As predictable as a Dallas Cowboys playoff collapse, the PGA Tour’s two-event Hawaii swing, which traditionally starts the calendar year, was tremendously entertaining and was dramatic right to the end.
The Sentry Tournament of Champions on Maui saw Cam Smith set the all-time Tour scoring record in a thrilling one-stroke win over world No. 1 Jon Rahm. Then last week’s Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae in Honolulu was host to an incredible back-nine charge and playoff victory from reigning Masters Champion Hideki Matsuyama.
Now, the Tour heads back to the U.S. mainland, with the most recent edition of The American Express, an event dating back to Arnold Palmer’s three-stroke triumph in 1960. Being held at the Pete Dye Stadium Course, seven players ranked in the OWGR top 25 are on hand, for a tournament that has gone 12 straight editions with a winning margin of two or fewer, four of which went to a playoff.
Among the talented field, our top 15 for the week is as follows. And as far as we know, none of the players are being coached by Mike McCarthy.
15. Adam Svensson
A not-yet-known 28-year-old Canadian, Svensson was one of the stars of the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour season, with two wins and a runner-up among eight top 10s. It should put the PGA Tour on alert that he finally seems to be feeling comfortable with his new Tour membership, breaking out of an early season slump to finish T7 at last week’s Sony Open in Hawaii, shooting all four rounds in 67 or better.
Svensson has also had some past success at The American Express, finishing T18 in 2018, which was his only start in this event. Do not be surprised if his momentum from Hawaii carries over to La Quinta, as a considerable number of Korn Ferry Tour graduates have excelled on the big Tour in recent years.
World Rank: 168
Last 6 Starts: 7, MC, MC, 45, 22, MC
Best Finish at The Amex: 18th (2019)
14. Cameron Tringale
After a two-month break, Tringale makes his return to the PGA Tour in search of his first career victory, with this week representing his 317th career start. He has been getting very close, finishing T2 to Hideki Matsuyama at October’s ZOZO Championship, and notching two T3s in the 2021 season.
The 34-year-old Georgia Tech product has made six of seven cuts in the 2022 season, with three of those being 11th or better, including a T7 in his most recent start at the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open.
One of the best putters on Tour, Tringale has finished 12-under or better in three of his six career Stadium Course starts, with his best result being a T14 in 2016.
World Rank: 54
Last 6 Starts: 7, MC, 2, 59, 56, 11
Best Finish at The Amex: 14th (2016)
13. Andrew Landry
Ranked 196th in the OWGR, the 34-year-old does not quite have the cache of the bigger names in this field. What he does have, however, is an affinity for the Stadium Course, taking Jon Rahm to four playoff holes in the 2018 edition, two years before winning it entirely in 2020.
Landry has two top tens in six starts on the current season, doubling his total from 2021, although he missed the cut in each of his four other season starts. $6.5 million in career earnings is impressive given how horrifically he seems to end each season statistically.
World Rank: 196
Last 6 Starts: MC, MC, 7, MC, 4, MC
Best Finish at The Amex: 1st (2020)
12. Si Woo Kim
If you enter “Kim” into the player box on the official site of the Official World Golf Ranking, 36 entries with golfers who actually have ranking points come up. Si Woo is the highest-rated of those, currently sitting at 55th.
The 26-year-old also happens to be The American Express defending champion, shooting a final-round 64 and holding off a fast charging Patrick Cantlay by one stroke. It was one of five top-10s in 31 starts in the 2021 season for Kim, who has been more consistent as of late than he has in other times in his career.
The three-time Tour winner also finished T9 in this event as a 20-year-old in 2016.
World Rank: 55
Last 6 Starts: 55, 23, 18, 76, MC, 8
Best Finish at The Amex: 1st (2021)
11. Patrick Reed
The former Masters Champ was not especially impressive late in the 2021 season, but has been rounding back into form early in 2022, finishing T2 in an event in Bermuda in October, and T3 at the Hero World Challenge in December.
In his most recent start, he opened the Sentry Tournament of Champions poorly with a 74, but was much better starting Friday, finishing the event 64-68-66 to finish a respectable T15 (32-man field).
