His baby face aside, Davis Thompson didn’t look like a PGA Tour rookie making his 20th start for most of the week at the 2023 American Express.
The 23-year-old Georgia grad led after the first and second rounds in the Coachella Valley, where his five eagles over 36 holes tied a record for most eagles made in a 72-hole event (1983-present). Come Sunday’s final round at the Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta, California, he was grouped with 2018 AmEx winner and world No. 4 Jon Rahm and J.T. Poston.
“I had a great week,” said Thompson, who ultimately finished one shot short of Rahm and what would’ve been a playoff for his first PGA Tour win on Sunday. “Competing against the best in the world is my dream and I did that today and proved that I can hang with ’em. It was a lot of fun.
“A lot of nerves and I hit a lot of quality golf shots under pressure, which was really cool.”
Thompson played the par-5s at 14 under over the first three rounds spread across La Quinta Country Club and PGA West’s Stadium and Tournament courses. On Sunday at the Stadium Course, Thompson played the four par-5s at just even par following his 2-under effort on Saturday.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Thompson said of the difference between his two weekend rounds. “I had a few tee shots off line. I mean, didn’t really give myself a chance to go for it on 5 and 16 due to poor tee shots. As well as I played the par-5s all week I kind of didn’t really do that well today.”
“Jon making par on 5, which I thought he was going to make birdie, but he made par on 5 and birdie on 16. That was two shots,” explained Thompson. “I played those holes 1 over. So that was kind of a two-shot swing there.”
On Sunday, Thompson was T-62 in fairways hit, 62nd in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 54th in SG: Around the Green among the 69 players who made the cut. But his toughest break of the day came on the 17th green, where Thompson made a heartbreaking par after his birdie putt from 48 feet hit the flagstick and failed to drop in the hole. The putt would have tied he and Rahm for the lead with one hole to play.
It’s a cruel game.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 22, 2023
“I usually always leave the stick in from a long distance. I feel like it helps me with my speed,” Thompson said of his decision to not pull the pin. “I’ll probably play the ‘what if’ game in my head for a long time, unfortunately.”
The missed chance on No. 17 aside, Thompson still had a shot to chip in for birdie on the final hole after missing the green with his approach. Despite his poor performance around the greens on the day, the TV broadcast fawned over Thompson’s effort to hit the tricky chip inside two feet and nearly hole out.
“I went through about every option in my head. I could have hit just a low bump and run, but that hill was so steep,” Thompson said of the show. “I laid my 60 down and I knew I had enough, I had a good enough lie to get it up quick. Just kind of goes back to if you want to make it, you chip it. If you want to hit it up close, you putt it. So I was obviously trying to make it. Figured might as well.”
Thompson has made the cut in five of his six starts so far this season and finished T-9 at the season-opening Fortinet Championship. He went toe-to-toe with one of the world’s best Sunday and didn’t back down under the most severe pressure. He’s got immense talent for his age. Moxy, too.
Keep an eye on the young rookie. You might as well.