LA QUINTA, Calif. — Is Jon Rahm the best golfer in the world?
The computers at the Official World Golf Rankings 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 in La Quinta 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 top 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 win on the PGA Tour in three weeks and his ninth overall PGA Tour victory.
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.
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.
LEADERBOARD: Results from the The American Express
“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 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 double-eagle 2 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 hole, but then made six straight pars. 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-5 in the first two rounds combined.
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 missed a 10-foot birdie putt for the lead before making his own clutch putt for par.