Jon Rahm has been to Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando only once, but he quickly learned why Tiger Woods has had so much success there.
The 28-year-old Spaniard, who has won three times this year, heads into the Arnold Palmer Invitational as one of the favorites, and that should be no surprise. Rahm has been playing the best golf of his career, just two weeks ago winning the Genesis Invitational and regaining the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Bay Hill Club and Lodge is a course where normally, the best players rise to the top. It’s a tournament that Tiger won eight times. And for Rahm, he learned why last year.
“It’s a ball-striker’s golf course,” Rahm said. “We need to be very accurate with the irons, and obviously, like everywhere else, you have to be good on the greens. It is a golf course where I could tell Tiger could manage his way around. For the most part, you want to miss right off the tee because that’s always going to give you the better chance going into the greens. A lot of the hazards are on left, so seeing that it made sense.
“(I) see a lot of similarities on the courses that Tiger did well at, and luckily, I’ve been able to do well on most of ’em. So I learned that this could be a golf course for me.”
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That could be scary news for the rest of the field.
Last year, Rahm finished T-17 at Bay Hill, with world No. 2 Scottie Scheffler claiming the crown. No. 3 Rory McIlroy has won at Arnie’s place, too.
The trio has all held No. 1 in the world in the past six months, seemingly rotating between them as they each win events. McIlroy jumped Scheffler to be No. 1 with his win at the CJ Cup in the fall. Scheffler took it back at the WM Phoenix Open. Then Rahm reclaimed the throne at Riviera a week later.
The back-and-forth is intriguing to Rahm. He knows he’ll likely never reach Tiger’s record of weeks at world No. 1 (683), but he’s enjoying the weekly challenge.
“I do know this is, what is it, the most amount of No. 1 changes in this short period of time,” he said. “I saw some of those stats because it’s just really interesting, which speaks to the greatness of the game of golf right now, how good everybody’s been playing.”
And as strong as everyone has been playing, Rahm has been the best.
He started off the year with a win at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He then won his next start at The American Express. At Torrey Pines and the Farmers Insurance Open, he finished T-7. Then there’s a third-place finish at the WM Phoenix Open before the win at the Genesis Invitational.
Rahm knows he doesn’t have to be firing on all cylinders to win. He once asked Tiger of his 82 PGA Tour wins, how many did he have his A-game for all four days? Tiger responded with three at most.
Rahm was asked whether he thought he could be beaten when he is playing at his best. His answer was simple but emphatic.