While Jon Rahm has downplayed the fact he could move into the No.1 spot in the world ranking with a win this week, his play so far at the Farmers Insurance Open has indicated that he wants it badly.
The Spaniard has followed up his CareerBuilder Challenge win with an opening-round of 68 and Friday’s six-under 66 on the North Course at Torrey Pines, getting him to 10-under 134, one back of leader Ryan Palmer.
As for Tiger Woods, the 14-time Major champion grinded for a one-under 71 on the North, putting him at one-under 143 and inside the cut line. It’s his first made cut since the 2015 Wyndham Championship.
“It’s extremely motivating, extremely humbling to think that I have the opportunity [to become No.1] this week,” Rahm said. “If it doesn’t happen, it won’t be the end of the world, I know in the future I’ll have [a chance] at it again. It’s just golf, we come here to do a job during the week, and we’re trying to win a tournament, and those are perks that come with it.”
There was no doubt Rahm was focused on the task at hand on Friday, posting a bogey-free round on a day where he relied heavily on his short game, having hit only six fairways and 13 of 18 greens on the North Course. He ranks third in the field this week in strokes gained/around the green.
“It wasn’t the best driving day, up to what I’m used to, especially after last week. But I made a ton of good up and downs both for birdie and to save par, so that’s what made the round. Instead of being two-or-three under it made it six under,” he said.
The two-time US PGA Tour winner hopes to keep it rolling over the weekend, when he’ll face a South Course that he closed out his maiden victory on a season ago with some final-round heroics.
“A lot of memories every time I walk the South Course,” said Rahm. “Every time I see a pin somewhat close to where it was last year, I’m like ‘Oh, made birdie there, did this there, did that there’. So, it’s nice, it’s a good feeling, a lot of positivity going around.”
Leading the way is Palmer, who carded a five-under 67 on the North Course to grab the solo lead at 11-under 133. The three-time PGA Tour winner didn’t get off to the best of starts, having bogeyed two of his first three holes. But a birdie at the par-5 fifth and an eagle at the par-5 ninth got him back on track.
“I stayed calm all day, got off to a rough start,” Palmer said. “Concrete greens today, and some dicey pin placements.”
Palmer, 41, continued to conquer the par 5s on the back nine, making birdie at the par-5 10th and his second eagle of the day at the par-5 17th. He’s tied for first in the field in par-5 scoring, having played them in eight under on the week.
Two back at nine-under 135 are Tony Finau and Luke List, who fired a six-under 66 on the South Course. Finau’s two-under 70 also came on the South. Sweden’s Alex Noren matched List’s 66, his coming on the North Course, which got him to eight-under 136 for the tournament.
The round of the week so far belonged to Jason Day on Friday, an eight-under, bogey-free 64 on the North Course that vaulted him into a tie for sixth at seven-under 137. Day began his round on the back nine, where he shot a six-under 30 that included a streak of four consecutive birdies beginning at the par-3 15th. One of the Aussie’s 10 PGA Tour victories came at the Farmers Insurance Open in 2015, when he defeated Harris English, Scott Stallings and J.B. Holmes in a playoff.
Phil Mickelson lurks at six-under 138 after shooting a four-under 68 on the South Course.