Hudson Swafford Wins The American Express In Extremely Tight Contest

A timely eagle - birdie run at the 16th and 17th helped Swafford claim his third PGA Tour title

Swafford wins American Express
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With only three holes remaining, nine players were within two shots of the lead. However, it was American, Hudson Swafford, who would rise to the top, with a stunning eagle at the par-5 16th giving him a two stroke advantage with two holes remaining.

After finding the treacherous island green at the 17th, Swafford would then hole his birdie putt to extend the lead to three. At the last, he would close-out the tournament perfectly, with the 34-year-old finishing at 23-under-par and two shots clear of an extremely congested leaderboard in California.

The victory was Swafford's third PGA Tour title and his second at The American Express, the 34-year-old claiming this trophy back in 2017. 

"Despite bogeying the first hole today I still knew I had a chance", said Swafford. "I actually did that in 2017! But I knew I just had to be patient, anything can happen. I just said to Kyle (his caddie) we just need to be patient, we will keep giving ourselves looks, if it's 30-feet or 2-feet, we are going to have chances.

"I hit it so good all day and been rolling it with my putter unbelievably. Yesterday I hit a few balls and was just working on standing a bit taller in my posture and that's all I was thinking about today."

See more

Beginning the final round, it was the pair of Lee Hodges and Paul Barjon who started at the top of the leaderboard. However, Swafford, who began his day three back of the duo, started well, with an opening bogey being cancelled out by birdies at the 2nd, 5th, 6th and 8th.

Turning in 33, the American then embarked on a back nine that didn't see a par until the 18th hole! Making a trio of birdies at the 10th, 11th and 12th, he would momentarily take the lead, before a bogey at the 13th put him back into a share.

Another birdie and bogey followed at the 14th and 15th, with Swafford being rapidly joined by Brian Harman, Francesco Molinari and Lee Hodges at the top of the leaderboard. Not only was he joined by the trio, but there was still another five players just one shot back of the quartet.

See more

On the 16th though, everything changed, with Swafford dealing two almighty blows. Producing a stunning approach shot at the par-5, the American would roll in the eight foot eagle putt and jump out in front.

With a little bit of breathing space, he would push on perfectly, finding the green on the tricky par-3 17th and holing yet another crucial putt to increase his lead to three going down the last.

Putting his second shot to 30-feet at the 18th hole, Swafford would run his first putt six-feet by of the cup. However, the American showed his bottle once again, calmly rolling in the par putt for an eight-under-par round of 64. Amazingly, the par on the 18th was his first on the back nine.

Swafford with his son James

Swafford celebrates with son, James.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"When I saw that (Brian) Harman had posted 20-under, I knew I had to do something because the guys behind were going to make birdies. I had a perfect number for my second shot on the 16th and I knew if I hit it solid we would have a good look at eagle.

"This win is so rewarding, in the fall I was turning top-10's into top-30's. The hard work I was putting in wasn't showing, but I've been playing great and doing a lot of work in the gym with my guy, Tom Hemmings, and it really payed off today."

Matt Cradock
Matt Cradock

Matt studied Sports Journalism at Southampton Solent University, graduating in 2019. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly and the PGA, he covers all aspects of the game, from Tour news to equipment testing and buyers’ guides. Taking up the game at the age of six, Matt currently holds a handicap of 3 and despite not having a hole in one…yet, he has had two albatrosses. His favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.