LA QUINTA, Calif. — As the PGA Tour returns to the Coachella Valley for the 65th time with the 2024 American Express, here are some storylines to watch for this week.
A strong field will tee it up although numbers can be deceiving when it comes to the Official World Golf Rankings and strength of field. Last year the American Express boasted 10 of the top 19 players in the rankings. This year, the number is 10 of the top 25, but officials believe the field is just as strong as last year.
Wyndham Clark, for instance, 10th in the world ranking and winner of last year’s U.S. Open, is back after he also participated in the desert in 2023. Rickie Fowler has worked his way back into the top 25, and players like Justin Thomas and Shane Lowry are in the field this year, bringing major championship credentials with them.
In all, 12 of the top 30 and 20 of the top 50 in the world ranking are playing in La Quinta this week, pretty strong for a non-signature event. Three of the top six players in the world headline the field, including the top three ranked Americans: No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, No. 5 Patrick Cantlay and No. 6 Xander Schauffele.
What other storylines are worth paying attention to?
Okay, by now everyone knows that Jon Rahm, who won the American Express in 2018 and 2023, is not in the field to defend that title this year. Rahm took lots of money to head to LIV Golf, earning him a suspension from the PGA Tour, so he will not defend any of his three 2023 wins on the West Coast Swing this year.
The tournament has faced this situation twice before, with Hudson Swafford not playing in 2023 because of a jump to the LIV Golf and in 2001 when Jesper Parnevik didn’t make it to the first tee because his wife was having a baby.
The American Express survived those first two absentee defenders, and it will survive this year. In the years with no defenders, the winners were Joe Durant in 2001 with a PGA Tour record 36-under par (the then-Bob Hope Chrysler Classic was a five-round, 90-hole event) and, well, Jon Rahm last year.
The Pete Dye Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament courses at PGA West and La Quinta Country Club will be in the tournament rotation for the eighth consecutive year, and that stability is a strong point for an event…