Tiger Woods indiscriminately dominated the game of golf for almost 15 years. From 1997 to 2009, his superiority was unmistakable. There was no discussion among the golf connoisseurs. Nobody could dispute his reign. He was the best, full stop. And no wonder, during that time Tiger won 14 majors and 80 PGA Tour titles. Jon Rahm is doing something similar.
When he claimed the world number 1 spot on 19 July 2020 after a resounding victory at the Memorial Tournament, Jon merely confirmed what everyone already knew. He has been the best in the world for over two years. His rise to the top of the rankings was only a question of time and in the US they are well aware of that. Players, golf press, fans… nobody is in any doubt.
The Ryder Cup provided a perfect demonstration of his dominance. The man from Barrika had a target on his back and struck fear into Team USA. He did not disappoint. He made Sergio Garcia and Hatton better players and he won even more respect and admiration from Europeans and Americans alike.
His numbers are astonishing. 12 wins since 2017, 6 on the PGA Tour and 6 on the European Tour. In the 113 tournaments he has played on the PGA Tour he has made the cut in 100. He has notched up 55 top 10s and 76 top-20 finishes. Stats like this are unheard of since Tiger. In Europe his dominance is even greater. His average winnings when he tees it up on the European Tour are over €325,000.
He has also shaken the monkey from his back of not having won a major despite his incredible talent. He had said on several occasions that he did not want to be given the label that strikes fear into all elite golfers; the best player not to have won a major. His triumph at the US Open dissipated those fears. His two downhill, left-to-right putts on the 17th and 18th holes at Torrey Pines have now gone down in golfing history.
With previous number ones, that authority, the lack of debate over who is the best simply did not exist. Dustin Johnson has perhaps come closest to it, but his lack of consistency in the majors has always let him down. Brooks Koepka is the opposite. Despite having four major trophies under his belt, his sloppiness at regular events has prevented him from dominating the sport. The same applies to Rory, who is still in search of his A-game. His tears at the end of the Ryder Cup were sobs of desperation, of a man who is working himself to the bone more than ever in training only to be rewarded with the worst results of his career. Jordan Spieth on the other hand, seems to have put that process behind him. The American looked like he was going to dominate golf for 20 years before his demons took hold. He was mentally destroyed and had to hit the reset button. The last man to fall was Justin Rose. He was last world number 1 in January 2019. Last season he failed to break into the top 125 in the FedEx Cup and did not make the Ryder Cup team.
All the numbers ones since Tiger Woods have suffered ups and downs. They have all had moments where their head, fitness or the fatigue of competing to win every week have become too much for them. All of them except Jon. Since bursting onto the scene in 2017, he has been on a constant rise to his current position: the favourite to win every tournament he enters. His superiority is such that anything other than a win for the Bilbao native at this week’s Acciona Open de España presented by Madrid seems inconceivable.
Tiger Woods’ heir apparent is called Jon Rahm and he is more than worthy of the title. We are hugely fortunate that he is Spanish, let’s enjoy having him.