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65th American Express underway in La Quinta, leaders at 10-under

The $8.4 million American Express PGA tournament got underway at three courses in La Quinta, with a field of 156 players led by Scottie Scheffler, the world's top-ranked men's golfer who is coming off one of the best seasons on the PGA Tour in recent years.   

Scheffler had 13 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s during the 2022-23 season, the most for any player in a single season on the PGA Tour since 2005, when Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods each had 13 top-fives and Singh had 18 top-10s.

Scheffler did not miss a cut in his 23 starts, and set the PGA Tour record for official money earned in a season at $21,014,342 en route to being selected by his fellow players as the PGA Tour Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.

Scheffler passed Spaniard Jon Rahm to move atop the Official World Golf Ranking for the fourth time on May 21 and has remained first for 35 consecutive weeks.

"He hits the golf ball better than anybody,'' Brandel Chamblee, who will be the analyst on Golf Channel's coverage of the tournament, told City News Service. ``You'll hear from time to time, there's not that much difference between tour players, that they all hit it great. Sounds good, but it's just not true. "There's a vast difference between the very best ball strikers in the game and the rest. Scottie, for the better part of two years, has been the very best ball striker.  

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"The old saying, `Drive for show, putt for dough' couldn't be more wrong. What you do tee-to-green is five times more important than putting. In a nutshell that's what makes him the best player in the world. He just simply hits it miles better than the tour average and better than everybody else who is closely competing with him."  

In the 2022-23 season, Scheffler's tee-to-green strokes gained average of 2.62 per round was the second-best all-time, behind only Tiger Woods' 2.98 in 2006. The figures are available dating back to 2004.

Scheffler became the first player to lead the tour in both shots gained off the tee and shots gained approach. He is the first player to lead the PGA Tour in greens in regulation in back-to-back seasons since John Senden in 2009 and 2010.

Scheffler finished with an adjusted scoring average of 68.63, the seventh-lowest in PGA Tour history. Woods is the only player with better averages.

Scheffler made bogey or worse on just 10.73% of his holes played for the season, the first time a qualified player has been below 11% since Woods in 2002.

"It's not about hitting it straight so much, it's about being able to work it in every direction," Chamblee said. "Scottie is very comfortable hitting the ball left to right, right to left as Tiger Woods was, as Jack Nicklaus was."

Scheffler began his 2024 season by finishing in a five-way tie for fifth in The Sentry, four shots behind winner Chris Kirk. The tournament in Kapalua, Hawaii concluded Jan. 7.  

"He just didn't putt as well as I thought he was going to putt at Kapalua,'' Chamblee said. "Ball-striking wise, he did exactly there what he'd been doing all year long. He was awesome, but he just didn't putt that well."

Scheffler skipped last week's Sony Open.   

The 27-year-old Scheffler is the 11-2 pre-tournament favorite according to BetMGM, an official betting operator of the PGA Tour. Former UCLA standout Patrick Cantlay is the second choice at 10-1 and fellow American Xander Schauffele the third choice at 11-1.

"When you ask who I like this week, this is probably one of the hardest tournaments to predict who's going to win because the courses are in too good a shape, there's no wind, there's no humidity so it's very difficult for the best players in the world to separate themselves,'' Chamblee said.

"What I anticipate is that it will be a white knuckle ride on Sunday. There'll be 10 players, 12 players within two shots making the turn on Sunday."  

Scheffler will begin the tournament at La Quinta Country Club, set to tee off from the first hole at 9:14 a.m. in a foursome that also includes Cantlay.

The field includes three other players in the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking -- Schauffele, who is ranked fifth, Cantlay, who is ranked sixth, and Wyndham Clark, who is ranked 10th.

Clark, the 2023 U.S. Open champion, is among seven winners of major tournaments in the field.

The field also includes Rickie Fowler, a six-time winner on the PGA Tour who was born and raised in Murrieta, and Tom Whitney, a graduate of La Quinta High School and the Air Force Academy, who served four years in the Air Force as a nuclear missile operator, completing his active duty service in 2014.  

The American Express is the 34-year-old Whitney's first PGA Tour event as member of the tour. He earned his spot on the tour by finishing in top 30 on the points list in the developmental Korn Ferry Tour.

For the second consecutive year, the tournament is without its defending champion with Rahm leaving the PGA Tour to play on the rival Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour, which also includes Hudson Swafford, the 2022 champion.   

Rahm's absence will extend the streak of no player having won the tournament in back-to-back years since Johnny Miller won in 1975 and 1976.   

The field will be reduced to the low 65 and ties following the conclusion of the third round.  Sunday's final round will be played at the Stadium Course. The winner will receive $1.44 million.

Since The American Express became a 72-hole event in 2012, the winner's margin of victory has not been more than two strokes in any year.   

The tournament will be televised daily through Sunday from 1-4 p.m. on Golf Channel, and coverage will also be streamed on Peacock. Additional coverage will be streamed on the ESPN+ streaming service from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. daily through Sunday.

Grammy-winning country singer Keith Urban will perform a concert on the PGA West Stadium Course driving range following conclusion of play Friday. The Grammy-winning pop rock band Train will perform a concert at the same site following conclusion of play Saturday.

All Friday and Saturday tournament tickets include admission to the concerts. There are no concert-only tickets.   

The concert area on the Pete Dye Stadium Course driving range will open to spectators at 4 p.m., with the concerts expected to start at approximately 5:30 p.m. Chairs and blankets will only be allowed in designated areas.

All tickets are digital and are available at

General parking is in the P Lot  and the entrance is on the southbound side of Jefferson Street, across from The Hideaway Golf Club between Avenue 52 and Avenue 54. Daily parking is $20. Shuttles will take fans from the parking lot to the tournament entrance.

Gates will open at 7:30 a.m. daily with play beginning at approximately 8:30 a.m.

Checking the weather forecast before going to the tournament is recommended. Cool mornings and sunny afternoons are expected, so dressing in layers is the best idea.

Tournament organizers call sunscreen, a hat, comfortable shoes and binoculars "must-have items.''

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