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Rahm Roars through Riviera

by | Feb 22, 2023

Jon Rahm is hot even when he’s not. Rahm pushed through the field on Sunday with amazing driving distances and positions. Hitting a sand wedge or lob wedge on 450 yard par 4’s is just short of ridiculous. He hit some drives off line including a parking lot, some trees and got some favorable bounces that indicated that the gods of golf are smiling on Rahm. His aggressive style is effective and complemented by a strong sense of humility. He knows he’s playing well and wants to continue to take advantage of his good play with or without the breaks until it inevitably ends.

The infamous 6th hole with the bunker in the middle of the green. Knock past the pin and get close as it rolls towards the pin

Rahm sewed up this event with a 40 ft. birdie putt on the par 3-14th hole. Runner up Max Homa was sanguine and gracious in defeat. The 2022 winner of this event was the overnight leader after Round 3 and paired with Rahm on Sunday. With Rahm with a two shot lead, Rahm made what you would call a good bogey on the tough little par 4, 10th hole. Rahm’s drive was only 10 yards off the green but he had a delicate chip shot over a bunker down to the hole. Rahm bonked the chip into the back bunker.  This is the type of shot, I practice all the time and grimace when I bonk one of these into neverland. (The fear of bonking these chips frustrates me to no end and you have to continue to practice it.) Rahm now faced a very difficult bunker shot but he executed it very well and escaped with a bogey. Homa owns the 10th hole, he birdied the hole the first three days of the tournament and would birdie it again on Sunday to temporarily tie Rahm for the lead. They would go back and forth for the next 3 holes until Rahm turned out the lights on the 14th with his putt.   The win vaulted Rahm back into the No. 1 position in the World Rankings.

The World Rankings have now had 3 different players as No. 1 in the past six weeks with McIlroy, Scheffler and Rahm occupying the top spot. Scheffler held the ranking for one week before Rahm’s victory here.There’s a lot of criticism of the World Rankings especially with the LIV players excluded from earning World Ranking Points but the continuous changes at the top indicate the depth of skill in the game. I believe the PGA Tour should adopt a NCAA Final Four type match play tournament of the top 16 players in the world to play for a purse that would be double the Fed Ex Cup purse. I would move up the Fed Ex Cup a week similar to the NFL Conference Championship  and than have the Super Cup of Golf play in this format for the Champion Golfer of the Year (to steal a phrase from our UK friends).

We were treated to the return of Tiger Woods to professional competition. Tiger looked good and really hit the ball well out-driving his competitors on occasion. The highlight of the event was the three birdies recorded by Tiger, McIlroy and Justin Thomas to close the first round of the tournament on the 18th hole. Tiger out-drove them all on this hole. His putter and short game was rusty throughout the tournament as he struggled to make the cut line but his ball striking was in top form. It was great to see that he was able to complete the entire four rounds and have two of those rounds under par.

McIlroy on the difficult par 4, 12th with trouble virtually everywhere off the fairway

Riviera is a wonderfully designed golf course. Courses should have a lot of variety of looks that present the player with a number of different strategic options. Riviera is one of these courses and reminds me of the uniqueness of Augusta National. You start the round with the easiest hole on the course-a straight away par 5 from an elevated tee with a generous fairway which is immediately followed by the meanest par 4 on the course and perhaps the toughest par 4 on the PGA Tour. The par 3 3rd hole is 236 yards and most shots by the professionals have difficulty holding the green as there is no way for anyone to spin a ball at that distance.

The devilish 10th hole with the pin on a crown making chip shots an adventure.

The diabolical 10th hole is a par 4 of only 315 yards but the green is as difficult to attack as any in golf. Attempting to drive the hole can be a fool’s errand as bunkers completely surround the hole and being able to get up and down out of these bunkers ranks high on the degree of difficulty. Pitch shots over these bunkers require more precision than you would expect as the green is very small. The remainder of the back nine is a wonderful series of challenging holes that require precision in all aspects of the game. Jon Rahm got away with some of the precision required this weekend with some odd bounces and good fortune but that is the game that we love to play.



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