- Senior college football writer
- Author of seven books on college football
- Graduate of the University of Georgia
LOS ANGELES — At last, the Official World Golf Rankings reflect what the grounds from Hawaii to Palm Springs and now Pacific Palisades have shown us: Jon Rahm is the best golfer in the world right now.
“I don’t need a ranking to validate anything,” Rahm said after his final round on Sunday. “I’m having the best season of my life.”
The 28-year-old Spaniard not only notched his third win of the season (the 10th of his career on the PGA Tour) at the Genesis Invitational this week to claim that top spot, but he did it by holding off 22 of the other 25 best players in the world who teed it up at Riviera Country Club this week for the tour’s third designated event this season. And during a week where the player who has spent the longest ever time in that top spot returned to competition, Rahm received the ultimate compliment, too.
“Please understand and respect how good this guy is,” tournament host Tiger Woods, still in his Sunday red from finishing the tournament at 1-under, said during the post-round trophy ceremony. “He’s just getting started.”
Rahm spoke after the round of being nervous ahead of Sunday’s finish given everything that was at stake. But he also noted that the perspective he’s received from having his sons, Kepa and Eneko, around has allowed him to take his mind off golf at the right moments. Still, he was not shy about the personal significance of this particular victory.
“It’s always a tournament that I’ve wanted to win,” Rahm said. Then later, he said in Spanish that, albeit being a “stressful day,” hearing Tiger award him with his tournament made it all worth it.
Woods’ presence in the game remains insurmountable and all-consuming. The crowds this week and the attention he still garners proved as much. Yet as his career has entered a new stage, where his attendance in tournaments will be few and far between, the constant search for his heir apparent seems to have now shifted into an appreciation for how his influence has created a level of depth that makes winning on tour harder than ever. It’s what makes Rahm’s season so far all the more impressive. Even the guy who nearly beat him on Sunday, Max Homa, called him “Thanos.”
“I’ve been able to match a very small aspect of [Tiger’s career],” Rahm said. “And hopefully I can keep doing a lot of great things this year to put my name up there to one of his years.”
On Sunday, Rahm became the first PGA Tour player since Justin Thomas in the 2016-17 season to win three times before the month of March. His dominance goes beyond the numbers, too. There’s a sense that any time Rahm is in the field, he will buoy to the top of the leaderboard. With plenty more designated events and four majors on deck, Rahm’s game appears to be set up well to turn this historic year into something even greater.
Here’s what else happened at Riviera this weekend:
When will we see Tiger again?
There’s a chance golf fans could see Tiger Woods again in two weeks at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which he has won eight times, or The Players, the tour’s flagship event, the week after. But with Woods saying he only planned to play in the four majors and possibly two or three other events each season, it seems more likely that he won’t tee it up again on tour until the Masters on April 6-9.
“My intent last year was to play in all four majors,” Woods said. “I got three of the four. Hopefully, this year I can get all four and maybe sprinkle in a few here and there. But that’s it for the rest of my career. I know that and I understand that. That’s just my reality.”
Woods was able to play 72 holes for the first time in 10 months; he last did it at the 2022 Masters, which was his first official tournament back since he was seriously injured in a car wreck in February 2021. Woods said the walk at Riviera was probably more difficult than he let on. When asked if it was walking up hills, down hills, or the overall wear and tear on his body, Woods responded, “Yep, all of the above.”
Woods said his recovery from round to round includes pretty much sleeping in ice and then re-activating his muscles the next morning.
“Yeah, I pretty much lay in ice pretty much all night,” Woods said. “It’s not fun, very cold all the time. And then treatment, then getting muscles activated and go back and hop in the cold again. The ebb and flow of that, it’s hard. It’s hard mentally, it’s hard physically.”
Moving up and down
English has been scrapping his way back after missing five months last season following surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip. He had six birdies and carded a bogey-free 65 on Sunday. He tied for 12th at 8 under.
The Australian continues to come on strong. He had 13 birdies in the final two rounds combined to finish at 9 under and tie for ninth. It was his fourth straight top-20 finish and he’ll move even closer to the top 50 in the world — and an invitation to the Masters, which he missed last season for the first time since 2010.
The 2019 U.S. Open winner has been struggling with his form for a while, but a tie for ninth is a step in the right direction. He had three straight rounds in the 60s before carding an even-par 71 on Sunday. Woodland said he’d been tweaking his swing and pressing too much in competition.
Woods wasn’t the only aging golfer in his 40s who was trying to make a resurgence this week. Kuchar shot 66 in the first round and 67 in the fourth and finished solo eighth at 10 under. It was his second top-10 in his past four starts. Kuchar also didn’t play at Augusta National last season, the first time he’d missed the Masters since 2009.
Svensson, from Canada, hadn’t done much since picking up his first PGA Tour win at the RSM Classic in November. After back-to-back missed cuts, he finished tied for ninth at 9 under.
The Spieth rollercoaster continued. After tying for sixth at the WM Phoenix Open, he missed the cut at Riviera. He lost more than a stroke to the field off the tee and about three strokes in putting. Not a good recipe for success.
Matsuyama could never figure out the poa annua greens at Riviera, which is why he missed the cut. He needed 61 putts in two rounds and lost more than three strokes to the field on the greens.
Rose, who had won in his previous start at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, had made the cut in 11 of his previous 12 starts at Riviera. He hit only three of 14 fairways on Thursday before hitting eight on Friday.
After back-to-back top-15 finishes, Burns wasn’t around for the weekend at Riviera. He has missed the cut in three of his five starts in the Genesis.
The reigning U.S. Open champion has missed the cut in two of his past three starts; he tied for 29th in the WM Phoenix Open. The Englishman, who tied for fifth in his previous start at Riviera, had only three birdies in 36 holes.
Best of the weekend
Wave as you go by, Rory McIlroy.
Best tee shot
Tiger needed maybe three more rotations to record his first ace in an official PGA Tour event since 1997.
It didn’t even bounce!
Best sand shot
Classic look, a classy shot from Keith Mitchell.
Best up and down
A fried egg in a wall for Homa.
Way to use the backstop, Collin.
Jon Rahm will probably never duplicate it again.
Best social media
Check that one off, indeed.
At least he’s honest.
Start ’em young.
The stars were out in LA. From Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen to Rob Lowe.
Love somebody like Tiger loves JT.
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