s that 56 and that 52 degree wedges were key.”
Thompson made a birdie on the fourth hole but then started a day-long battle with his driver by hitting a lake on the par-5 fifth hole on the way to a bogey.
“I had a few tee shots off line. I mean, didn’t really give myself a chance to go for it on 5 and 16 due to poor tee shots. As well as I played the par-5s all week, I kind of didn’t really do that well today,” said Thompson, who had five eagles on par-5s in the first two rounds combined.
Rahm then started making par after par despite hitting good putts.
“I can tell you there’s a few, I mean, on 5, 7, 8, 10, 15, 17 and 18, all of those putts were good,” Rahm said. “All of them looked like they were dead center with two feet to go and just at the end they just missed.”
The par for Thompson on the 16th after a drive into a bunker hurt more because Rahm was short of the green in two, chipped up to 8 feet and then made the birdie putt that gave him the lead for good. The birdie on the 16th came moments after another big 8-foot putt, this one for par on the 14th hole. Rahm missed the green long and chipped onto the green, then watched Thompson miss a 10-foot birdie putt for the lead before making his own clutch putt for par.
For Schauffele, the third-place finish was important coming off a withdrawal from the Sentry Tournament of Champions two weeks ago with back pain.
“It’s a good week back. I’ve never had to withdraw from a tournament,” Schauffele said. “Bit scary for me and my team. Fortunately, I have a really good team that put me back into playing shape pretty quickly. So a lot to build on this week. Definitely looking forward to the next few events.”
Schauffele’s albatross on the fifth came on a 4-iron from 226 yards and sparked his rise up the leaderboard.
For Rahm, the win was the continuation of a great stretch of golf. But it isn’t where he hopes he can take his golf in the coming months or coming years.
“In my mind I feel like I can get a lot better,” Rahm said. “I feel like that’s the mentality I should have. Again, I work very hard to do what I do. I could find mistakes in every single round I’ve played. Very few times I would say I’ve played a flawless round.”