Updated throughout each tournament week, 'The Starter' will provide key news, notes, and other nuggets prior to the first tee time on Thursday morning. Think of it as an all-in-one resource to help guide you in the days leading up to the start of the tournament, as you prepare your fantasy golf lineups and entries. As soon as we receive valuable news updates on things such as tee times, featured groups, withdrawals and other course reports we’ll be sure to post them all here.
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Si Woo Kim won the Sony Open for his 4th career PGA Tour victory.
S.W. Kim led the field in both SG: Tee-to-Green (+11.76) and SG: Approach (+7.84).
S.W. Kim moves from 84th to 41st in the Official World Golf Rankings. He also moves from 84th to 8th in the FedExCup Standings.
Hayden Buckley--who held the 54-hold lead in his 40th career PGA Tour start--finished runner-up for his best-ever result.
Buckley's Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee stats:
This season: +0.918 (17 rounds)
Last season: +0.568 (77 rounds)
**Only Jon Rahm gained over a stroke per round OTT last season**
Chris Kirk's solo 3rd was his best finish on the PGA Tour since finishing T2 at the 2021 Sony Open. He now has three top-3 finishes at Waialae Country Club.
Andrew Putnam (T4) ranked 1st at the Sony Open in Strokes Gained: Putting (+10.52). He improved to 9-for-9 on made cuts this season (two top-5 finishes).
By finishing T7 at Sony, Aaron Baddeley earned an automatic spot in the field for this week's "The American Express" tournament.
Maverick McNealy added his third top-10 finish of the season with a T7 at Sony. He's one of seven golfers with three top-10s this season.
Matt Kuchar (T7) now has eight top-15 finishes in his last 10 starts at the Sony Open. (He has five career top-5 finishes at Sony).
Ben Taylor has seven top-5 finishes since the start of 2022--five on the Korn Ferry Tour and two on the PGA Tour.
No one who played at Kapalua the week before finished in the top 10 at Sony (Corey Conners and J.J. Spaun finished T12).
Brian Harman (T32) now has 31 consecutive par-or-better rounds on the PGA Tour.
Jordan Spieth went from first-round leader to missing the cut. He was the first golfer to do this since Matt Every at the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Tom Kim missed his first cut since last summer at the PGA Championship.
Hideki Matsuyama's streak of under-par rounds at the Sony Open came to an end at 14 after shooting 71 (+1) on Sunday.
PGA Tour rookie report after Sony Open:
Taylor Montgomery: 8/8 on made cuts; seven top-15 finishes; 149 total birdies (1st on TOUR)
Ben Griffin: 7/8 on made cuts; four top-25 finishes; 135 total birdies (5th on TOUR)
Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira won the 2023 Latin America Amateur Championship, giving him entry into The Masters, U.S. Open, and Open Championship.
La Quinta Country Club, PGA West (Pete Dye Stadium Course), PGA West (Nicklaus Tournament Course) - La Quinta, California
Event #12 of the 2022-23 FedExCup Regular Season
Full-Field Cut Event (after 3 days!)
The American Express opens up the PGA Tour's "West Coast Swing."
The "West Coast Swing" starts with the American Express in the Palm Springs area before moving not too far southwest to San Diego for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. The final stop will be in Northern California at another well-known venue in Pebble Beach.
Aside from each event being in California, the common theme of these tournaments is multiple-course rotations. Additionally, The American Express and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (as the name suggests) include a pro-am element where golfers play with "celebrities" for the first couple of days.
Going all the way back to the 1960s, The American Express carries with it a long history of names and formats.
In 2012, the tournament switched to a traditional 72-hole (4-round) competition. The American Express maintains a pro-am element over the first three days, which doesn't have much of an impact on the event aside from making the first three rounds take a bit longer. They may also make the pins slightly more accessible and the overall set-up easier to account for the amateurs playing.
The entire field rotates through three different courses over the first three days with a regular cut coming after 54 holes instead of 36.
