Unstoppable Jon Rahm: recovers the number one in world golf | Sports

One day it’s Rory McIlroy. Another, Scottie Scheffler. Or Collin Morikawa. Justin Thomas. Max Homa. Xander Schauffele… It’s always Jon Rahm. The rivals with whom the Basque golfer fights at the top of the table dance every week, tournament after tournament. But he is always. A fixture in the elite, an inhabitant of the heights, the most regular golfer in the world. And he too, again, number one. Rahm won The Genesis Invitational this Sunday, in Los Angeles, with 17 shots under par, two ahead of Homa and three over Patrick Cantlay. And the victory has many surnames: at 28 years old, it is the tenth victory of his career on the American circuit (one more than Seve and one for Sergio García), the 19th in total in his professional record, his fifth celebration in recent nine tournaments he has played, his third bingo in a month and a half between January and February, and his return to number one in the world, beating Scheffler and McIlroy on the list. The American was 12th with -8 on the Riviera Country Club course in California; the Northern Irishman, 29th with -4. Nobody resists the rhythm of Jon Rahm.

The brilliant golfer from Barrika returns to the throne of the classification where he already sat for 43 weeks in four sections between July 2020 and March 2022. He gave it up then, less than a year ago, before the big season, a valley in which he did not access any place in the top 10 of a major for the first time since its debut in a full campaign on the PGA Tour (2017). A parenthesis in the elite of the Grand Slam that today seems like an anecdote. Rahm is the fittest golfer in the world and has marked between eyebrows to celebrate a big one again after opening with the 2021 US Open.

Jon Rahm’s last arrow to the center of the target fuels a statistic in which he is second only to Tiger Woods. The Spaniard has won 19 of the 158 qualifying events for the world ranking in which he has enlisted. In other words, he wins in 12.02% of the tournaments in which he competes, a percentage that only a legend like El Tigre improves (22%). In the third step is McIlroy with 8%. There is more: the Basque scores among the top three in one of every four competitions. Since lifting his third Spanish Open last October (as Seve), Rahm has taken the DP World Tour Championship, Sentry Tournament, American Express and Genesis Invitational trophies. On the other Sundays, he was fourth in CJ Cup, eighth in Hero World, seventh in Farmers and third in Phoenix. And more: his maiden triplet of 2023, three victories between January 9 and February 19, in 42 days, is the fastest in the start of a year on the American circuit since Johnny Miller in 1975.

In Los Angeles he already hit the table with -6 in the first round, and flew back at the end of the second with the finishing touch of a eagle in the 17th after an incredible carom. His second shot on that par-five landed in the stands, but the ball bounced, went through the roughcame to green and he stayed two spans from the flag amid the incredulous laughter of the Basque player. “It will be hard to beat a hit as lucky as mine in the future,” he said. Fortune also favors champions. Another round of -6 on Saturday, free of bogeys, placed him three strokes ahead of Max Homa, and this Sunday he managed the return with some ups and downs to keep his distance and recover the world number one. By the way, a $3.6 million check thanks to the PGA prize rush after its war with the Saudi league.

That life on the altars is explained by Rahm from his love for the game, from training to competition. “I have always been very disciplined and now I reap the rewards of hard work. Good times come and go. Dynamics is something that exists in sport, but if you push yourself all year long and in the off weeks and at home you do the right things, you have a better chance of never feeling that feeling that you can lose momentum. I don’t do it out of fear, but because I love being told that practically every time I play I’m fighting to win. I do it for the love of the game, for the love of competing and for being a better person… I have always thought that making decisions out of fear is inappropriate. I haven’t made many decisions in my life that way. Getting to the top is tough, but staying for a long period of time is harder,” he said in Los Angeles. His next stop will be the Arnold Palmer Invitational, March 2-5, his first defense of the crown. “It’s the best season of my life, I don’t need a ranking to validate what I’m doing,” he added.

rahm is in tiger mode just when the Tiger has returned to the ring in this event that he hosted together with his foundation, and when the Augusta Masters looms. Woods has played his first regular tournament on the American circuit since the Zozo Championship in October 2020, and he has not played any competition (except for the date in pairs with his son Charlie in December) since the British Open last year in Mecca of Saint Andrews. In Los Angeles, Tiger has put his battered frame back to the test after a long list of back and knee operations and the traffic accident that nearly cost him his life and career. At the age of 47, the winner of 15 grands struggles to complete the simplest thing in golf: walking for five hours around the course. The game, more or less, is still there. Taking one step after another is his Everest. At the Genesis he closed out the first round with three birdies in a row in the last three holes, he sweated to make the cut and clung to the course with his eternal capacity for suffering to finish in 45th place with -1 in total (rounds of 69, 74, 67 and 73). On the myth’s agenda is playing a few more tournaments before his most important moment, the Augusta Masters from April 6 to 9. In his mind, he still feels capable of winning, although not playing regularly: “My body doesn’t allow me to play beyond the big ones and a couple more tournaments. And so it will be the rest of my career. My back is the way it is, with all those surgeries, and my leg is the same. I know and I accept it. It’s my reality.”

Tiger, this Sunday.
Tiger, this Sunday.HARRY HOW (AFP)

Tiger, in any case, is another, different from that impassive robot that was rampaging years ago. Today he is human. He even stars in a comic episode. In Los Angeles he jokingly exchanged a tampon with his friend Justin Thomas during an official round of gambling. He later apologized in case that had offended anyone.

Final classification of The Genesis Invitational.

You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.