Different Strokes: Rahm’s rise proves worth of amateur rankings

Meanwhile, no Ladies Irish Open again and Bryson DeChambeau’s first world problems

Jon Rahm of Spain tees off on the 18th hole during the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines South in San Diego, California. Photo: Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Jon Rahm of Spain tees off on the 18th hole during the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines South in San Diego, California. Photo: Donald Miralle/Getty Images

 

Nobody needed a degree in rocket science to foresee Jon Rahm’s takeoff in professional golf. In truth, the evidence had been laid out before us for a considerable time in the world amateur rankings which first appeared to a wide degree of scepticism back in 2007 but, a decade on, have more than proved their worth when it comes to recognising great talent. 

The R&A introduced the world amateur rankings pure and simply because there was a need for them, identifying players on their ability to perform in the biggest championships. For sure, it is not a perfect system – with perhaps too much emphasis still placed on collegiate results in the USA – yet the proof of the pudding in how well it does work is evidenced by players who have held the number one spot and seamlessly moved into the professional game and impacted.

Let’s firstly drift back to 2007 when Scotland’s Richie Ramsay was installed as the first ever men’s world amateur number one. He stayed there for two weeks. His successor? None other than Rory McIlroy and, in the weeks and months that followed, the world number one holder included the likes of Rickie Fowler, Jamie Lovemark, Colt Knost and Danny Willett. The only blip, it would seem, was Jamie Moul – who was No.1 for 17 weeks – but failed to kick on. 

In more recent times, though, attaining the world number one position has proven to provide reliable proof of a player’s ability: the current holder is American Maverick McNealy but his immediate predecessors (Rahm, Oliver Schniederjans, Patrick Rodgers and Matthew Fitzpatrick) quickly carved out lucrative careers in the paid ranks. Fitzpatrick, of course, is a multiple winner on tour. 

Rahm was world amateur number one for a total of 60 weeks over two stretches: from April 1st 2015 to September 16th 2015 and again from October 28th 2015 to June 22nd 2016 when he turned professional and made the most of sponsor’s invites to earn his full tour card on the PGA circuit for this season. His win in the Farmers Insurance Open means Rahm’s security of tenure on the US Tour is there to at least the end of 2019 and he is into the big tournaments like the Masters and The Players on the back of his breakthrough tour win. 

And, quite clearly, there is a need for someone from the PGA European Tour – be it captain Thomas Bjorn or, possibly, his compatriot Sergio Garcia – to tap him on the shoulder and ensure that he takes out membership on this side of the pond so that he can be available for next year’s Ryder Cup in Paris. 

As Phil Mickelson, something of a father-figure to the young Spaniard since he moved stateside, put it: “John doesn’t have a weakness. Every part of his game is a strength. I think he is one of the best players in the world, more than just a good young player. I think there’s an intangible that some guys have where they want to have the pressure pot, want to be in that tough position, they want everything to fall on their shoulders and he has that . . . . he’s a very tough competitor.”

Of course, the world amateur rankings had borne testimony to just how good this rising star was likely to be long before he ever got a pay cheque.

Ladies Irish Open left out again

There was justifiably quite the fanfare to greet the Ladies European Tour (LET) schedule for the coming season which boasts record prizemoney but the continued absence of an Irish Open from the itinerary is extremely disappointing. 

In the period before and the year after the Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle in 2011, the Ladies Irish Open was one of the prime events on the LET. During those years at Portmarnock Links and Killeen Castle the field attracted some of the very best exponents of the game, with winners to match: Suzann Pettersen (2008), Diana Luna (2009), Sophie Gustafson (2010),  Pettersen again (2011) and Catriona Matthew (2012).

There is a lot of fine talk about gender balance in sporting bodies on this island but there is precious little action in terms of hosting tournaments. So while the DDF Irish Open goes from strength to strength under a title sponsor with the wherewithal to back it and a tournament host in Rory McIlroy who genuinely gets it, and with another two events here on the Challenge Tour, the absence of a Ladies Irish Open – yet again – smacks of another lost opportunity. 

The LET schedule for the coming year will take in tournaments in Asia and the Middle East along with events in France, Spain, Germany, Turkey, Czech Republic and two big ones – the Scottish Open, where the Solheim Cup wild cards will be named by captain Annika Sorenstam, and the British Open – in Scotland.

Word of mouth

“The MOI is not as stable, it’s in the back of the head and I can’t get it to start on my line as well just because the face moves when I try and apply force forward” – Bryson DeChambeau experiencing first world problems with the moment of inertia (MOI) on his new putter, after his original putter was deemed non-conforming and he had to change putters. He missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance.

“It’s the future of the game . . . . there’s a lot of guys with a lot of talent, so they’re pushing me to work harder and be better all the time” – Patrick Rodgers, who was just one of a number of young guns chasing their maiden PGA Tour title on the final day at Torrey Pines.

By the numbers

3/2: Paul Dunne, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke are the three Irish players competing in the Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour.

Shane Lowry and Pádraig Harrington are the two Irish players set to join in the partying on the 16th hole at Scottsdale for the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Twitter Twaddle

“Good to get back on the course after 9 weeks off. Happy with my weeks work at Torrey pines. Next up @WMPhoenixOpen Can’t wait” – Shane Lowry happy to get the cobwebs off the clubs.

“Great to see last year’s Jack Nicklaus Award winner John Rahm become a first-time winner on the PGA TOUR. Classy young talent” – The Golden Bear himself, Jack Nicklaus, tips his cap to the young Spaniard.

“Grande Jon! Welcome to the @PGATour winners club, pleasure to have you with us! #1isNeverDone” – Sergio Garcia – once upon a time the original Spanish El Nino – welcomes the new kid on the block.

“Well that was definitely not the finish I wanted. Finished T31. Lots of positives tho! #lpga #epic” – Stephanie Meadow after falling from 13th at the start of the final round to finish 31st in the Bahamas Classic on the LPGA Tour, where Britanny Lincicome out-duelled Lexi Thompson in a playoff to take the title.

In the Bag

Jon Rahm, Farmers Insurance Open

Driver –  TaylorMade M2 2017 (10.5 degrees)

3-wood – TaylorMade M1 2017 (15 degrees)

5-wood – TaylorMade M1 2017 (19 degrees)

4-iron – TaylorMade RSi UDI

5 iron-Pitching Wedge – TaylorMade P750

Sand Iron – TaylorMade Milled Grind (52 degrees)

Lob Wedges – TaylorMade Milled Grind (56 degrees, 60 degrees)

Putter – TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball – TaylorMade TP5x

Know the Rules

Q: In a match, A begins to search for his ball and after two minutes finds a ball which he believes to be his opponent’s ball and resumes his search. The five-minute search period elapses and thereafter it is discovered that the ball which he found and believed to be his opponent’s was in fact his ball. What is the ruling?

A: Once a ball has been found a player has an opportunity to identify it as his. In this case, the player had every opportunity to identify the ball as his within the five minute search period and failed to do so. Therefore, the ball is, by definition, “lost”.

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