College student Dunlap wins at PGA West but is ineligible for $1.5m first prize

Nick Dunlap became the first amateur in 33 years to win on the PGA Tour, holding on for a one-shot victory over Christiaan Bezuidenhout at The American Express on Sunday.

Dunlap, the 20-year-old University of Alabama student and reigning U.S. Amateur champion, is the first amateur winner since Phil Mickelson at the 1991 Tucson Open. He was playing in only his fourth tour event and became only the seventh amateur winner since 1945. – and the third since 1957.

Dunlap, the only amateur in the 156-player field in the tournament long known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic, opened to a three-shot lead with a blistering 60 in the third round. He lost that lead Sunday on the front nine on the Stadium Course at PGA West, but he played with the resilience of a seasoned veteran down the stretch, complemented by his recovery from two errant shots on the 18th to finish with a par putt of 1.80 meters. .

“Nothing like I’ve ever felt,” Dunlap said. “It was so cool to be here and experience this as an amateur.”

He finished with a two-under 70 to finish at 29-under 259 and break the tournament scoring record as a 72-hole event. He is also the youngest winner in the event’s history, becoming the youngest amateur to win the tour since 1910.

Bezuidenhout birdied the 18th in the group ahead to keep the pressure on Dunlap, whose tee shot landed high in the rough. His second shot wasn’t much more accurate, but luckily it rolled off the rough into a grassy drainage area next to the green.

Dunlap came within six feet of his third shot and he celebrated the par putt for the title with hugs from his parents, his girlfriend and his college coach, Jay Seawell, all of whom flew across the country all weekend to watch in person.

Dunlap was given the honor for one of the most impressive performances in recent golf history, but he won’t get the $1.5 million first prize, which goes to Bezuidenhout after the South African’s last-gasp win in round 65.

Dunlap won’t get the 500 FedEx Cup points either – but his rewards are still ample, starting with a two-year PGA Tour exemption through 2026. He can compete in all-field events even if he stays in Alabama, and he can compete in signature events if he turns pro.

Dunlap showed mental toughness as he played against obvious nerves in his final round. His three-shot lead disappeared overnight when he made a double bogey at the seventh while Sam Burns birdied, but Dunlap coolly recovered and battled Burns down the stretch, even making a birdie at the 16th.

And then Burns was the one to back off, completely missing the famous island green on the 17th and hitting the water with his 164-yard drive. He also missed a 26-foot bogey putt, abruptly handing a two-shot lead to Dunlap going into the 18th.

Dunlap thought he still had a two-shot lead when he took the lead, as he and his caddy had not checked the leaderboard and had not seen Bezuidenhout’s birdie. His first two errant shots increased the tension, but Dunlap came through with the biggest par of his life.

Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Kevin Yu finished in third place at 27 under. Burns led the event after two rounds with a career-low 61, and he had two more holes to play Sunday before hitting the water on each of his final two holes and carding back-to-back double bogeys, putting him ahead a draw ended. for the sixth.