The final round on Sunday takes place at the PGA West Stadium Course, which makes it the one course that golfers play twice if they make the 54-hole cut. Historically, the Stadium Course is the only one of the three with ShotLink set up.
There's also a giant 19-foot bunker (seen below), an island green surrounded by rocks, and Jon Rahm calling this tournament an [expletive] putting contest a year ago. Altogether, The American Express is a pretty unique stop on the PGA Tour.
The combination of PGA West courses and La Quinta Country Club often gets referred to as desert golf or "dome" golf. This points to the desert-like agronomy and general openness of these courses, but also the idea that there's typically not much wind to impact play.
In other words, the conditions are normally perfect for scoring.
In 2020, all three courses ranked in the top six of the easiest courses in terms of scoring on the PGA Tour. In fact, the Nicklaus Tournament Course and La Quinta CC played as the two easiest courses on the entire schedule that season.
All three courses play as Par-72s that aren't particularly long. Each course offers four reachable Par-5's that golfers need to take advantage of and score on to keep pace with the field.
As the scorecards below show, there are multiple Par-3s that play 190+ yards long and pose some difficulty to the players.
Here's a quick snapshot of each course:
La Quinta Country Club (Par 72)
2022 Scoring Average: 69.917 (24.50% birdie-or-better)
2021: Not used in rotation
2020 Scoring Average: 69.177 (26.62% birdie-or-better)
PGA West Nicklaus Course (Par 72)
2022 Scoring Average: 70.256 (24.93% birdie-or-better)
2021 Scoring Average: 70.949 (22.61% birdie-or-better)
2020 Scoring Average: 69.235 (28.35% birdie-or-better)
PGA West Stadium Course (Par 72)
2022 Scoring Average: 70.571 (25.17% birdie-or-better)
2021 Scoring Average: 70.809 (22.86% birdie-or-better)
2020 Scoring Average: 70.364 (24.73% birdie-or-better)
Winners and Winning Scores (last 10 years):
Hudson Swafford (-23)
Si Woo Kim (-23)
Andrew Landry (-26)
Adam Long (-26)
Jon Rahm (-22)
Hudson Swafford (-20)
Jason Dufner (-25)
Bill Haas (-22)
Patrick Reed (-28)
Brian Gay (-25)
Field Changes (-): Brian Gay and Kyle Stanley WD'd on Monday.
Field Changes (-): Chad Ramey and Chris Stroud pulled out of the field over the week.
Field Changes (+): Charley Hoffman, Dylan Wu, and Jonathan Byrd entered the field as alternates.
Field Changes (+): Kevin Chappell, Wesley Bryan, and Martin Trainer were added to the field as sponsor exemptions.
Field Changes (+): Aaron Baddeley earned a spot by finishing in the top 10 of last week's Sony Open.
Five golfers in the OWGR Top 7 are in the field (Scheffler, Rahm, Cantlay, Schauffele, Zalatoris).
Eleven golfers in the OWGR Top 25 are in the field.
Field Changes (-): Joel Dahmen WD'd on Tuesday.
Field Changes (+): Hank Lebioda replaced Joel Dahmen in the field on Tuesday.
Xander Schauffle (back) - OWGR 6th
Schauffele withdrew during the second round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions (1/6) due to a back injury. He attempted to play at Kapalua after not practicing in the days leading up to the event and also skipping the pro-am that week. Schauffele tried to play knowing he couldn’t swing at 100%.
After leaving Hawaii early, Schauffele said he was planning to get an MRI. We will hopefully get some more specific news about his MRI, but the fact that Xander’s in this field suggests positive news.
Will Zalatoris (back) - OWGR 7th
Zalatoris returned from injury two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He showed very little rust from his four months off from competitive golf, finishing T11 at Kapalua. Zalatoris shot all four rounds in the 60s that week, with his lowest round–an eight-under 65–coming on the final day of the event.
