Golf roundup: Jon Rahm holds off PGA Tour rookie to continue hot streak

AP photo by Mark J. Terrill / Jon Rahm greets his family after winning Sunday's PGA Tour event in La Quinta, Calif.

LA QUINTA, Calif. — Jon Rahm had plenty of chances to pump his right fist in celebration of nice shots Sunday, but the look of relief on the PGA Tour veteran's face after holding off rookie Davis Thompson put into perspective his victory at The American Express.

The 28-year-old Spanish star took advantage of mistakes by Thompson over the adventuresome final three holes and closed with a 4-under-par 68 to win by one stroke, his second PGA Tour victory in as many starts this year. Rahm now has won four of his past six starts — he won twice on the Europe-based DP World Tour at end of last year — and Sunday's triumph marked his seventh straight top-10 finish worldwide, a streak that began after the Tour Championship in late August.

"I'm, in a weird way, glad that today went the way it went," Rahm said. "I've enjoyed some runaway victories, I've enjoyed some comebacks, but today was certainly a struggle. Out of the five birdies I made, what is it, one, two, three of them were tap-ins, and the other two were basically six-footers. So that tells you the story."

Rahm pumped his fist a final time after tapping in for a two-putt par on No. 18 at PGA West's Stadium Course. He finished at 27-under 261 and won for the ninth time on the PGA Tour, and now he moves up one spot to No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm and Thompson were tied with three holes to play when the 23-year-old American, who led through 36 holes and shared the lead with Rahm going into Sunday, pulled his drive into a deep fairway bunker on the par-5 16th and wound up with par. Rahm made a birdie to take the lead.

On the par-3 17th, Thompson chose to leave the pin in for his 50-foot birdie putt on the island green, and the ball squarely hit the pin and rolled away. Thompson dropped his putter and put his hands to his face. As he walked to the 18th tee after tapping in for par, he pulled his shirt up over his mouth in frustration.

"I usually always leave the stick in from a long distance. I feel like it helps me with my speed," said Thompson, an Alabama native who played his college golf at Georgia and is a former No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

"I'll probably play the what-if game in my head for a long time, unfortunately. I had a great read. I probably hit it too firm. If it had great speed, it would have just hit the flag and dropped. But we'll never know."

Rahm hit his tee shot into a bunker on No. 18 but recovered nicely with a shot to 15 feet and pumped his fist. Thompson's drive found the fairway, but his approach bounced on the green and ran down the slope behind it. He then hit a bold flop shot that settled a foot to the right of the hole before closing out a 69.

"I had a great week," said Thompson, who made five eagles through the first two rounds, tying the PGA Tour record for eagles in a 72-hole event. "Competing against the best in the world is my dream, and I did that today and proved that I can hang with them. 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."

Xander Schauffele, two weeks after he withdrew from the year-opening Tournament of Champions because of back pain during the second round, closed with a 62 and finished two behind with Chris Kirk (64).

Taylor Montgomery was challenging Rahm and Thompson until he put his tee shot into the water on the 17th. He closed with a 66 and finished fifth at 22 under.

Chattanooga native Keith Mitchell (67) tied for 22nd at 19 under, and fellow Baylor School graduate Stephan Jaeger (70) shared 36th at 16 under.

Henderson dominant

ORLANDO, Fla. — Brooke Henderson sets a goal of winning multiple LPGA Tour titles at the outset of each season. She didn't wait long to collect her first trophy of 2023.

Henderson was dominant throughout and delivered a 2-under 70 in the final round at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club to complete a wire-to-wire victory in the season-opening Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions.

In windy and sometimes difficult conditions, the 25-year-old Canadian played steadily, making sure not to give much hope to a group behind her trying to mount any sort of challenge. She began her day leading by three and eventually won by four, finishing the event at 16-under 272. It was her 13th LPGA victory.

"It is so exciting," Henderson said. "I always try to win a couple times each year, so to get one right way out of the gate takes a little bit of pressure off. ... It's exciting to be in contention, and even more exciting to hoist trophies."

Second-year LPGA pro Maja Stark of Sweden showed a nice finishing kick by shooting 5-under 31 on her final nine. She tied for second alongside England's Charley Hull. Each shot a 69, with Hull doing so for the fourth consecutive day.

Big shot lifts Perez

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Victor Perez won the Abu Dhabi Championship by one stroke for the third and biggest DP World Tour title of his career. The 30-year-old Frenchman finished at 18-under 270, and his closing 6-under 66 included one of the biggest shots of his career.

Perez led by one when he sent his tee shot on the 17th hole short and into a greenside bunker. His second shot went about 10 feet beyond the cup and spun back into it, leading to Perez leaping out of the sand and bumping chests with his caddie.

A bogey on the final hole — he drove into a bunker, and his second shot nearly found the water — was enough for Perez to claim a winner's check of $1.53 million and boost his chances of playing for Europe at this year's Ryder Cup near Rome. His previous wins on the European circuuit were at the Dunhill Links Championship in 2019 and the Dutch Open last May.

Sweden's Sebastian Soderberg (67) and Australia's Min Woo Lee (68) tied for second place.

It's Stricker again

KA'UPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii — Steve Stricker competed for the first time in three months, and nothing changed. He began the PGA Tour Champions year by closing with a 7-under 65 for a six-shot victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.

Stricker seized control with a 60 in the second round for a two-shot lead, and with three birdies in four holes at the start, no one got closer the rest of the way. He finished the 54-hole event at 23-under 193.

The 55-year-old Stricker now has four wins in his past five starts on the senior circuit, ending last year with consecutive victories before taking off the postseason to enjoy the Wisconsin outdoors.

Steven Alker, the Charles Schwab Cup champion last year, closed with a 63 and shared second with Ken Tanigawa (66), Mike Weir (66) and Darren Clarke (68), who missed an eight-foot birdie putt on the final hole.

Stricker now has 12 career wins on the PGA Tour Champions, the same number of titles he has on the regular PGA Tour.