The scoring-fest is underway at the American Express championship and this one looks to be one of those “go-low or go-home” type of weeks with birdies flying over three courses on Thursday.
Davis Thompson, a Korn Ferry graduate, was the lowest of the low — he shot a career-best 10-under par 62 at LaQuinta Country Club with conditions perfect for scoring.
Thompson had the 59-watch on after he shot an eight-under par 28 on the front nine thanks to four birdies and back-to-back eagles at the par five fifth (516 yards) and the par five sixth (527 yards). He was scalding hot but once he made the turn, he lost his mojo. He managed just two birdies coming home — one at the par five 13th and he closed out his day with a birdie at 18.
After that first nine, Davis tried to not get ahead of himself. “That was kind of like my biggest challenge today was staying present-minded and trying to put one foot in front of the other,” he said after his extraordinary day. “Your mind definitely starts to wander a little bit. But I played enough rounds to where I try to teach myself over and over you can’t get ahead of yourself.”
The truth of the matter with this event is that the true leader won’t be known until late Saturday after the field has played all three courses.
Biggest name right in the thick of it was Tournament of Champions winner Jon Rahm. Rahm played LaQuinta and turned in a nice eight-under par 64 in his bid for back-to-back victories to start 2023. He had plenty of company at eight under: Tyler Duncan (Nicklaus Tournament), Taylor Montgomery (LaQuinta), Matti Schmid (Stadium) and Sam Burns (Stadium).
Xander Schauffele looks like he’s recovered from the back injury he suffered at Kapalua. He shot a seven-under par 65 at LaQuinta and was one of nine players tied at that number. Schauffele said he’s feeling well. It’s a little sore,” Schauffele said after his round. “Trying to be as patient as possible, to take things as slow as possible in terms of getting too many reps in and I guess being stupid in that sense. But I’m known to try to practice too much at times. I’m trying to take this one slow, so I don’t hurt it again or do something of that nature.”
If you broke this one down by leaders at the respective courses, it looks like this:
LaQuinta: Thompson (62).
Nicklaus Tournament: Duncan (65).
Stadium: Schmid, Burns (65).
World No. 2 Scottie Scheffler opened with a so-so 68 at LaQuinta, No. 5 Patrick Cantlay joined him at that number. Rickie Fowler started his season with 68 at LaQuinta while Tony Finau could only manage 69 at LaQuinta, the most scoring-friendly of the three courses.
How low was the scoring? Sixty-three players in the field shot four-under par or better.