Jon Rahm wins Memorial, moves to World #1. But can he stay there?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

After moving up and down the World Golf Rankings inside the top 10, Jon Rahm finally made it to #1 following his win at The Memorial. He appears to have the tools to win every time he tees it up, yet his temperament sometimes gets the better of him, as it almost did at Muirfield on Sunday. Rahm is only 25 and is the third fastest to reach #1 since turning pro behind only Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.  Do you view Rahm as one of the game’s elite players or just another very good player who is having his moment in the sun?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): He’s a fine player, but I don’t see him dominating the game for the next several years, for the very reason you mention: his temperament.  And also, because there are SO many players these days who could find themselves at No. 1 with just a few good weeks and a couple of wins.  That said, I like the guy and wish him continued and long-lasting success.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I can’t figure Rahm out. I really like his game, I’m on record here saying so. I still believe he can dominate, although he’s ranked number 1, I don’t think he is the number one player in the world right now (no Majors to his resume yet, for me that makes a difference). I think Rahm is absolutely a top 10 player for the next 5 years, but I don’t think we’ll be talking about his career like Mickelson or Furyk, something just a little lesser.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame member, PGA of Canada: Elite is a very big word. It cannot be applied to John Rahm at this point. However, he sure is good, and he sure can win.  ‘Elite’ applies when a player has won more than Rahm. It can be a body of work over a longer period, but it must involve more wins including majors. Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): He’s definitely one of the game’s young, elite players. Rahm’s been around for a little while now so it’s easy to forget that he’s only 25. He simply doesn’t get the respect he deserves at the moment because he does not yet have a major to his name, but with his skillset and his improving track record at majors over the last 18 months, it’s only a matter of time until he gets his first. I expect several more will follow after that.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Phil told his corporate connections that this guy should be signed when Rahm was a collegian. Good call. It’s fun watching him play and, despite the youthful petulance and bad calls on the back nine at Muirfield, pretty sure he’s the real deal. Power, flashes of finesse, and some brilliant runs with the putter — that adds up to number 1, and not just for a little while.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Apart from Tiger, who seemingly jumped from nowhere to #1, everyone else needs to gain experience at each level of the PGA Tour, from learning how to make cuts to winning multiple majors. Rahm is a perfect example. He’s won all over the world and multiple times on the PGA Tour. He’s not in that elite category yet as he has yet to win majors. However, rather than a flash in the pan, Rahm keeps on progressing and that will only serve him well as World #1 and for years to come. I’d say that in 20 years, we’ll be talking about him as one of the best of his generation.

The PGA Tour has re-jigged its schedule numerous times to deal with coronavirus related cancellations but now it appears there will be seven majors played in the next 12 months. If one player gets on a hot streak, he could emerge as the Tour’s latest alpha dog. Or Tiger could catch Jack. Or Jordan Spieth (PGA Championship) and Rory McIlroy (Masters) could add the fourth leg of their career grand slam since both will have two chances to do it. What’s the most likely scenario you see playing out as the seven majors unfold? Feel free to add another scenario if you don’t like any of the above.

Deeks: Predicting the next seven majors is a pretty tall order!  The only sure things I see happening would be McIlroy, Rahm, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas winning at least one each.  Tiger?  Maybe.

Loughry: I’m a little discombobulated myself with the schedule, but we are watching some golf, which is nice. Love all the scenario’s mentioned, that’s why I’ll be watching every major over the next 365 days and look forward to the unique flavour of golf each brings. I think Tiger sneaks at least one in that time frame, and Brooks squeezes one more to his trophy case. Wildcards: Rahm, DeChambeau and Rory.

Schurman: Spieth might win once or twice more but basically his game has ‘gone south’. Tiger came to Muirfield unprepared. Apparently, his regular games at home are while riding a cart. Moe Norman played every day and walked while carrying a golf ball full of 250 to 300 balls specifically to strengthen his legs. I’d love to see Rory have the ‘run’ you are talking about. Sure, he’d get an asterisk, but wouldn’t it be entertaining to see him win 3 or 4 majors in that time frame?

Kaplan: I don’t see Tiger catching Jack over the next 12 months in the condition his back is currently in but I do like the idea of one of McIlroy or Spieth (or perhaps both, or dare I even include Mickelson in the mix) finally getting that career grand slam. Each only needs to win one tournament to pull it off, so I see it as the most likely of these outcomes.

