2023 U.S. Amateur Champion Nick Dunlap is in contention at PGA Tour American Express
19 Jan 2024
by Sean Melia of

see also: , Nick Dunlap Profile

Michael Thorbjornsen and Nick Dunlap
Michael Thorbjornsen and Nick Dunlap

Michael Thorjornsen and Nick Dunlap, two former U.S. Junior Amateur champs, will both be playing against the pros over the weekend in their respective DP World Tour and PGA Tour events. 

Thorbjronsen made the cut in the Dubai Desert Classic, while Dunlap is in contention at the American Express, although the cut is not until Saturday in this event.

Thorbjornsen earned his spot through his No. 1 ranking in PGA Tour University. The senior from Stanford hasn’t played competitively since the Western Amateur in August. A stress fracture in his back caused him to miss the U.S. Amateur, the Walker Cup, and his entire fall season with the Cardinal. 

In the opening round at Emirates GC, Thorbjornsen shot an even-par 72. Two double bogeys canceled out his four birdies. Conrad Ray, the Stanford men’s golf coach, said Thorbjornsen is one of the best drivers of the golf ball he has ever seen. Thorbjornsen laid waste to the par 5s over the two rounds, making birdie in five of his eight opportunities.

Thorbjornsen carded five birdies in his second round to finish T37 after 36 holes. On Friday, he tallied one more double bogey on the first hole and then bogeyed the 17th. He sprinkled in five birdies. Considering the competitive rust after four months of nursing his back injury. It’s an impressive showing from the Massachusetts native, and he’ll have 36 more holes to smooth out the wrinkles over the weekend. Last year, Thorbjornsen fired a 64 on Saturday in the same event. 

In Progress - Dunlap in contention at American Express

8,300 miles away in Palm Desert, Nick Dunlap, the 2023 Player of the Year, is busy making waves in the American Express. The Alabama sophomore and reigning U.S. Amateur champion earned a rare amatuer sponsors exemption, and he is taking advantage of the opportunity. He played exceptional golf and has launched himself into contention.

“It's great to be here. It's about 10 degrees and snowing back home, and I'm not in school, and it's 70 degrees,” Dunlap said earlier this week. “I think my caddie Hunter said it a couple of times, the weather, it couldn't get better. Mr. Marzano and American Express have given me a great opportunity to be here, and just trying to make the best of it.”

He is certainly making the best of it.

Dunlap, like Thorbjornsen, took advantage of the par fives, particularly in the first round at the Nicklaus Tournament Course. He made two eagles and started the tournament birdie-eagle-birdie on hole Nos. 10-12 to get out of the gates very quickly. Dunlap finished the opening round with an 8-under 64. 

On Friday, Dunlap showed no signs of nerves on the Pete Dye Stadium Course. He played the front nine in 30 shots, making six more birdies, including a 71-foot putt on the ninth hole. After making the turn, Dunlap reached as high as second place on the leaderboard. In a birdie-barrage event, he slowly slid down the board after making eight straight pars, but a birdie on the 18th hole put him back into a tie for third place.

Dunlap has done most of his damage off the tee and on the greens. At the conclusion of his round, he was eighth in the field in Strokes Gained Off the Tee and second in Strokes Gained Putting.

Considering the second round is at a different course, it's pretty clear Dunlap is locked in, no matter where he's playing. This is Dunlap's fourth PGA Tour event, he missed the cut in the first three tries. The cut at the American Express happens after the third round because the event's first three rounds happen on three different courses. Dunlap will be more worried about trying to win than surviving the cut. 

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