2023 The American Express: Top 10 Power Rankings at PGA West

The American Express, La Quinta Country Club, PGA West,Syndication: Desert Sun
The American Express, La Quinta Country Club, PGA West,Syndication: Desert Sun /
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After a couple weeks living on island time, the PGA Tour kicks off the West Coast Swing at a historic event.

The old Bob Hope Desert Classic has undergone a slew of name changes in recent years, and for the past few it’s been dubbed “The American Express.” The name’s a bit clunky and soulless if you ask me, but I digress.

Based on last week’s ranking, 15 of the top-50 players from the Official World Golf Ranking are slated to tee it up this week. Not bad for a non-designated tournament per the PGA Tour’s new nomenclature, but this is still an event that’s diminished in stature over time.

That’s no shame on The American Express when it has to compete with famed venues like Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach, TPC Scottsdale and etc.

At least this event is no longer 90 holes like it was through 2011!

The American Express is a 156-player, 72-hole pro-am tournament with a 54-hole cut. Players will cycle through La Quinta Country Club and PGA West’s Stadium and Nicklaus courses before hopefully getting a second crack at Stadium if they make the cut of top-65 and ties for Sunday.

The Stadium Course was designed in 1986 by Pete Dye. It was intended to provide a stern test to the game’s top players. In fact, it was deemed too difficult by players early on, leading to boycotts and demands that changes be made.

The PGA Tour acquiesced, and now it’s regarded as one of the more feeble tests on the schedule. Sure, the pro-am format lends itself to some easier pin locations and green speeds, but it’s still a birdie fest here and at the two other courses regardless.

The winning score at The American Express has been 20-under-par or better the last 15 years.

The Stadium Course shares a lot of similarities and hole templates with its older brother, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

It will be cool this week in the desert with temperatures not expected to get past the mid-60s Fahrenheit and dipping into the 40s for the morning waves. Rain could hit early in the week and early in the tournament, but it expects to be mostly dry and not overly windy.

Let’s get down to business in the Golden State with this week’s top 10:

The American Express, La Quinta Country Club, PGA West, FedEx Cup, PGA Tour, Jon Rahm
Sam Burns, The American Express, PGA West, Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /

Sam Burns has a couple top-20s in three starts at The American Express.

He debuted in 2019 by finishing T-18th. Burns’ top tournament finish came the year after when he recorded 71-68-67-63 (-19) and was bogey-free his last 21 holes to finish T-6th.

Burns improved by eight shots between rounds one and four at PGA West’s Stadium course, went to La Quinta for round two, and Nicklaus for round three.

He ranked T-4th in the field in driving distance (310.1) but was T-108th in driving accuracy (55.36%). If Burns can meet somewhere in the middle, he’ll really be dangerous.

Burns was dead in the water after an opening 77 at Nicklaus in 2021, but he fought back for a Friday 66 at Stadium to miss the cut by just three shots.

He had a career season in 2021-22, winning his second Valspar Championship in a row and following it up four tournaments later at Colonial.

Burns will look to get some of that mojo back as his trip to Hawaii for the Sentry Tournament of Champions a couple weeks ago didn’t go according to plan.

This will be a weaker field than most Burns will face in the new world of delegated events, so he will look to take advantage of a good opportunity in the desert.

The 26-year-old out of LSU ranked 12th on the PGA Tour last season in total strokes gained per round (1.39). He’s got the length to attack the par-5s this week, ranking 24th in driving distance (309.6).

Burns was also eighth in birdie average (4.33) and seventh in par-5 scoring (4.5).