How the week has changed for the leader of the first round of the PGA Tour. After avoiding the same fate as Jordan Speth at the Sony Open, Davis Thompson instead continued to lead the way at the 2023 American Express. After taking a solo lead from 10 to 62 on Thursday, the PGA Tour rookie was in it again on Friday at the Nicklaus Tournament Field. Stumbling out of the gate a bit to start his round, Thompson rode a flurry of eagles to eventually sign at 8-64.
Having set a 36-hole PGA Tour record with five eagles, Thompson is 18th down, but not without a strong hitter roster right on his tail. John Rahm, winner of the 2023 Tournament of Champions and arguably the hottest player in the world, will enter the weekend as Thompson’s closest runner-up in the under-16 rankings after consecutive rounds of 8-64.
Winner of this tournament in 2018, Ram is well positioned to win his second PGA Tour event of the year and take his fourth worldwide win in the last six starts. In the same field rotation as the leader, Ram will play along with fellow contenders Tom Kim, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantley at the PGA West Stadium on Saturday.
1. Davis Thompson (-18)
Despite being in the midst of his rookie season, Thompson has been on the market for quite some time now, making his first appearance on the radar at the 2020 US Open. Now, winner of the Korn Ferry Tour and in command of this tournament, Thompson’s record five eagles will be hard to hold on to and could allow the rest of the field to gain some edge over the next 36 holes. For some context: 2022 Honda Classic winner and Tour Championship competitor. Sepp Straka recorded three eagles for the entire 2021–22 season.
“Looking at this tournament for a couple of years now, I always see that the winning score is so low. So you really don’t have a choice, you just have to keep hitting the green, look at yourself and try to putt. Thompson said. “I was just lucky that I got a lot of shots in those first two days. But, yes, it’s easy to go astray, but at the same time, if you just focus on one thing.”
2. John Ram (-16)
T3. Jason Day, Tom Kim, JT Poston, Sungjae Im, Tyler Duncan (-13)
8. Patton Kizzir (-12)
T9. Xander Schaffele, Scotty Sheffler, Justin Rose, Scott Piercy, Taylor Montgomery (-11)
Ram said at the Tournament of Champions that he considers himself the best player in the world and it’s hard to argue with that after only six rounds in 2023. Without ShotLink data on his first two days, it is unknown how well he plays. rock. However, it is safe to assume that this is happening on the same breath as his previous five months. Since the BMW Championship, Ram has averaged nearly 1.5 punches per round, leading him to three world victories. With low scores in the forecast, a hot stick could push him to fourth since October.
“At the moment we’re on the PGA tour, with so many great players, you need to show up on the weekend and shoot low,” Ram said. “If anything proves it, it’s the fact that two weeks ago I scored 16 under over the weekend and ended up winning the tournament. So you have to keep your foot on the gas and keep making birds.”
Revival of Veterans
Ram is not the only former world number one to top the leaderboard; A pair of veterans in the face of Jason Day and Justin Rose played their part. Day enters 2023 enjoying a strong swing season, including a T8 finish in the Las Vegas desert, and he’s adamant that some of his best – and healthy – golfing is yet to come.
“I mean, I’d say my body — well, I was still hurting in those years, I just kind of sacrificed myself to get to No. 1,” Day said. “I feel like… I hope I’m doing the right thing to not only get back there, but get back there healthy, and I hope I can stay there a lot longer than I did.”
Rose is in a similar boat after finishing in the top 10 at the Houston Open and needs a big year if he’s going to join the European Ryder Cup team in September. Now at 42, this could very well be his last chance to shine as a player, something the former US Open champion didn’t miss.
Roller coaster two holes for SH Kim
SH Kim, meet Pete Dai. The PGA Tour rookie experienced Mr. Dai’s excellent performance in the second round at the Stadium Course. Playing his third ball in the 16th par-5, Kim’s approach ricocheted off the flagpole only to find a green bunker 19 feet below the playing surface.
This eventually led to a triple bogey and Kim went to Green Island in 17th but had no luck. This quickly changed when his tee shot bounced off the contour of the rock on the green and hit the green. In just a few minutes, Kim experienced both the good and the bad of Dai’s creation.
2023 American Express Updated Odds and Choices
- John Ram: 23/20
- Davis Thompson: 4-1
- Sungjae Im: 11-1
- Tom Kim: 12-1
- Jason Day: 18-1
- Scotty Sheffler: 18-1
- JT Poston: 22-1
- Xander Schauffele: 35-1
Let’s assume for a moment that the lead belongs to Ram, who is under 16, since Thompson hasn’t proven himself in this arena. If true, Day is an interesting under-13 option as he heads to the Nicklaus Tournament Course – the easiest of the three golf courses for the first two days – after scoring an eye test on Friday.
Had it not been for one hit in the first round when he blocked an out of bounds tee shot, Day would have been right there with Ram. In the second round, the Australian led those in the stadium field in teeing, green and batting, finishing seventh in teeing.