Planet Golf — 21 January 2022 by GW staff and news services
Hodges, Barjon share AmEx lead

LA QUINTA, Ca. — Lee Hodges and Paul Barjon took advantage of a late tee time Saturday to miss the worst of a windy day and share the third-round lead in The American Express.

“It was tough early and it kind of died on our back nine a little bit,” Hodges said. “It was off and on, but it was a good wind. The easy holes were playing a little easier, but the hard holes were hard. So you just had to make a couple pars and then get to those downwind holes.”

Playing together in the final group off the 10th tee on PGA West’s Stadium Course, the PGA TOUR rookies and close friends each birdied the par-5 fifth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth and closed with a par.

“We’re just best buddies and we have a great time out there,” Hodges said. “We keep it really light and it’s easy to compete when your friends are playing well.”

Hodges, a 26-year-old former Alabama golfer, shot an 8-under 64. Barjon, the 29-year-old Frenchman who played at Texas Christian, had a 65.

“We just kind of feed off each other, so it’s been fun,” Barjon said.

Hodges opened Thursday with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club for a share of the first-round lead with defending FedExCup champion Patrick Cantlay, then shot a 72 on Friday on PGA West’s Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course.

Hodges and Barjon, both making their 14th PGA TOUR start, were at 18-under 198.

Tom Hoge was a stroke back after a 68 at La Quinta, playing in the second group off the first tee in the strongest wind of the day.

“Generally, I would say it’s better to be here,” Hoge said about tree-lined La Quinta. “It’s a little more protected from the trees and a little bit shorter golf course, so you could play a little more conservatively off the tee, get the ball in play and go from there.”

Hoge opened with his lone bogey of the week. He holed out from a greenside bunker on the par-4 fourth for the first of three straight birdies, added a birdie on the par-5 11th and parred the last seven.

Seamus Power, also at La Quinta, was 16 under after a 66. The Irishman played a five-hole stretch on the front nine in 6 under, capping the run with an eagle on the par-5 sixth.

“It was an interesting round,” said Power, who won his first TOUR title at the Barbasol Championship last year in Kentucky. “It was very fun on the front there. It was one of those rounds just kind of made everything I looked at for an hour and a half.”

Hudson Swafford, the 2017 champion, was at 15 under with Harry Higgs and Lanto Griffin.

Swafford birdied four of his last five holes on the Stadium Course, the site of the final round.

“I was really patient,” Swafford said. “I gave myself a lot of looks even though it played really tough early. I mean the wind, I’m not going to say it’s laid down, but it was blowing early pretty good.”

Griffin had a 69 at La Quinta. He’s making his first start of the year after injuring his back carrying his dog and withdrawing from the Sony Open last week in Hawaii.

“It’s feeling a lot better than I thought it would and I’m playing a lot better than I thought I would,” Griffin said. “So, it’s been a really fun week.”

Higgs shot a 67 on the Stadium layout in the first group off the first tee.

Cantlay, a stroke ahead entering the day, had an even-par 72 on Stadium Course to drop four strokes back.

Trying to win for the third time in four starts, the former UCLA player had four birdies and four bogeys. Last year in the desert, he closed with a Stadium-record 61 to finish a shot behind winner Si Woo Kim.

Top-ranked Jon Rahm shot a 67 on the Stadium Course to get to 13 under. The 2018 winner finished with a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th.

Defending champion Kim was 11 under after a 69 on the Stadium Course.

Tournament host Phil Mickelson tied for 150th in the 156-man field, shooting 78-73-72 and failing to advance to the final round.

SECOND ROUND

LA QUINTA, Ca. — Patrick Cantlay fought through gusting wind on his back nine Friday to take a one-stroke lead into the weekend at The American Express in a bid to win for the third time in four starts.

Tied for the first-round lead with Lee Hodges after a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club, Cantlay shot a 68 on PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 14-under 130.

“I actually putted really well today and made nothing,” Cantlay said. “The greens were a little beat up and it was hard to make putts. But I rolled it really well and I rolled it how I wanted to, I just didn’t get any to go in.”

Tom Hoge was second after a 66 on PGA West’s Stadium Course.

“I really felt fortunate that we got through 17 holes without the wind really coming up,” Hoge said. “Just our last hole there it got gusting.”

Joseph Bramlett, playing in the last group off the 10th tee at La Quinta, bogeyed the final two holes in strong wind for a 67 to drop into a five-man tie for third at 12 under.

“We guessed on the whole back nine and a couple of them I guessed right and a couple of them I guessed wrong,” Bramlett said. “That’s just kind of golf.”

Will Zalatoris birdied his last seven holes on the Nicklaus layout for a 61 to also join Cameron Young (68), Lanto Griffin (65) and Greyson Sigg (67) at 12 under. Young played at Nicklaus, and Griffin and Sigg at the Stadium.

