SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Another week, another chance for Jon Rahm to regain the title of World No. 1 by leapfrogging Scottie Scheffler and knocking Rory McIlroy from the top of the mountain.
All Rahm needs to do is win and have McIlroy finish worse than a three-way tie for second or finish alone in second and have McIlroy finish worse than 47th and Scheffler not defend his title.
Rahm has been adamant that he couldn’t care less about his ranking these days, but that wasn’t always the case. The first time meant something to him, in more ways than one.
During his Tuesday pre-tournament press conference at the WM Phoenix Open, Rahm was asked whether he had any souvenir from reaching No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, which he achieved on July 19, 2020.
“I do. His name is Kepa. He’s almost two years old,” Rahm said of his first-born son. “Sorry, Kelley, but yeah. She can tell you the story more than me. We suspect that it was that night.”
Must have been quite the celebration.
Rahm enters this week riding a wave of momentum. The Scottsdale resident and Arizona State alum is making his eighth career start at his hometown event, recording four top 10s at TPC Scottsdale and has finished T-16 or better in all of them.
“I’m plenty familiar with desert golf. It’s just a place that I’m comfortable. It’s also a course that at first glance it might seem easier than what the scoring usually is,” he said. “With the scoring conditions getting as hard as they get on the weekend with the firm greens and fast, ball-striking obviously is a premium. So I think that’s always given me a chance to stay up there.”
As well as Rahm has performed at TPC Scottsdale, his best showing was in his tournament debut in 2015 as an amateur.
“Even then, I had a great back nine to put myself in fifth place,” Rahm said.
That Rahm isn’t already No. 1 is mystifying to him considering he has won four of his last seven starts worldwide. He had a chance at the Farmer Insurance Open two weeks ago to win his third straight start but closed in 2-over 74 and finished T-7. Rahm isn’t one to make excuses, but sources say he was sick, which is about the only thing to slow him down of late, and he noted both of his kids were sick last week and he was under the weather too.
The last time a tournament featured 18 of the top-20 in that week’s World Ranking – and it wasn’t a major, WGC, Players or FedExCup playoff event – was the 2007 Wachovia Championship.
T-5. Anthony Kim
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) February 7, 2023
As one of the newly-minted designated tournaments for this season with a $20 million purse, the WM Phoenix Open has attracted a star-studded field. McIlroy, Scheffler and eight of the current top 10 are scheduled to compete. The “Greatest Show on Grass” isn’t for everybody, but Rahm has embraced the largest outdoor cocktail party in sports. (With apologies to the Georgia-Florida game, but it has been supplanted for that title.)
“I think either you love it or hate it. There’s no in between. With my case, I love it. I want to come every year,” he said, noting that the fans have “gotten exponentially louder and louder.”
Last year, Rahm was playing with Justin Thomas when he chipped in at the par-3 16th, and the crowd lost its mind.
“I didn’t want to see the water bottle coming straight for my head from the third story, but I did see it,” he said.
Winning his hometown event, the tournament where he first burst on the scene in 2015 while still attending ASU, would be a thrill – and he wouldn’t mind if reclaiming the title of World No. 1 coincided with it.
“It’s something special,” he said of the WM Phoenix Open. “I was able to do it in Spain and haven’t been able to do it here, so I want to show up for myself and for the people that are here supporting me.”
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Photos: Check out the 25,000 square-foot merchandise tent at 2023 WM Phoenix Open
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