Forget the honeymoon, Jon Rahm had barely finished his vows when his marriage with the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking started to fizzle.
Rahm spent just two weeks atop the list (he’s also No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, behind Rory McIlroy) before Justin Thomas leapfrogged him at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Championship, meaning only Tom Lehman had a shorter span with the crown.
So is Rahm bitter, now that the relationship is over?
Hardly. In fact, he said on Tuesday in advance of this week’s PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park that golf is in an exciting place as multiple players jockey for the top spot. When asked if it was weird only holding the title for as long as he did, Rahm seemed to indicate that he might have lost a battle, but the war is still ongoing.
“It’s not that it’s weird. It’s well-earned. I played pretty bad last week and (Thomas) played amazing to win, right,” Rahm said. “I think we are in an era right now where it’s going to be hard to have somebody distance themselves. When you have so many great players playing who go out at the same time, at any given point for two or three months, one of us can get hot and take the No. 1 spot.
“I think we might be entering an era where we bounce back and forth. Not that, hopefully, that could still be the case where one of us, you know, plays well for a while and stays in the No. 1 spot for a while.”
Rahm — who was the fifth youngest to become No. 1, trailing only Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, McIlroy and Thomas — likened the current state of golf to tennis, something he grew up adoring in Spain,
“You know, hopefully we can just battle it out the rest of the year and battle for majors and FedExCup and everything that’s coming up. It’s an exciting time in golf. Not to compare it with tennis because it’s an extreme case because it’s similar to that. You have Rafa, Djokovic and Federer who are competing at the same time. Who is No. 1, you don’t know, depends on who plays better that year,” Rahm said.
“It’s going to be hard to have a Tiger-esque case right now because there’s so many players with so much talent and are really, really good. It could be a situation where we are going back and forth, and hopefully I’m the one that stays up there for awhile, but it’s going to take a lot of good play.”
Aside from winning the Memorial two weeks ago, Rahm has been good, but not great since the return to golf. He’s made his last five cuts, but has finished outside the top 25 in all but the victory.
His putter has shown improvement, but the results are not what he’s hoped for, coming out of the pandemic break.
“I think a lot of us tried to play as much as possible early on to get the rust off and play good golf, and, well, in my case, out of five events I’ve played or six, I’ve played one good one and the rest have been probably below what I expect to do, right, haven’t felt my best,” he said.
“You know, it’s out of quarantine and I’ve never taken time off and some — you might form some bad habits by just not doing the usual. Slowly getting back into it obviously. Hopefully, I have it in me. Hopefully, I’ve done the right things, but I won’t be able to tell you that until afterward. Physically I feel great and mentally I feel like I’m great, so I feel like I’m ready.”
As for this week, he’s in the middle of an interesting grouping. Rahm will play the first two days in a threesome with Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson, both names he’s very familiar with.
“It’s an honor to play with one of the greatest Spanish players to ever play. Grew up watching him, and he’s been there for me when I’ve needed it, and as well as Phil. If anything, even though me and Sergio are both Spanish countrymen, I spend a lot more time with Phil, with the relationship with him, his brother and I had, being my college coach and then my manager afterwards, and you know, just living here in the States for the last eight years,” Rahm said.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with both. They have both helped me out a lot and it should be a really fun pairing. I’m excited. It’s rare that you get a good one like this one, and they both mean a lot to me, so I’m happy to share the stage with them.”