LA QUINTA, Calif. — The 2022 American Express version of the PGA Tour is in the books, and it was another entertaining entry.
Of course, the golf created drama, but that wasn’t the only reason to enjoy the four-day event.
Here are the 20 things that stood out to me as I navigated the three courses during the four-day tournament, from eagles, egrets, head coverings and 400-yard drives.
1. The perfect eagle. Hudson Swafford hit a 342-yard drive down the middle of the fairway on the par-5 16th hole on the Stadium Course at PGA West. He then hit a 198-yard approach shot at about 8 feet, 1 inch, then sank the putt. This is how you win a tournament. I love it when someone goes out there and takes the win, instead of hanging on for dear life.
2. Congratulations to hunters Tom Hoge and Lee Hodges. Neither had won a PGA Tour before, but while others fell by the wayside, they finished second and third, recording their biggest paydays.
3. The story of golfer TJ Vogel fascinated me. He teed off here Thursday at 10:30 am, just 20 hours after sinking his last putt Wednesday at a Korn Ferry Tour event in the Bahamas. The dedication of the golfers clawing and clawing their way around the course is inspiring.
4. Tournament host Phil Mickelson was notably absent this week. No pre-tournament press conference. No post-match media after any of their three rounds. Not available for trophy presentation. Sure, he didn’t play well, but I’m not sure what to make of that. Just an observation.
5. “We can go back and see the ducks, wait a minute,” Hudson Swafford said after his son James whispered in his ear after hugging him behind the 18th hole after securing his win. Swafford had to sign his $1,368,000 scorecard first.
6. I totally agree with James Swafford. You know how The Masters pumps up the bird sounds to make it sound more idyllic than it really is. There were so many beautiful shorebirds (as Swafford’s son James mentioned) and I guess regular tree birds at The American Express that it felt like they transferred some from a nearby sanctuary. A beautiful peripheral display.
7. I enjoyed the Maroon 5 concert. I thought I knew two of their songs, but it turns out I know about 13 of them. They’re one of those bands to me, where every song was like, “Oh, is that them? I like this one.” Adam Levine’s voice cut nicely into the wind and the crowd, while the greats were apart. Good choice.
8. Full disclosure, I didn’t see Brad Paisley on Saturday, choosing instead to go home and rest. I’ve also seen Paisley headline Stagecoach, but now I realize that was 10 years ago. Woof!
9. It was great to have the arcade back, and there was a huge crowd on 18 for Swafford’s win. There were a lot of little touches with the fans in mind. For example, the announcers on the first hole would say, “Welcome to The American Express golf tournament. We are glad to have you back.”
10 Patrick Cantlay was on fire early in this event, but quickly ran out of steam. He was 10-under after 18 holes and then just 4-under for the next 36. He finished in the top 10, but was never in contention on Sunday.
11 Quiet storm Si Woo Kim, the 2021 champion, had consistent play with his usual Sunday surge on the Stadium Course to come close to becoming the second repeat winner of this event. A water ball on the 17th dashed his hopes as he finished tied for 11th with his consistent 68, 68. 69, 67.
12 Harold Varner III had a good week on The American Express, which means Gerald Varner did too. Who is Gerald Varner? That’s Harold’s head covering, which looks like a Muppet version of him.
13 The Good Sport award goes to my new favorite player, James Hart du Preez. Notable for his extremely long drives and 6-foot-9 height, a fan asked if he could take a photo with him as he approached the first tee to start his Saturday round. He complied and took a funny photo standing next to the 4ft 11in woman. Then he took another step and knelt down to take another photo with her, now at the same height. It made his day, and I don’t think many other golfers would have been so kind a minute before they started their round.
14 Oh, by the way, du Preez hit a 407-yard drive on the 5th hole at the Stadium Course on Thursday and a 406-yard drive on the 9th hole. The next longest drive by a pro on any course that day was 346 yards by Cameron Champ.
15. He trailed World No. 1 Jon Rahm for his entire 66-under at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday. It was impressive how easy he made the game look. Driving on the street. Hit the green in regulation. Two-putt or an occasional one-putt. Six birdies without bogeys. Don’t worry, and he wasn’t that happy with his round. It must be nice to be so good.
sixteen. My favorite fan hat from the tournament was a couple of fans wearing a white baseball cap with the word “Spectator” on them. They told me it was an inside joke, but they didn’t divulge the secret, which I guess is what makes it an inside joke.
17 Some disappointing efforts from big name players this week. Tony Finau just made the cut on the number. Rickie Fowler and Mickelson played together and struggled all week. Patrick Reed made the cut but was never in contention.
18 Three cheers for the new traffic flow game plan to leave PGA West after the concerts. What took me three and a half hours during the 2020 debacle took me just 30 minutes (29 to be exact). I liked it much more.
19 Big day for Georgia graduates with almost the same name. In golf it was Swafford, 34, with the victory of The American Express. In football, it was 33-year-old Matthew Stafford with an NFL playoff win. It’s been a good year for Georgia sports in general, I guess.
20 Cameron Young and Will Zalatoris were on the leader board entering the final round. That’s exciting for fans of the alphabet, as Young is the only current PGA Tour player whose name begins with a Y and Zalatoris is the only current PGA Tour player whose name begins with a Z.
Shad Powers is a columnist for The Desert Sun. Contact him at [email protected]