GolfDifferent Strokes

Red-hot Jon Rahm continues impressive momentum

Spaniard up to number three in world rankings and overtakes Power to move to top of the FedEx Cup list

One byproduct of Jon Rahm’s win in the American Express Championship – his second win of the year, adding to the Sentry Tournament of Champions, and his fourth win in the last six events going back to his Spanish Open win in October – was to leapfrog Séamus Power in moving to the top of the FedEx Cup rankings on the PGA Tour.

Rahm’s dominance, however, hasn’t yet managed to propel him back to world number one. That honour remains with Rory McIlroy, but the Spaniard’s hot streak – with the revamped world rankings making upward gains more cumbersome – has seen him move to number three in those rankings and with momentum.

Rahm continues his busy schedule by teeing up in this week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, which is where he made his breakthrough win on the PGA Tour back in 2017 and also secured his first Major in winning the 2021 US Open.

Of heading to Torrey Pines being two wins from two appearances so far this year, Rahm remarked: “I feel really healthy and I feel really comfortable in my swing. So I’m going to go to Torrey, a place that I’m already very confident at, with very high hopes, knowing that I’m doing all the right things.

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“If I can keep hitting it off the tee and my iron game keeps staying at this level I’m going to have a really good chance at that golf course. So I can’t help to smile because, again, it’s a very, very emotional week every time I go. In a very good way. It’s a very special place in my heart.”

Competitive change in qualifying rules for amateur elite

Entries for all Golf Ireland amateur championships for 2023 will open on the online portal – www.golfireland.ie – on February 1st, but the elite players with eyes on the majors should note changes have been made to the way in which qualification will be determined for events on the Bridgestone men’s and women’s orders of merit.

Prospective entrants must ensure their handicap index is proportionately based on scores achieved in competitions. And where entries are oversubscribed and players’ handicaps are used to determine qualification, a review of the entry data will be made to ensure players do not qualify due to an overreliance on general play scores. This change has been made in line from advice from the World Handicap System’s Handicap Operations Committee.

By the Numbers - 4

There are four Irish players in the field for the Hero Dubai Desert Classic: Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Pádraig Harrington and Tom McKibbin.

Word of Mouth

“It’s complete BS, (he’s) the best. Honestly, he’s the best. His hand-eye coordination is unbelievable. His swing, I’m jealous of his swing actually. It’s crazy. He’s a lefty. He’s a natural righty, but he plays golf lefty” – Nelly Korda on professional tennis-playing brother Seb’s claim he is the least athletic member in the family.

On this day: January 24th,1972

Miller Barber, credited with having a unique swing, enjoyed a long and successful career on the PGA Tour but his win in the Dean Martin Tucson Open proved to be significant in that it was the last 18 holes play-off in a regular tournament on the US circuit.

Barber and George Archer had finished tied on 273 through 72 holes and were still locked together after the 18 holes of the playoff, before Barber eventually won at the third hole of sudden death to claim the title.

Known on tour as “Mr X”, Barber’s swing was unorthodox, with Peter Allis describing it in his Who’s Who in Golf (published in 1980) as, “a very strange swing indeed . . . he takes the club back very much on an outside line, right elbow projecting strongly, and loops it around and into the ball”.

After his retirement, Barber himself explained: “By the time I signed up for lessons when I was 13, the swing was already ingrained. Over the years I tried to change, but I really couldn’t play any other way. Jackie Burke says my swing looks like an octopus falling out of a tree, and others say I look like a man opening an umbrella in the wind. But after I loop the club to the inside on the downswing, I look like any other good players. The downswing is all that matters.”

In the Bag

Brooke Henderson

HGV LPGA Tournament of Champions

Driver: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (9.0 degrees)

3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15.0 degrees)

5-wood:TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (19.0 degrees)

Utility: TaylorMade Stealth 2 (22.0 degrees)

Irons: TaylorMade P·790 (5-PW)

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind 3 (50, 54 and 60 degrees)

Putter: Spider GT Center Shaft

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Twitter Twaddle

A nice start to the new season. Fourth place finish but in contention. Ahead of expectations at this stage and certainly lots of room for improvement in the game @DPWorldTour @ADGolfChamps #yaslinks #paddygolftips – Pádraig Harrington on his impressive start to the season in Abu Dhabi.

Tough day today but unfortunately that’s golf. Will dust myself down and move on. Long year ahead – Shane Lowry on his disappointing final round in Abu Dhabi.

Amazing couple of weeks in Abu Dhabi. Thank your to @ADGolfChamps and @DPWorldTour for putting on a great event. Not the results I hoped for but some positive signs – Séamus Power after his two-week stint in the UAE.

What a week on the big island! Thank you @MEC_golf I had a blast and pumped to start off the year with a W @ChampionsTour – Steve Stricker back to winning ways on the Champions Tour, albeit with a certain Pádraig Harrington absent from the seniors circuit.

Know the Rules

Q A strong gust of wind causes a player’s ball to move on the putting green before she has had a chance to mark, lift and replace the ball. The player must replace her ball on the original spot. True, or false?

A If natural forces (such as wind or water) cause the player’s ball at rest to move, there is no penalty and the ball must be played from its new spot. There is an exception to this which states that if the ball on the putting green moves after it had already been lifted and replaced, the ball must be replaced on its original spot, however as the ball had not been lifted, that does not apply here (Rule 9.3).