Davis Thompson took the early lead in the $8 million American Express PGA tournament Thursday, thanks in part to back-to-back eagles.
Thompson eagled the fifth and sixth holes at La Quinta Country Club and was at 8-under-par through 12 holes, one stroke ahead of fellow Americans Tyler Duncan and Stewart Cink, one of 10 players in the field of 156 to have won a major championship.
Thompson was the first player to eagle consecutive holes on the PGA Tour since Shane Lowry in the third round of the 2022 Open Championship.
The 23-year-old Thompson is winless in his 19 starts on the PGA Tour.
The tournament has its strongest field this century, topped by Scottie Scheffler, second in the Official World Golf Ranking. Scheffler was at 4-under through 14 holes at La Quinta Country Club, among 16th golfers tied for 21st.
The field includes five of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking, the most at the tournament on record, which dates back to 2000.
Spaniard Jon Rahm, who is fourth on the Official World Golf Ranking, was the 6-1 pre-tournament favorite according to BetMGM, an official betting operator of the PGA Tour. Scheffler was the second choice at 10-1.
Rahm was the tournament champion in 2018, when it was known as CareerBuilder Challenge. He will be making his first start since winning the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which concluded Jan. 8 in Kapalua, Hawaii.
Scheffler had top 10 finishes in each of his last three starts, tying for third in the World Wide Technology Championship, tying for ninth in the Houston Open, both in November, and tying for seventh in Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Rahm, the 2021 U.S. Open champion, and Scheffler, the 2022 Masters winner, are also among the 10 major champions in the field, along with Jimmy Walker, Danny Willett, Zach Johnson, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Jason Dufner, Lucas Glover and Cink.
Rahm and Dufner are among the tournament’s eight past champions in the field, along with Si Woo Kim, Andrew Landry, Adam Long, Bill Haas, Jhonattan Vegas and Charley Hoffman.
The field also includes Rickie Fowler, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour who was born and raised in Murrieta, and Brendan Steele, a Hemet High School and UC Riverside alumnus who has three tour victories.
Rahm also began the tournament at the La Quinta Country Club. The golfers who played that course Thursday will play at the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West Friday and the Stadium Course at PGA West Saturday.
The tournament is without its defending champion Hudson Swafford, who left the PGA Tour to play on the rival LIV Golf tour. Swafford’s absence will extend the streak of no player having won the tournament in back-to-back years since Johnny Miller won in 1975 and 1976.
Former tournament host Phil Mickelson also left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf.
The field will be reduced to the low 70 and ties following the conclusion of the third round. Sunday’s final round will be played at the Stadium Course. The winner will receive $1.44 million.
Since The American Express became a 72-hole event in 2012, the winner’s margin of victory has not been more than two strokes in any year.
The tournament will be televised daily through Sunday from noon-4 p.m. on Golf Channel. Additional coverage will be streamed on the ESPN+ streaming service from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. daily through Sunday.
Grammy-winning pop singer Gwen Stefani will perform a concert on the PGA West Stadium Course driving range following conclusion of play Friday. Grammy-winning singer Darius Rucker will perform a concert at the same site following conclusion of play Saturday.
All Friday and Saturday tournament tickets include admission to the concerts. There are no concert-only tickets.
The concert area on the Pete Dye Stadium Course driving range will open to spectators at 4 p.m., with the concerts expected to start at approximately 5:30 p.m. Chairs and blankets will only be allowed in designated areas.
All tickets are digital and are available at www.theamexgolf.com.
There are two new fan amenities set up between the first tee and ninth green of the PGA West Stadium Course — Patriots Outpost, overlooking the ninth green and open to active duty and retired U.S. military, and “The Turn,” a fan gathering area and meeting place featuring concessions and activities and views of the first and ninth holes.
Nine Coachella Valley businesses are providing food for on-course concession stations at PGA West — Cheeky’s; Tutu’s Tortilla Chips; Chef Tanya’s Kitchen; Shields Date Farm; Tiffany’s Sweet Spot; Brandini Toffee; On the Mark Fine Foods; Fresh Juice Bar; and TKB Bakery & Deli.
General parking is in the P Lot and the entrance is on the southbound side of Jefferson Street, across from The Hideaway Golf Club between Avenue 52 and Avenue 54. Daily parking is $20. Shuttles will take fans from the parking lot to the tournament entrance.
Gates will open at 7:30 a.m. daily with play beginning at approximately 8:30 a.m.
Checking the weather forecast before going to the tournament is recommended. Cool mornings and sunny afternoons are expected, so dressing in layers is the best idea.
Tournament organizers call sunscreen, a hat, comfortable shoes and binoculars “must-have items.”