Min Woo Lee is ready to cook in the Coachella Valley.
“I’m playing good golf right now,” Lee said Wednesday.
“I guess it’s scary if you said you would come in fifth shooting 25-under, [but] that’s when you know these guys are good. [But I know I] can go out there and shoot lights out. It’s not scary, scary. No, it’s not scary. It’s going to be fun.”
Last year’s champion, Jon Rahm, finished at 27-under.
Since 2016, when this event first started utilizing the current rotation of courses—Pete Dye Stadium Course, La Quinta Country Club, and Nicklaus Tournament Course—the winner has finished at no worse than 20-under.
Players know they must go low at The American Express, as the generous fairways and benign desert conditions allow them to do so.
“It’s important really to be patient around these tracks,” said Patrick Cantlay, the sixth-ranked player in the world.
“You can make two, three, four, five birdies in a row out here, but when you’re making pars, you’re feeling like you’re falling behind.”
Like the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, The American Express employs a 54-hole cut. Every player will play a round on each of the three courses, then the top 60 and ties qualify for the final round on the Pete Dye Stadium Course at PGA West.
At The 2023 American Express, the 54-hole cut was at 9-under, a very high mark for the best players in the world.
“The great thing is that the courses aren’t that tight,” Lee said.
“If you hit the fairway, you can really attack the greens and pins. But, yeah, I guess you have to go out there and not expect too much. Yes, you want to shoot 30 under, but, again, golf is golf, and you still have to hit it, go towards your next ball, and then hit that the best as you can.”
Lee has shot 30-under par before, as he won the Macao Open on the Asian Tour with that score last October. Sure, the field at the Macao Open pales in comparison to the players in this week’s The American Express, but 30-under is 30-under. Players can only control themselves and their golf balls, so any score approaching that figure is quite impressive.
“It was a course where you could really get it, go for it,” Lee said of his win in Macao.
“Hopefully, it’s quite similar.”
Lee has never played at The American Express, but he will quickly learn that he can ‘get after it’ on these courses. He has the game to do so, too.
“The mindset now is everyone knows you need to get into the mid-20s to have a chance,” Cantlay further explained.
“So, I think that’s just kind of the nature of people getting better and learning that if they want to have a chance to win they need to be more aggressive and make more birdies.”