Power Rankings: The American Express

Golf under a retractable roof. Roll with it. It’s the 21st century, after all.

The PGA TOUR’s migration to the mainland descends in the Coachella Valley for The American Express this week. The full field of 156 will be treated to scoring conditions even the Chamber of Commerce wouldn’t script, with or without metaphorical cover.

Continue reading beneath the projected contenders for brief breakdowns of the three courses, an explanation of the format, and more.

Power Rankings

15Grayson MurrayGrayson MurrayUSAUNITED STATES OF AMERICAThe Sony Open in Hawaii champion gives no reason to think that he’s not taking the playoff victory in stride. His inspirational story already included a pair of wins on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2023, anyway. Three top 15s here, too.
14Si Woo KimSi Woo KimKORSOUTH KOREAThe 2021 champ added a T11 (2022) and a T22 (2023) since the title and has averaged 67.17 across all three courses in his last 12 rounds. He’s also among the 15 in the field who teed it up in both legs of the Aloha Swing, so he’s loose.
13Akshay BhatiaAkshay BhatiaUSAUNITED STATES OF AMERICAThe sensational southpaw continues to prove that he can adapt despite his youth and inexperience. He went T14-T13 in his debuts on both courses in Hawaii, and he’s connected 20 scores under par spanning five starts.
12Adam HadwinAdam HadwinCANCANADAHis stellar play in this tournament extends beyond the third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club in 2017. He’s 8-for-8 with a trio of podium finishes and a T6 among six top 25s. Opened 2024 at Kapalua where he backdoored a T14 with a Sunday 64.
11Min Woo LeeMin Woo LeeAUSAUSTRALIAThe 25-year-old is making debuts as a member and at PGA WEST. The learning curve goes with it, but he concluded 2023 as one of the hottest on the planet with a pair of wins worldwide highlighting a stretch of five straight top-15s.
10Andrew PutnamAndrew PutnamUSAUNITED STATES OF AMERICAWith a T10 at Waialae, he now has three top 10s in his last six starts, so the holiday hiatus didn’t interrupt sharp form. Perfect in seven appearances at The American Express with a personal-best T10 in 2020 punctuating four top 25s.
9Eric ColeEric ColeUSAUNITED STATES OF AMERICAHe competes so often that he’s making the early version of Sungjae Im blush. After receiving the 2022-23 Rookie of the Year award, Cole went T14-T13 on the Aloha Swing. Signed for four red numbers here last year (T36) but now he’s seasoned.
8Chris KirkChris KirkUSAUNITED STATES OF AMERICAWhen trends keep converging, they blur into norms. After opening 2024 with victory at Kapalua, he held on for a T18 at Waialae where his track record already was strong. Now he greets PGA WEST where he rose for a T3 a year ago.
7Sungjae ImSungjae ImKORSOUTH KOREAFor as much as he loves to go low, the 25-year-old is built for this tournament. It’s no wonder why he’s been a fixture since splashing on the PGA TOUR in 2019. It’s also no wonder that he’s 5-for-5 with no worse than a T18 last year.
6Scottie SchefflerScottie SchefflerUSAUNITED STATES OF AMERICAShootouts require a potent combination of hitting greens and converting putts. Of course, inconsistency with the tail of that tandem hasn’t been able to hide despite persistent leaderboard appearances. Put him down for a default top-10, however.
5Patrick CantlayPatrick CantlayUSAUNITED STATES OF AMERICAGot on the board with a steady T12 at Kapalua, and then took a week off. Fourth consecutive start at PGA WEST and sixth overall. Still owns the course record on the Stadium Course, a 61 in the final round of 2021 when he finished second.
4Justin ThomasJustin ThomasUSAUNITED STATES OF AMERICAFirst trip since a T7 in his second in 2015. For as much attention as his up-and-down 2023 received, and rightfully so, its coda deserves equal time. After missing the FedExCup Playoffs, he hung up three straight top-fives worldwide.
3Xander SchauffeleXander SchauffeleUSAUNITED STATES OF AMERICAShed any rust he may have had with a T10 at The Sentry. It’s his 11th top-10 since roaring home with a 62 en route to a T3 here last year. He’s been in another confounding winless stretch, now 18 months long, but he’s never not a threat.
2J.T. PostonJ.T. PostonUSAUNITED STATES OF AMERICAHe’s been making it look way too easy of late but he’s been around long enough to know what he’s doing. Yet another top-10 – a solo sixth at Waialae – piles on to a heap of seven in his last 11 starts. He has a pair here, including a T6 last year.
1Tom KimTom KimKORSOUTH KOREAHits so many greens. Confident putter. Devours par 5s. Scorer’s mentality. Those are the pillars that define champions of The American Express. They also define his profile. T6 last year for what was one of nine top-10s on the season.

If The Open Championship sits on one end of the spectrum when it concerns, uh, concerns about the weather, The American Express occupies the other.

Mid-January in La Quinta, California, consists of calm and primarily sunny skies with daytime highs in the low 70s, and it will again this week. Sorry, that should’ve been prefaced with a trigger warning if you’re sheltering from the deep freeze that’s blanketed much of the Lower 48. If it helps you relate, there’s the slightest chance of rain on Sunday.

Then again, glorious imagery is even more reason to connect with the coverage of the action. Another guarantee is that you’ll be surrounded by red numbers. Lots of ’em.

The triumvirate of tracks sharing the stage annually are among the most scorable of the season. That’s as much of a direct outcome of the kind of weather that attracts snowbirds as it is the fact that all are stock par 72s that stretch no longer than 7,187 yards. That’s the max on Pete Dye Stadium Course at PGA WEST, the primary host of the tournament. Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA WEST (“Nick Tourney”) and La Quinta Country Club share duties for the first three rounds. The over hits if any round on any course averages higher than 70.

Significant upgrades to Nick Tourney and La Quinta CC in recent years haven’t swelled scoring beyond the predictable as new Bermudagrass greens mature. The latest occurred on the latter when that project wrapped last summer. Stimpmeter readings across all 54 holes will be governed to 11½ feet. The gnarliest rough found shouldn’t be taller than 2 inches. Gentlemen, start your engines.

Each of the 156 entrants will rotate through the courses with an amateur for the first three rounds. After 54 holes, the low 65 and ties will play the finale only on the Stadium Course. Amateurs will not peg it on Sunday.