Armed with arguably the Tour’s best short game, Reed won this event in 2014, although it was at a different host venue. His best finish at the Stadium Course was a T12 in 2017, where he closed with a 65.
World Rank: 26
Last 6 Starts: 15, 3, 32, 61, 56, 2
Best Finish at The Amex: 1st (2014)
10. Russell Henley
The three-time Tour champion very nearly brought Georgia University its second victory of the week (college football playoff championship over Alabama), but was caught by reigning Masters Champion on the back nine at the Sony Open of Hawaii before falling in a playoff.
It was a disappointing finish for Henley, who struggled to close events last season and is in a winless drought dating back five years. Still, with five top-25s on the season and four in his last seven starts of the 2021 season, he is in too good of form to completely fade this week, even though he has missed his last four cuts in this event. He currently has the Tour’s second-best scoring average and ranks third in strokes gained: tee-to-green.
World Rank: 40
Last 6 Starts: 2, 22, 7, 56, 25, 21
Best Finish at The Amex: 49th (2016)
9. Seamus Power
Welcome to the newest member of the OWGR Seamus Power at No. 49, placing him just one spot behind fellow Irish countryman Shane Lowry. Power has been tremendous in the new season, finishing T15 or better in five of his last six Tour starts, including a T3 at last week’s Sony Open in Hawaii.
If it seems like the 34-year-old has gotten hot before, it’s because the same thing happened in the latter portion of the 2021 season, when he had six straight top 20s from May through July, culminating in a win at the Barbasol Championship.
And even before he became the current Seamus Power, he had had success at the Stadium Course before, finishing T21 in 2017 and T11 in 2018. We do not see any reason his hot play should not continue for at least another week. He will at least want to show Lowry who Ireland’s best golfer is.
World Rank: 49
Last 6 Starts: 3, 15, 4, MC, 11, 12
Best Finish at The Amex: 11th (2018)
8. Matthew Wolff
The precocious 22-year-old, who has a win and four runner-ups (several in high-profile events) in just 52 career starts has been the epitome of boom-or-bust in his young career. Despite the flashes, we struggle to go all-in on Wolff anywhere this year quite yet, considering that injury and other issues have caused him to drop from 15th to 30th in the OWGR since La Quinta week last year.
He also has an underwhelming history at the Stadium Course, with finishes of T40 and T61 in two starts. However, he looked much more comfortable in the three fall events he entered, with results of 2-T5-T11 respectively, and has rested since then. Buyer beware, but do not forget him entirely this week.
World Rank: 30
Last 6 Starts: 11, 5, 2, 17, MC, MC
Best Finish at The Amex: 40th (2021)
7. Will Zalatoris
After blowing off the doors of the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020, Zalatoris put the PGA Tour on notice in 2021 despite not even being a Tour member, with an impressive season that included a runner-up to Hideki Matsuyama at The Masters, and in his event debut at that, and a T8 at the PGA Championship.
In all, it was 22 cuts made in 25 starts and eight top-10s for Zalatoris, who is now a full-fledged member exempt for everything. Will-mania did hit the skids some late in the year, however, with two missed cuts and a T54 in his last three starts, although none of those are in the past two months.
Assuming he’s rested up, it’d be surprising if he does not get back on his track to eliteness very soon.
World Rank: 37
Last 6 Starts: 37, MC, 54, MC, 14, 11
Best Finish at The Amex: Debut
6. Sungjae Im
We were exorbitantly high on the 23-year-old star South Korean last week, ranking him third based on his strong recent play (T8 the week prior), being well-rested by his work-crazy standards, a generally weak field, and good results at Waialae in the past.
Unfortunately, Im did not validate our confidence, carding a double-bogey on his second hole of the first round, and was never quite able to recover, missing the cut by thre strokes.
He has the chance to redeem himself this week at the Stadium Course, as we like him again at a course where he has not been consistent round to round, but has consistently finished highly (T12, T10, T12).
