US Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson and Sweden's Alex Noren share the lead after firing impressive 10-under-par 62s in the first round of The American Express in La Quinta, California. Both golfers played their opening rounds at La Quinta Country Club, one of the three courses designated for the tournament. Rico Hoey of the Philippines and South Africa's Christiaan Bezuidenhout are one stroke behind, posting scores of 63 at Nicklaus Tournament Course and La Quinta, respectively.
Notable contenders at 8-under 64 include Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, and 2021 American Express champion Si Woo Kim of South Korea, who all played at La Quinta on Thursday. Johnson, 47, a Ryder Cup veteran, remained bogey-free and outplayed some of his team members, including Schauffele and Cantlay. Noren, 41, had an eagle at the par-5 13th but faced a setback with a double bogey later on. He finished the round with 10 birdies, rallying on the front nine.
While Johnson has not secured a victory since the 2015 Open Championship, Noren, with 10 European titles, seeks his first win on US soil. Johnson expressed motivation from watching younger players like Schauffele and Cantlay, stating they keep him "young." Noren, despite a double bogey, maintained a positive outlook, emphasizing the need for a longer perspective on the round. Justin Thomas, in his season debut, carded a 7-under 65 at La Quinta, showcasing a six-birdie streak at Nos. 4-9.
Daniel Berger, returning after rehabbing a back injury, shot a 4-under 68 at the Stadium Course. Berger, acknowledging his early stage of play, expressed optimism about starting the season at a favorable venue like The American Express, praising the optimal conditions and pure greens. The tournament is known for producing low scores, and players like Schauffele anticipate even lower scores in subsequent rounds as the competition progresses.