Si Woo Kim holds off Cantlay to win The American Express

Si Woo Kim
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LA QUINTA, Calif. _ Si Woo Kim birdied two of the final three holes to finish a rock-solid, 8-under 64, coolly rallying past late-charging Patrick Cantlay by one shot to win The American Express on Sunday for his third PGA Tour victory.

A year after Kim withdrew from the desert tournament because of a back injury following an awful first round, he began the final round with a share of the lead as he attempted to win for the first time since the 2017 Players Championship.

The 25-year-old South Korean didn’t flinch when Cantlay shot a 61 and surged out of 13th place to the front while breaking the Stadium Course record by two strokes.

Playing six groups behind Cantlay, Kim comfortably birdied the par-5 16th to pull even. Kim then buried a 19-foot birdie putt on the island green on the 17th to take the lead, joyously pumping his fist when his perfectly paced putt dropped.

Kim wrapped up his third bogey-free round of the tournament _ all on the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course _ with a two-putt par on the 18th to finish at 23-under 265.

Adam Hadwin finished in a tie for 32nd place, the highest-ranked of all Canadians at the tournament. Roger Sloan finished in a tie for 40th, while Nick Taylor finished in a tie for 47th. David Hearn finished in a tie for 64th.

Kim had a much better time than he did last year in his return to the Palm Springs-area tournament long hosted by Bob Hope. A year ago, Kim shot a 15-over 87 in the opening round on the easier neighbouring Nicklaus Course before withdrawing.

Australia’s Cameron Davis shot a 64 to finish in a career-best third at 20 under. Tony Finau had a 68 and finished fourth after starting the final round with a share of the lead in his quest to land his long-awaited second PGA Tour win.

Cantlay was in 56th place when the third round began, but the Southern California native’s 65-61 finish shot him out of the crowded field and nearly led to his second victory of the 2020-21 season. He also won the Zozo Championship in Thousand Oaks last October when it was relocated from Japan.

The 28-year-old Cantlay made 11 birdies in the final round, including six in eight holes on the front nine. Cantlay capped his spectacular round with a 37-foot birdie putt on the 18th, pumping his fist subtly for the few fans clapping from their houses near the green.

Cantlay was born in Long Beach, went to high school in Anaheim and was the Division I player of the year at UCLA before his pro career.

All told, Cantlay made 20 birdies in his final two rounds, offset by two bogeys Saturday.

The top Canadian in the field was Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., who finished off the tournament with a round of 66 and ended 10 under in a tie for 32nd.

Roger Sloan of Merritt, B.C., was 8-under 280 for the tournament and T40, with Abbotsford native Nick Taylor following one shot behind at T47. David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., finished the tournament 1-under par.

Third-round co-leaders Max Homa and Finau both faded, with Homa struggling to five bogeys in a 76, leaving him at 11 under. Finau posted his third top-10 finish of the season, but couldn’t keep up with Kim.