The top-ranked player in the field at this week’s American Express PGA tournament in La Quinta has withdrawn from the event.
Jon Rahm, the No. 2-ranked player in the world and the 2018 championship here, withdrew Monday without giving a reason. The Spanish star was the oddsmakers’ favorite to win the tournament.
The 62nd annual American Express, played on two courses at PGA West, begins Thursday and goes through Sunday.
Rahm’s absence means Patrick Cantlay (No. 10), Patrick Reed (No. 11) and Brooks Koepka (No. 12) will be the highest-ranked players in the field. Even without Rahm, who finished tied for seventh in the Sentry Tournament of Champions two weeks ago in Hawaii, the American Express field includes 12 of the top 50 players in the world.
Rahm won the 2018 American Express in a four-hole playoff with Andrew Landry. Rahm did not play in the 2020 American Express as he was celebrating two wedding ceremonies to his wife Kelley, one in Spain and one in Arizona.
Rahm’s announcement marks the second notable player and former champion to pull out of the event as 2011 champion Jhonattan Vegas was forced to withdraw due to the tour’s COVID-19 testing protocol. Vegas tested positive before last week’s Sony Open.
Brandon Hagy will take Rahm’s spot in the field.
Players who are committed to tournaments do not have to provide a reason for a withdrawal before play begins. Vegas announced his positive test for COVID-19 on his Twitter account.
The event will be played this year without spectators allowed on the courses because of COVID-19 restrictions. The tournament also will not feature its traditional pro-am format, with no amateurs in the field as a safety precaution. In addition, the tournament will only be played on the Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament courses at PGA West in La Quinta. It was announced Thursday that La Quinta Country Club will be dropped for one year because of pandemic restrictions.
Among Koepka’s seven PGA Tour wins are back-to-back U.S. Open victories in 2017 and 2018 and back-to-back PGA Championship victories in 2018 and 2019. Hampered by injuries in 2020, he still finished the year with a seventh-place finish at the Houston Open and a tie for fifth in the Masters in November.
Landry and Mickelson are among 13 past champions of the event entered into the four-day event this year, an event that will be played without spectators because of state and county COVID-19 restrictions. Mickelson won here in the desert in 2002 and 2004.
Past winners returning to the event
Other past winners in the field include two-time champion Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Brian Gay, Adam Long, Hudson Swafford, Jhonattan Vegas, Mark Wilson, Pat Perez, Charley Hoffman and D.J. Trahan.
Other top names entered include five-time tour winner Rickie Fowler, who finished in the top 10 in La Quinta last year, and former world No. 1 Luke Donald. Players in the top 50 in the world rankings entered include Paul Casey (24th), Scottie Scheffler (32nd), Kevin Na (37th) and Brendan Todd (47th).
Past major championship winners also in the field are Jimmy Walker, Lucas Glover, Zach Johnson, Francesco Molinari and Charl Schwartzel
Other familiar names expected to play include Canadian Adam Hadwin, back in the event after missing the 2020 tournament. Hadwin finished second, third and second in the desert starting in 2017 and shot a 59 at La Quinta Country Club in 2017. Other top players in the field include Patrick Cantlay, Cameron Champ, Jamie Lovemark. Patrick Rodgers and Idyllwild’s Brendan Steele.
In addition to all four rounds being televised by Golf Channel, the tournament will feature The American Express Charity Challenge, a televised nine-hole exhibition match hosted by Mickelson and broadcast by Golf Channel, PGA Tour Live, GOLFTV and on social platforms on Jan. 20, the day before the tournament.
The event will feature American Express ambassador Tony Finau and Paul Casey playing with to-be-announced celebrity partners for a $1 million charity prize that will benefit Coachella Valley charities through the Mickelson Foundation, the charitable arm of the event.
Larry Bohannon of the Desert Sun also contributed reporting to this story.