LA QUINTA, California. – While John Rahm had plenty of chances to pump his first right ball after some good shots on Sunday, the look of relief on his face after holding up rookie Davis Thompson made him think of his win at The American Express.
The Spanish star took advantage of Thompson’s missteps in an adventurous final three holes and closed 4 to 68 to win by one stroke, his second PGA Tour win in as many starts this year.
“Oddly enough, I’m glad today went the way it did,” Ram said. “I enjoyed a few wins unconditionally, I enjoyed some comebacks, but today was definitely a struggle. Out of the five birds I made, what are they, one, two, three of them were mortise and the other two were basically 6 feet. So it tells you a story.”
Ram shook his fist one last time after hitting a two-punch par in 18th at the PGA West Stadium.
Rum and Thompson were level with three holes to play when Thompson, who had a 36-hole lead and tied for the lead with Rum on Sunday, hit a deep fairway bunker on par-5 16th and finished with par. Ram forced Birdie to step forward.
On par-3 on the 17th, Thompson decided to leave the pin for his 50-foot birdie on the island, and the ball hit the pin and rolled. The 23-year-old player from Georgia dropped his stick and covered his face with his hands. As he walked towards the 18th tee after taking off steam, he pulled his shirt over his mouth in desperation.
“Usually I always leave the stick from a distance,” Thompson said. “I feel like it helps me with my speed. Unfortunately, I will probably still be playing in my head “what if” for a long time. I read it very well. I guess I hit too hard. If he had more speed, he would just hit the flag and fall. But we will never know. I’m proud of myself for this week.”
Ram teeed into the bunker on the 18th but recovered well, hitting from 15 feet and punching. Thompson’s drive found the fairway, but his approach bounced off the green and rolled down the slope behind it. The rookie hit a daring flop shop that ended up a foot to the right of the hole. He shot 69.
“I had a great week,” said Thompson, who made five heads in the first two rounds to set the PGA Tour record for heads in a 72-hole tournament. “Competing with the best in the world is my dream and I did it today and proved that I can keep up with them. It was very funny. it was really cool.”
Ram finished with 27 out of 261 and won for the ninth time on the PGA Tour. It moves up one position and ranks third in the world. He will play in Torrey Pines next week, while world No. 1 Rory McIlroy will make his debut in Dubai in 2023 as part of a European tour.
“Great start,” said Ram, who won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Kapalua two weeks ago. “Obviously Sentry and this are very, very different golf courses and very different courses. You still have to go low on both of them. So, fortunately, the mentality is the same.
“The body feels great. My swing feels very, very good. And you can see it, right? he added. “Even when I say that maybe I’m not as comfortable as I would like, I shoot 64 because everything fires only when it is needed.”
Ram opened with two birdies and took the lead, but Thompson eventually caught up with him as Ram par-putt busted out in 13th place.
Ram got his fair share of breaks. From the middle of the fairway on the 16th, Ram, with his hands on his hips, watched his second shot towards the deep bunker on the port side. He hit a dormant rough and stayed on the fairway. This left the field only 10 feet away and his birdy lead shot twirled into a cup.
Ram has now won four of his last six starts – he won twice on the European tour at the end of last year. It was his seventh consecutive world top 10 streak, starting after the Tour Championship at the end of August.
Xander Schauffele, two weeks after he withdrew due to back pain, closed out with a score of 62 to finish two behind Chris Kirk (64).
Taylor Montgomery challenged Rahm and Thompson until he teeed the ball into the water on the 17th. He closed with 66 and finished fifth.
Scotty Scheffler closed with 67 for 11th. He narrowly missed a birdie shot on the last hole that would have put him back in first place by a fraction of a point ahead of McIlroy. Sheffler won’t play next week.
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