Fourth-seeded Rahm holds off rookie Thompson to win US PGA American Express

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Fourth-seeded Jon Rahm endured a frustrating day on the greens, but his four-under-par 68 was enough to hold off rookie Davis Thompson to claim a second US PGA Tour title in as many weeks at the American Express Tournament.

Spain’s Rahm, who opened the year with a victory in the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, had five birdies on the Stadium Course in La Quinta, California, finishing with a 27-under-par total of 261.

Thompson, who started the day tied with Rahm for the lead, carded a three-under 69 for 262.

“Hitting balls was great, I hit a lot of great putts – it’s just golf,” Rahm said of a large number of putts that didn’t fall. “I burned edges all day.”

Rahm led much of the day after back-to-back birdies on first and second – both from about two feet. He rolled in a two-yard birdie on the ninth and got another strike on eleven – but it was far from smooth sailing from there.

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A bogey on 13, where he missed the green and his five-foot putt to save par fell out, Rahm tied with Thompson for the lead.

He got his nose forward again with a birdie on the par-five 16th, where his second shot from the fairway avoided a steep drop-off to a greenside bunker and his eight-foot birdie putt circled agonizingly around the cup before he fell in.

Thompson, meanwhile, was hard in a fairway bunker on his way to a par at 16.

“The turning point was 16,” Rahm said. “He missed that tee and I put him on the fairway. That’s pretty much a half-stroke penalty.

“I knew if I did what I could, I’d probably have a one-time lead going into the last two holes.”

Thompson, a former amateur standout at the University of Georgia and winner of the Korn Ferry development tour, had followed his first birdie of the day off the fourth with a bogey on the fifth, where he was in the water.

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He closed the gap to one stroke with birdies on sixth, ninth and eleventh.

– ‘What if?’ –

He came agonizingly close to drawing level on the 17th, where his 48-foot birdie putt hit the pin and failed to fall.

“Usually I always abandon the stick from a long distance,” said Thompson. “I feel like it helps me with my speed. I will unfortunately be playing the ‘what if’ game in my head for a long time to come.”

Rahm then saw his 20-foot birdie attempt land on the rim on 17. and he was in a fairway bunker off the tee on 18 while Thompson found the fairway.

But Thompson’s second shot went through the green, leaving a heavy chip from a wave below the putting surface, while Rahm found the green for a routine par to win.

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“Fortunately, it was enough,” Rahm said.

Despite the disappointment, Thompson called it a “great week” in the California desert, where his five eagles in the first two rounds tied the PGA Tour record for a 72-hole tournament.

“A lot of nerves and I hit a lot of quality golf shots under pressure, which was really cool,” he said.

Xander Schauffele and Chris Kirk tied for third with 263. Schauffele’s 62 included an albatross on the par-five fifth, where he holed his second shot from 225 yards into the fairway.

Kirk finished with a 64.

Second-seeded Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, needing a solo ninth-place finish or better to displace Rory McIlroy at the top of the standings, was carded 65 for a total of 22 under of 266, placing him in eleventh place.

bb/rcw

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