Dean Burmester (toe) - OWGR 56th
Burmester posted on his Instagram account on January 2nd that he was starting off the year with a broken toe. The American Express will be his first start of 2023. It's unclear the severity of the injury and how much it might impact him this week, but it's worth keeping an eye on.
Brendan Steele (back) - OWGR 123rd
Steele withdrew with a back injury during the third round of the Houston Open in November. He apparently tweaked the same back injury prior to his Tuesday practice at last week’s Sony Open, which nearly caused Steele to WD at Waialae.
Apparently, the injury felt better by his tee time Thursday because he was able to play well enough to make the cut and finish T48. Steele told reporters after round one, “It’s lower back, it’s happened about 10 times, and it seems to happen after long flights.”
James Hahn (neck) - OWGR 308th
Hahn withdrew from the Sony Open in Hawaii before the start of the event. He cited a neck injury as the reason for his WD. As of now, Hahn remains in the field for The American Express.
Patrick Rodgers (undisclosed) - OWGR 147th
Rodgers pulled out of the field for the Sony Open in Hawaii before the start of the event. No reason was given for Rodger's WD, but he is in the field for this week's American Express tournament.
John Huh (undisclosed) - OWGR 180th
Huh is expected to make his first start of the year at The American Express. He withdrew from last week's Sony Open before the start of the event without reason.
Jhonattan Vegas (undisclosed) - OWGR 138th
Vegas will be making his first start of this PGA Tour season. He's been out since August with what he referred to as a "recurrent injury" on his personal Twitter account.
He underwent arm surgery last April, though returned to competition pretty shortly afterward. It's unclear if his absence from events in the Fall was due to the same issue.
OUT OF FIELD
Kyle Stanley (undisclosed) - OWGR 690th
Stanley withdrew from The American Express on Monday. It’s unclear why Stanley decided to pull out of the event, though it’s worth noting that he’s been playing this season under a major medical extension for an undisclosed injury. Stanley missed the cut at last week’s Sony Open in Hawaii, and he has yet to make a cut in three total starts on the PGA Tour this season.
Chris Stroud (undisclosed) - OWGR 499th
Stroud pulled out of the field for The American Express on Sunday. No reason was provided for his WD.
Chad Ramey (undisclosed) - OWGR 202nd
Ramey pulled out of The American Expressed on Saturday. He played in both Hawaii events, finishing T54 this past week at the Sony Open. So it’s unlikely that an injury is the cause of him deciding not to play this week.
Brian Gay (undisclosed) - OWGR 790th
Gay withdrew from The American Express tournament on Monday. At this moment, no reason has been provided for Gay’s decision to WD from the event. The 51-year-old does not play often on the PGA Tour anymore. Gay competed just twice in the Fall, finishing T11 at the Bermuda Championship and missing the cut at The RSM Classic.
The American Express golfers with the highest “True Strokes Gained” (avg. adjusted strokes gained) at the PGA West Stadium Course (min. two starts):
Si Woo Kim +3.42 (9 rounds)
Cameron Davis +2.95 (7)
Patrick Cantlay +2.81 (7)
Sam Burns +2.70 (5)
Andrew Putnam +2.40 (11)
Sungjae Im +2.35 (9)
The American Express golfers with the highest “True Strokes Gained” (avg. adjusted strokes gained) at the PGA West Nicklaus Course (min. two starts):
Russell Knox +2.98 (5 rounds)
Tony Finau +2.95 (4)
Brendan Steele +2.90 (7)
Doug Ghim +2.37 (3)
Byeong Hun An +2.31 (2)
Sungjae Im +2.20 (4)
The American Express golfers with the highest “True Strokes Gained” (avg. adjusted strokes gained) at La Quinta Country Club (min. two starts):
Harry Higgs +4.40 (2 rounds)
Justin Rose +3.31 (6)
Jon Rahm +2.99 (4)
Dylan Frittelli +2.88 (2)
Adam Hadwin +2.64 (6)
Patrick Cantlay +2.43 (3)
Lucas Glover +2.40 (12)