Quinn: As the back-to-backs at Jack’s place — played it a week before his event with greens running 14-16, not fun — reminded us, the course set up determines if the winner is 20 under or 10 under. In this new world order, with restricted travel of a few of the world’s best, can’t see any player running the table, or even coming close. Suspect that Major-to-Major there will be surprises, under the radar guys having a career week, and the big-name favourites hanging on. Still, wouldn’t mind seeing Rory get a jacket at twilight on a Sunday evening.

Mumford: In my view, majors should be won by players who are otherwise deserving, not by some journeyman who gets hot for a week. So, any scenario that sees elite players winning majors is fine by me. McIlroy, Spieth and Mickelson all adding the final leg of their personal grand slams would be awesome, albeit quite a long shot for the latter two. So, one for Rory, one for Rahm and Koepka, Thomas and DJ can split the rest.

The Rules of Golf were evident in two prominent situations at Muirfield last week, first on Friday with Bryson DeChambeau chopping his way to a 10, then on Sunday as Jon Rahm’s chip shot on #16 triggered a post round review and subsequent penalty. What was your take on the calls and how each player handled the result?

Deeks: In the case of Rahm’s two-shot penalty, once again I say, the rules are an ass.  In my view, if a ball moves inadvertently and not to the point that it will affect the shot, then there should be no penalty, period. With DeChambeau, I didn’t see the ball he claimed was in-bounds; but if two Tour officials agreed that it was OB, then the proper thing for him to do would be to shut up, take his lumps and move on… NOT whine and complain then stomp off in a huff and refuse to talk to the media. Frankly, the less I see of this bulked-up bozo, the better.

Loughry: “Rules are rules and without Rules, lets face it, there’s chaos”, a wise man once said. (I believe his name was Kramer).  DeChambeau’s was pretty clear, his ball was out of bounds, sorry he didn’t like it, how he handled it may not fit well with his desired brand image, but he “controls” that. Rahm’s was a bit more difficult to tell, but on the review, slow motion really shows it, but even real time shows, that his ball moved ever so slightly. I believe Rahm when he says he didn’t see it, and he accepted it like a Champion. But, if you continue to put your club down behind the ball, rough or not, you’re taking your chances for the ball to move.

Schurman: I liked sports a lot more before video replay. All of this analyzing, debating and controversy is mind-numbing. In Rahm’s case, he didn’t know the ball moved until he was shown it. Luckily, it didn’t affect the outcome, or we’d be having a much different discussion. He kind of laughed it off. Bryson’s situation is not so nice. He asked for a ruling which he didn’t like and then asked for another. He applied the penalty and played on but while the Rules Official was present, I thought Bryson could have thanked him for the ruling. He didn’t. Sure, he was unhappy, but the rules aren’t the fault of the Official he is just the bearer of the news and wasn’t the one who hit the ball. I am always surprised by how little the PGA TOUR players know about the rules. They should know them inside and out otherwise how do they know they asked the correct questions. Imagine a plumber or an electrician not knowing the Building Code.

Kaplan: The Bryson call was pretty black and white; not much room for interpretation there. But I thought that Rahm call was garbage. Good thing he was leading by 5 strokes at the time (or whatever it was). I’ve said it before: if you need a 4K camera and a slo-mo replay to determine if the ball moved or there was an infraction, it’s not significant enough to warrant a penalty.

Quinn: Well, it was self evident that DeChambeau was hot after launching three from jail but he was a little testy and rude to the first rules guy, who made the right ruling (one, that DeChambeau should have known and acknowledged, and not contested). On Rahm’s chip, watching live, it never crossed my mind that the ball had moved. The hyper-slo-mo showed about a dimple move. That he didn’t notice that and call himself on it is social-media-world nuts. The Tour blew it, but this late-badly-applied penalty is well and truly beyond the ken.

Mumford: One situation had to do with a bad call and the other with bad manners. There was nothing remotely close to a Rules interpretation involved with DeChambeau’s big number on Friday. That was all his own making and his reaction was petty and petulant, certainly not befitting a player of his calibre. In Rahm’s case, “no harm, no foul” should have been the call. When you need slo-mo, hi res imagery to detect the ball moving a dimple, or maybe just oscillating, we’re wasting everyone’s time. Rahm dealt with it professionally because he could afford to but if it meant the difference between winning and not, it could have been ugly.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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