For the second year in a row, Jon Rahm will head into the Players Championship as the top-ranked golfer in the world.
But he also comes into the week at TPC Sawgrass feeling a bit humbled. Golf will do that.
Rahm was on an otherworldly golf plane for the first two months of 2023, and bagged his third win since the turn of the calendar three weeks ago at the Genesis Invitational. That capped an amazing stretch of finishes on the PGA Tour: T-4, T-8, 1, 1, T-7, 3, 1. He is the first golfer since Johnny Miller did so in 1975 to win three times in a calendar year before March 1.
Rahm leads the PGA Tour in scoring average (68,855), birdie average (5.32), par-3 scoring average (2.82) and top-10 finishes (six).
Opening the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a 65 last Thursday seemed to indicate he was just going to keep on trucking, but a 4-over 76 in the second round cooled his jets. He ended up tied for 39th.
“I think when things are going so well for so long, the golf gods decide to humble you a little bit,” he said Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass. “It was my turn to suffer that for a couple of days. But I came on Sunday, finished really strong over the last seven holes. I played really good seven holes from 12 to 18. I was really happy about that. So just keep on going. There’s nothing, nothing to look into, really. It’s golf and a couple bad days.”
Rahm and the rest of the top names on the Tour are competing at the richest event in pro golf, with a $25 million purse and a $4.5 million first-place check. Big money was already part of the deal at the Tour’s flagship event, but the pot got bigger as the Tour has responded to the threat of the rival LIV Golf League.
Rahm has long been a staunch supporter of the PGA Tour but freely admits changes to the schedule and the prize money came about because of the breakaway league.
“Oh, it’s LIV Golf. I mean, without a doubt. Without LIV Golf, this wouldn’t have happened,” he said. “So to an extent, like I’ve said before, we should be thankful this threat has made the PGA Tour want to change things. I think I said it last week, as well. I wish it didn’t come to the PGA Tour being, you know, under fire from somebody else to make those changes and make things better for the players, but I guess it is what we needed. So, yeah, it is because of LIV Golf, otherwise we wouldn’t have seen any of this.”
That said, Rahm is clearly happy where he’s at and doesn’t pass judgment on those who left the Tour for LIV.
“If you’re not happy with the product, they’re free to do as they choose,” he said. “I still think that the PGA Tour gives the best, is the best platform for professional golfers. Obviously they’re very different products and they differ in a lot of things. But it’s not the same.
“Like I’ve said before, I’m not one to tell people what to do with their life and with their career. I do think the changes that are happening are very positive, very, very positive. It’s only going to make it so, you know, the better players in the world play together more often, which at the end of the day is what the fans want to see. So I wouldn’t know how to answer that exactly.”
Rahm has one top-10 – a tie for ninth in 2021 – and has yet to miss the cut in five previous starts at the Players.
Story originally appeared on GolfWeek