Cantlay won the BMW Championship and TOUR Championship in his final two starts last year to take the FedExCup, then opened this year with a fourth-place finish — at 26 under — two weeks ago in Hawaii in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Last year in the desert, the 29-year-old former UCLA player closed with a Stadium-record 61 to finish a shot behind winner Si Woo Kim. Cantlay will play the Stadium the final two days, with more wind expected Saturday.

“It’s a golf course that suits my game,” Cantlay said. “We’ll see how it plays tomorrow with the increased wind. … Controlling your golf ball will be a premium tomorrow and leaving your golf ball in the correct spot will be really key to scoring well.”

Hoge will play tree-lined La Quinta on Saturday.

“I feel better playing La Quinta,” Hoge said. “A little more protected over there in the trees, a little shorter golf course. You can play a little more conservatively off tees and just get it in play and go from there.”

Zalatoris finished with a birdie from the wrong fairway on the par-4 ninth. The PGA TOUR rookie of the year is making his first start of the year.

“I just gave myself chances,” Zalatoris said. “I hit a lot close and made a couple 20-, 30-footers to keep the round going and, obviously, making birdie on 9 from the wrong fairway is kind of the icing on the cake.”

He wasn’t concerned about the wind that picked up just as he finished.

“I live in Texas, so I’m used to it,” Zalatoris said. “Really, playing golf the last few days without a lot of wind has been a little strange for me, so I’m looking forward to the challenge tomorrow.”

Hodges remained at 10 under after a 72 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course.

Top-ranked Jon Rahm was 8 under after a 70 at the Nicklaus layout. He won the 2018 tournament.

Kim was 4 under in his title defense after a 68 at Nicklaus.

Tournament host Phil Mickelson was 155th in the 156-man field at 7 over. He shot a 73 at Nicklaus after opening with a 78 at La Quinta.

FIRST ROUND

LA QUINTA, CA — Patrick Cantlay shot a 10-under 62 in perfect weather and turf conditions Thursday at La Quinta Country Club for a share of the first-round lead with rookie Lee Hodges in The American Express.

Cantlay played the first seven holes in 7 under, making an eagle on the par-5 sixth and five birdies. The FedEx Cup champion added birdies on Nos. 11-13, two of them par 5s, and closed with five straight pars.

“I got off to a roll at the start and kind of made a bunch of putts and then I kind of lagged on the way coming in,” Cantlay said. “But I was happy with everything. I thought I did everything well and it’s a golf course I really like. It’s in perfect shape and so, if you get the ball rolling on line, it should go in.”

Cantlay won the BMW Championship and Tour Championship in his final two starts last year and opened this year with a fourth-place finish two weeks ago in Hawaii at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Last year in the desert, the 29-year-old former UCLA player closed with a Stadium Course-record 61 to finish a shot behind winner Si Woo Kim.

“I grew up a couple hours away, so there are a bunch of friendly faces in the crowd and so it’s really fun,” Cantlay said. “It’s the best part of what I do is when you get on a roll like that and you’re making a bunch of birdies.”

Hodges made a memorable debut in the event. The former Alabama star played the back nine at La Quinta in 7-under 29, eagling the par-5 fifth and making five birdies.

“It’s one of my favorite golf courses I’ve ever played, to be honest,” Hodges said. “I played it I guess three times now and it’s spectacular. It’s like hitting off of mats half the time. It’s just in perfect shape. You get rewarded for good shots out here, which I like that. Good golf gets rewarded.”

Cameron Young and K.H. Lee were tied for third at 64. Young played at La Quinta, and Lee on the Stadium Course.

Brandt Snedeker was at 65 with Joseph Bramlett, Greyson Sigg, Sam Ryder, Danny Lee, Tom Hoge, Wyndham Clark and Seamus Power. Snedeker and Clark played at La Quinta, Bramlett and Ryder at the Stadium Course, and Lee, Hoge, Power and Sigg at the Nicklaus Tournament Course.

The players who opened at La Quinta will play the Nicklaus Tournament Course on Friday and the adjacent Stadium Course on the weekend, with strong wind expected Saturday.

Top-ranked Jon Rahm and Graeme McDowell were in the group at 66, both playing at La Quinta.

“I liked the score and the weather,” Rahm said. “It’s always a very enjoyable walk out here. La Quinta Country Club it’s a great golf course. It’s always in pristine shape, one of the best we play all year shape-wise.”

McDowell played the event only once before, missing the cut in 2003.

“I think my caddie and I are both looking at each other wondering why it’s taken us so long to get here,” McDowell said. “Obviously, the weather is perfect and these golf courses are so well presented.”

Harry Higgs had a hole-in-one on the par-3 15th at La Quinta in a 66. He used a 5-iron on the 199-yard hole.

Tournament host Phil Mickelson was tied for last in the 156-player field after a 78 at La Quinta. He made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 eighth after hitting two drives out of bounds right.

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