Patrick Cantlay and Jon Rahm set re-establish their PGA Tour duel at The American Express

The fortunes of the American and the Spaniard were entwined throughout the 2020/21 season and they’re back it this week at PGA West.

There was a time when this week's PGA Tour event was full of glitz and glamour.

In the 1960s and 70s it was known as the Bob Hope Classic, superstars of the big (and small) screen featured in the pro-am, Arnold Palmer was winning the professional event five times, and the locals were whooping it up in the many (over 100) golf courses in Palm Springs.

More recently, the tournament has lost the lustre of celebrity, the world's best golfers rarely show up, and the interest has dropped.

But this week's top two in the field, Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay, can demand the golf world's focus if, as would be delicious, they re-establish the contest which so defined the back-end of the 2020/21 season.

It is a duel that began in highly unlikely fashion. Rahm was leading the Memorial Tournament by six strokes when he strode from the 18th green in the third round at Muirfield Village, but he was stopped by an official who alerted him to a positive Covid test.

Rahm had to withdraw and it was Cantlay who pounced, accepting the trophy from host Jack Nicklaus for a second time and lifting himself out of a short-term form slump.

Rahm himself bounced back in his next start and in spectacular style, citing "karma" as he won a first Major Championship at the US Open.

Then it was Cantlay's turn, winning the BMW Championship in the Playoffs, to pinch the FedExCup lead from Rahm heading into the Tour Championship.

At East Lake, Rahm totalled the joint low-score for the week, but he had started the week behind Cantlay on the leaderboard and it was the American who claimed the win, plus the $15 million bonus.

Two weeks later both players excelled in the Ryder Cup, yet again the American was triumphant, and then his peers voted him Player of the Year.

It was a tight call, one that prompted Rahm to say all the right things, albeit with narrowed eyes and a straight face.

Both golfers took extended breaks ahead of the New Year and emerged in Hawaii to land top five finishes. Now they head to The American Express with fine tournament records and a hunger to start winning again.

Cantlay, whose iciness became a notable characteristic during his successes last year, was straightforward ahead of his first round in Palm Springs about his aims for the year.

"My plan is to show up to every tournament and be 100% prepared to win," he said.

"My game feels really good. I treated the first start of the year no different, even though it had been a few months since I played last and even though this is kind of the beginning of the year.

"People always talk about the run-up to the Masters and you definitely want to peak at the time of the Masters.

"But, in general, I play a relatively limited schedule and I try to show up each and every time with the intent to win."

Rahm, in turn, was asked about his ability to overcome disappointment. Last year he referenced Ted Lasso and his line that great sportspeople are like goldfish - they forget quickly.

"I was just trying to be funny," he said. "But it's just true. Sometimes forgetting certain things is good. But what I meant more is not forgetting, but just getting over it, right? Get over yourself. It's that simple.

"You play bad, you did what you did, it's over, move on to the next thing. All can you do from that is learn. Learn from what happened, analyse what you did and move on. And that's it.

"And you don't want to forget everything, because then you repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Instead, just learn and get over it as quickly as you can, because luckily in golf there's always a next week."

That next week is actually this week, because they're yet to start. Rahm won the event in 2018, Cantlay has never finished outside the top 10; the prospect of them going head-to-head is real.

Cantlay on the low scoring in 2022

"I think this is going to be another week of really good scoring and I would say when I first came out on TOUR if you could get to 20-under you thought, 'For sure, I'm going to win or have a really good chance to win.' And I think we have seen the last few years that's not really the case any more and guys are either better or more aggressive or both and so I think that's just the new normal. You'll have to get into the 20s to have a chance to win."

Rahm on going super-low in Hawaii and not winning

"Yeah, I never thought ever in my career I would shoot 33-under and not win. It was a bit of a bittersweet feeling because you can't help to feel good about game and how good I played, but I still finished second by one shot, right?"

READ MORE: Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship: Six DP World Tour golfers and their aims for 2022

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