Davis Thompson, a 23-year-old PGA Tour rookie and former No. 1 amateur, needed just five words to state the odds he faced in the final round of The American Express.
“I’m playing Jon Rahm.”
This is not the first time that Rahm has been considered one of the best in golf. He spent the second half of 2021 as the world No. 1, the same year he captured the US Open at Torrey Pines for his first major.
Rahm isn’t the only player using the type of heating he has now, either.
The 28-year-old Spaniard has won four of his last six starts around the world in the last three months, including his two PGA Tour events this month on courses (Maui mountain, California desert) that couldn’t be more different.
He won in Spain by six shots and the DP World Tour Championship by two in the fall. He started the new year on the PGA Tour by closing out with a 63 to overcome a seven-shot deficit against Collin Morikawa at Kapalua, then withstanding a spirited challenge from Thompson at The American Express.
Next up is the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, one of his favorite venues even before winning the US Open. Rahm won his first PGA Tour event at Torrey in 2017, and twice in the past three years he has missed a tiebreaker by one shot.
Thompson’s words may ring true for the other 155 players on the field this week: “I’m playing Jon Rahm.”
“In my mind, I feel like I can improve a lot,” Rahm said Sunday. His average score in both PGA Tour starts this year is 65.75. “It’s my job to try to do the best I can, and so far, I’m doing a pretty good job.”
It’s one thing to have a great race. What really makes other players take notice is when it happens over and over again.
David Duval first made people take notice of him in late 1997 when he won his last three tournaments. And while he didn’t exactly fall off the map (Duval won a tournament in the winter, spring, summer and fall the following year), his start in 1999 was surprising.
He won at Kapalua by eight. He then shot 59 to win the Bob Hope Classic. He was considered the greatest player in golf, except the No. 1 ranking belonged to Tiger Woods. That eventually went to Duval two months later when he won The Players Championship.
Vijay Singh already had two majors and a PGA Tour money title. And then he looked unbeatable in 2004. There was a feeling that if his name wasn’t in the rankings, it would be the next time anyone was looking. He won nine times, three in a row in September, the first of which made him No. 1 in the world and ended Woods’ five-year reign.
Rory McIlroy, who currently sits at No. 1, was also an established star when he had a monster year in 2012, winning five times, including his second major. Twice he had streaks of five consecutive top-10 finishes.
So no one was surprised when he won three straight times in 2014, two of them majors.
Woods, of course, resides in his own section of golf history.
His career from 1997 to 2009 never really ended, except when he was going through swing changes with Butch Harmon (1998) and Hank Haney (2004). He had three winning streaks of five tournaments or more. Woods began a year with six straight top-15 finishes and was said to be in a slump. He won his next three, including the Masters.
It is a separate conversation.
Rahm is sure to be a heavy favorite at Torrey Pines, which starts Wednesday. He will try to become the first player since Dustin Johnson in 2017 to win three straight (Rahm was runner-up in Johnson’s third match play win that year).
Rahm is ranked number 3 in the world, which only makes sense if we remember that the ranking is based on two years, not six months, of play.
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler is No. 2 and came within an inch (he narrowly missed a birdie putt on his last hole at The American Express) from returning to No. 1. That’s a product of his four wins and three runners-up last year. year.
No one has said, “I’m playing Scottie Scheffler.” Another great race like last spring and that could change.
Rahm could get to No. 1 with another win or even a top finish on Torrey, though it depends on how McIlroy fares on his Dubai debut in 2023.
While there’s no question who’s playing golf better right now, the world rankings is more like a two-hour documentary than a 45-minute podcast.
Rahm earned two wins in three starts as McIlroy completed the year. McIlroy’s last six starts in 2022 were Tour Championship and CJ Cup wins, a one-stroke runner-up at Wentworth and three fourth-place finishes.
How quickly we forget.
Also, the world rankings are in the midst of a transition in an attempt to measure the strength of the entire field, not just the players in the top 200, and the points have been reduced in this new math. It should start to get fixed in the next few months.
Rahm no longer seems as stunned by the ranking as he did a few months ago. He said that in Kapalua he felt he was the better golfer and that winning the American Express didn’t change his mind. He won’t find many detractors at the moment.
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