University of Alabama sophomore Nick Dunlap wins The American Express for 1st PGA Tour victory by an amateur golfer in 33 years

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LA QUINTA, Calif. — Nick Dunlap became the first amateur in 33 years to win on the PGA Tour, making a 6-foot par putt on the final hole for a one-shot victory over Christiaan Bezuidenhout at The American Express on Sunday.

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

The only amateur in the 156-player field in the tournament long known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic, Dunlap surged into a three-shot lead with a sizzling 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, capped by his recovery from two errant shots on the 18th for the winning par.

He ended up with a 2-under 70 to finish at 29-under 259 and break the tournament scoring record as a 72-hole event. He’s also the youngest winner in the event’s history, and he became the youngest amateur to win on the tour since 1910.

Dunlap also doesn’t get the 500 FedEx Cup points – but his rewards are still ample. If he stays at Alabama he gets in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open as the U.S. Amateur champion. If he turns pro and joins the PGA Tour, he still gets in the Masters and U.S. Open, along with the remaining seven $20 million signature events on tour.

Bezuidenhout closed with a 65.

LPGA TOUR

Lydia Ko rediscovered her winning touch in the season-opening Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, closing with a 2-under 70 for a two-shot victory over Alexa Pano at Lake Nona.

Ko, who finished at 14-under 274, won for the 20th time on the LPGA Tour. The 26-year-old from New Zealand became the seventh woman to win 20 LPGA titles before turning 27.

Ko was winless in 20 LPGA starts a year ago, and she now can resume her quest for entry into the exclusive LPGA Hall of Fame. Ko needs 27 points to get there, and the triumph Sunday put her just one point away. Each regular LPGA win is worth one point.

Sunday’s final margin was two shots, but Ko remained in control throughout the final round, played amid unseasonably cool temperatures that dipped into the 40s. Ko, bogey-free in her second and third rounds, birdied four of her first 15 holes Sunday against a single bogey to leave her pursuers battling for second most of the day.

EUROPEAN TOUR

Rory McIlroy won the Dubai Desert Classic for a record fourth time, completing a remarkable weekend by reeling in Cameron Young early in the final round then holding off Adrian Meronk to seal a one-stroke victory.

McIlroy closed with a 2-under 70 to retain the title at a tournament he first won in 2009 and has captured more than any other in his career. His latest victory at Emirates Golf Club was surely the most unlikely.

McIlroy walked to the 18th tee on Friday trailing Young by 11 shots, only to make birdie, shoot 63 on Saturday to get into the final pairing on Sunday and then wipe out the American’s overnight two-stroke lead after just six holes.

Meronk (71), recently crowned as the European tour’s player of the year for 2023, was had four birdies on the back nine for a 71. Young was third after shooting 74.

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS

Steven Alker won the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai on Saturday for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory and eighth in 54 career starts.

The winner of the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in November in Phoenix, Alker won at Hualalai after finishing second the previous two years. The 52-year-old New Zealander took a two-stroke lead into the final round, then closed with his second straight 9-under 63 for a four-stroke victory over Harrison Frazar.

OTHER TOURS

Santiago De La Fuente of Mexico birdied the last two holes for a 6-under 64, giving him a two-shot victory in the Latin America Amateur Championship and a berth in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. Omar Morales shot 69 to finish second. … Kazuma Kobori of New Zealand closed with a 3-under 68 for a two-shot victory in the Webex Players Series-Murray River on the PGA Tour of Australasia.

Copyright © 2024 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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