[PHOTO: Oisin Keniry]
Jon Rahm has had quite a season on the DP World Tour—if playing in only seven events (of which just three actually took place in Europe) can be called a “season”. In the six strokeplay tournaments Rahm participated in on what is nominally his ‘home’ circuit, the Arizona-based Spaniard claimed four top-10 finishes in addition to his epic victory at the Masters. A T-50 at the PGA Championship was the only time he fell outside the top 10 in an event counting on the DP World circuit.
Impressive, but not good enough. Not quite. Sitting second in the standings, the event’s defending champion will tee-off today alongside Rory McIlroy, who has already clinched a fifth Race to Dubai title. The gap between the two is currently 2,082.3 points, and with only 2,000 points awarded to the man who finishes first in the elite 50-player field assembled this week at the Earth course on the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, the overall result is already settled.
Indeed, that margin of victory combined with the prospect of McIlroy probably playing well this week on a course where the Northern Irishman has only once finished outside the top-11 in 12 starts, was enough to persuade Rahm that a last-minute trip to last week’s Nedbank Challenge in South Africa was unlikely to be productive use of his time.
“I think it is more disappointing for the fans,” said Rahm of the anti-climactic situation. “But if I was within one point, it would probably still be a very unlikely scenario. It is unlikely Rory won’t be on the leaderboard here. At the same time, though, it’s really my fault. He played great golf. But I could have tried to get more points to give myself a chance this week. He did what he needed to do. I didn’t.”
Speaking of which, Rahm expanded on his recent decision not to participate in the upcoming TGL season. For a man with two young children at home and many obligations elsewhere, “just too much,” was his basic reasoning.
“It’s just a time commitment,” he said. “I can’t really commit to it right now. It would mean quite a bit of extra hours of flight, quite a bit of extra time away from home. And at the same time of having just redone a lot of my deals, I’ve got to think of my sponsors as well. So it would have been a bit more of a commitment than I expected at first. That’s basically it.”
Speaking of which (part 2), Rahm was quizzed on his reaction to the news that McIlroy has resigned from the PGA Tour Policy Board. Could the inevitable time spent away from the range and the course have hurt the four-time major champion in a competitive sense?
“That’s hard to say,” Rahm said. “It is a significant commitment, so it could have an effect. It’s not only the meetings. It’s the phone calls and the players wanting to talk to you. So even the hours you spend on the course are a little bit busier. So yes, it could hinder a little bit. There’s a reason probably why I can’t recall any great player being a full-time board member and winning tournaments and majors at the same time, at least in recent history. I can see how the lack of sleep definitely will limit your ability to compete.”
So, no possibility Rahm could step into the role?
“Oh, you won’t see me there,” he continued with a smile. “Absolutely no chance. I’ve been asked a couple times if I have any interest. But I’m not going to spend… I don’t know how many meetings they have, but they are six, seven hours long. I’m not here for that. As regards to Rory, he’s obviously been put in a situation where a lot has been expected of him, and I don’t know the exact reason why he left the board. But I certainly wouldn’t blame him for wanting to focus a bit more on his game and his family and enjoy the bit of time. He’s truly earned that.”
Speaking of which (part 3), Rahm was equally firm in his contention that this conclusion to the DP World Tour season is more equitable than the “handicapped” Tour Championship that decides the destination of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup.
“I’m not a big fan of the FedEx Cup finals,” he said. “I’ve said that many times. It’s the only sport when you get to the finals, you give somebody an advantage. You don’t see whoever had a better record in the champions league finals given a 1-0 start. I would be a bigger fan of somehow structuring to where if you win the tournament, certain people have a chance like it used to be in the FedEx Cup. At the same time, if you play as good as Rory has and you’ve built up a lead, like I said, he’s earned it. This format is more fair to whoever played better throughout the year.”
And in 2023 that was McIlroy. On the DP World Tour, at least.