World Rank: 25
Last 6 Starts: MC, 8, 19, 9, 1, 31
Best Finish at The Amex: 10th (2020)
5. Corey Conners
The world’s highest-ranked Canadian golfer (No. 38), Conners had a banner season in 2021, making 25 of 29 cuts, with eight top-10s and contending in several big-ticket events.
The 30-year-old shot a final-round 6-under 64 at last week’s Sony Open in Hawaii, getting his name in the leaderboard mix early before being eclipsed by the lead groups and finishing a still-strong solo-11th.
Ranking 7th in driving accuracy and 13th in greens in regulation, it would be surprising if Conners doesn’t easily beat his previous best finish at the Stadium Course, a T50 four years ago (two career American Express starts).
World Rank: 38
Last 6 Starts: 11, 22, 40, 17, 17, 22
Best Finish at The Amex: 50th (2018)
4. Tony Finau
One of the most likable players on Tour, fans have been disappointed that Finau did not see his momentum from a tremendous performance in the FedExCup playoffs, which included a stellar victory at The Northern Trust, carry into the new season.
In four 2022 season starts, he has a missed cut, two T45s and most recently, finished T19 at the 32-man Sentry Tournament of Championship. He is way too talented to not see more success soon, however, and this is an excellent week to bet on him to get back on track.
He finished solo-fourth at The American Express last season, and notched a second-round 62 the year prior, finishing T14. Since the start of the 2017 Tour season, Finau has 32 top-10s.
World Rank: 38
Last 6 Starts: 19, 7, MC, 45, 45, 24
Best Finish at The Amex: 4th (2021)
3. Scottie Scheffler
The emerging Texas product capped off a career 2021 season with a standout performance for the victorious American team at the Ryder Cup.
Perhaps hung-over from ousting heavily-favored World No. 1 Jon Rahm in Sunday standings, Scheffler posted disappointing results in his next two Tour starts, but then posted back-to-back top 4s, and opened his last official Tour event of 2021 with a 63, although he faded to a T57.
In December, he took runner-up honors at the unofficial Hero World Challenge in The Bahamas, and has not played in the month since.
If Scheffler isn’t confusing to figure out from that, keep in mind that in his 2020 The American Express debut, he finished solo-third after holding the 54-hole co-lead, but then missed the cut last year. He was seventh on Tour in birdie average last year though, which is especially promising at this course.
World Rank: 38
Last 6 Starts: 2, 57, 2, 4, 38, MC
Best Finish at The Amex: 3rd (2020)
2. Jon Rahm
After taking this event off the past two years, World No. 1 Jon Rahm returns to La Quinta as the reigning U.S. Open champion. Perhaps even more relevant as this week is concerned, Rahm won The American Express in 2018 in a playoff against Jon Rahm, and then posted a T6 the following year.
Rahm was first on Tour last season in scoring average, birdie average, strokes gained: tee-to-green, and strokes gained: total, but sadly, where he was not No. 1 was in his last start, where Cam Smith clipped him by a single stroke two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Championship.
It’s hard to get too down on Rahm, though: his final score of 33-under was the second-best 72-hole total in PGA Tour history.
World Rank: 1
Last 6 Starts: 2, MC, 17, MC, 1, 9
Best Finish at The Amex: 1st (2018)
1. Patrick Cantlay
The Long Beach, CA native won four tournaments last season, on his way to a FedExCup title and PGA Tour Player of the Year honors. As amazing as that is, it was very nearly five wins for Cantlay.
At last season’s The American Express, the 29-year-old World No. 4 made the cut on the number, only to explode with a 65-61 weekend, the latter of which broke the course record by two strokes. Cantlay took the tournament lead late, finishing solo-second after Si Woo Kim birdied his last two holes. It was his second attempt at this event; he was T9 in 2019.
With two wins to finish out the 2021 season, and a T4 in his only start of the new season (The Sentry Tournament of Champions two weeks ago), Cantlay is as sure of a thing to contend in this field.
World Rank: 4
Last 6 Starts: 4, 4, 1, 11, 23, MC
Best Finish at The Amex: 2nd (2021)
Next Five: Talor Gooch, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson, Abraham Ancer, Rickie Fowler