World number one Jon Rahm says the continuous tussle for the top ranking among himself, Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler “speaks to the greatness of the game of golf right now.”
Spain’s Rahm returned to the top of the rankings with his victory at Riviera two weeks ago, his third US PGA Tour title of 2023 carrying him past reigning Masters champion Scheffler.
Scheffler had regained the summit just a week earlier, replacing McIlroy atop the rankings after his victory at the Phoenix Open.
Both second-ranked Scheffler and No. 3 McIlroy have a chance to return to number one this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Florida, where Rahm said on Tuesday that the tight race at the top was a testament to the current state of the game.
“I do know this is the most amount of No. 1 changes in this short period of time,” Rahm said. “I saw some of those stats, because it’s just really interesting, which speaks to the greatness of the game of golf right now -- how good everybody’s been playing,” Rahm said.
Rahm himself has been in dominant form. His victory in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera was his fifth win in nine worldwide starts, a run that included his third Spanish Open triumph in October and victory in the DP World Tour Championship in November.
He opened 2023 with US Tour wins in the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and the American Express in La Quinta, California.
After closing out a two-shot victory over Max Homa to return to the top of the rankings for the first time since March of 2022, Rahm said he didn’t “need a ranking to validate anything.”
But he acknowledged on Tuesday there was “a lot of satisfaction that comes when you get to be No. 1 when the other players have been playing great golf as well.
“Scottie had a great year last year, Rory had a great year last year, and then towards the end of the year I kind of picked up.”
Rahm was also pleased to get back to the top with a victory.
“I think one of those times that I got to it, it was after, I think it was (Justin Thomas) had a bad finish, and I finished 10th in a tournament and you get back to number one.
“That doesn’t feel nearly as well.”
Rahm, who headlines a field that features 43 of the top 50 players in the world, is making just his second start at Bay Hill, where he finished tied for 17th last year with what he called a “horrible, horrible week on the greens”.
“Four three-putts alone on the back nine on Sunday,” Rahm recalled. “So very encouraged knowing that if I could keep my ball striking the level that I know I can and have a decent week on the greens, I’ll have a chance.”
Scheffler is the defending champion. He clawed out a one-stroke victory in brutal fourth-round conditions, his second win in three starts after he had claimed his first career title in Phoenix just weeks before.
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