Rahm's the man, struggling Brooks: golf talking points

Hong Kong (AFP) –


The new men's world number one and two of his predecessors in the top spot feature in AFP Sport's golf talking points for this week.

- Long way to go for Rahm -

It would be a fair assumption that not many golfers have won a US PGA Tour event by three shots after carding 41 on the back nine in the final round. And certainly none have done it to rise to world number one.

But that's exactly what Spain's Jon Rahm did in brutal conditions at Jack Nicklaus's Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Ohio, on Sunday.

In the process he became the third fastest player to reach the top ranking -- four years and 27 days after turning pro.

Only two players have reached the summit quicker than the Basque country-raised Rahm, who becomes the second Spaniard after Seve Ballesteros in 1988 to get to number one.

Jordan Spieth managed it in two years and 245 days in 2015, a year in which he won three of his four majors.

But that was a slow crawl compared to Tiger Woods who turned pro in August 1996 and 290 days later, on June 16, 1997, reached the pinnacle of the sport he would dominate.

One sobering thought for the 25-year-old Rahm is that he will need to remain at number one until September 2033 if he is to spend more time at the top than Woods, who has enjoyed a monumental 683 weeks -- 13 years and 49 days -- at the summit.

- Battle of wounded knee -

Brooks Koepka has won the US PGA Championship for the past two seasons but the chances of the big hitter notching an unprecedented hat-trick next month at the rescheduled event at San Francisco's Harding Park do not look great.

Koepka, then world number one, limped out of his defence of the PGA Tour's CJ Cup in South Korea after two rounds in October with left knee trouble and it is clear that all has not been well since.

He returned to action last month claiming the three-month coronavirus shutdown had allowed extensive rehab and that he was fully fit once more.

But Koepka has managed just one top 10 since the restart, a seventh place at the RBC Heritage, and has slid to sixth in the world rankings.

Koepka tied for 62nd at the Memorial Tournament last weekend after an ugly Sunday 80 and then admitted that an MRI scan on the troublesome knee showed, worryingly, "nothing has changed".

No player has won the US PGA Championship three years in a row since it became a stroke play event in 1958, a record that looks likely to remain intact.

The great Walter Hagen won it four years in a row when it was a match play event from 1924-27.

The only other modern player to win it two years running is -- no prizes for guessing -- Tiger Woods. But he's done it twice: 1999-2000 and 2006-2007.

- Health or major? -

One player who will be missing from the year's delayed first major is England's former world number one Lee Westwood, who was in top form before the covid shutdown.

The 47-year-old won the Abu Dhabi Championship in January and tied fourth at Honda Classic in the US on March 1.

Westwood will host the British Masters in Newcastle beginning Wednesday, the first of six events dubbed the "UK Swing" on the revamped European Tour schedule.

His commitments there mean he does not have time for a two-week period of isolation in the States before the US PGA Championship begins on August 6 in California.

It would have been Westwood's 83rd major, but the world number 34 says he won't mind missing it, or the US Open in September, if quarantine rules remain.

"Right now I look at the situation and would I want to go?" Westwood told the Guardian newspaper in the UK.

"I am slightly wary of it. What's more important, your health or playing in a major? I've missed majors before."

Several players and caddies have tested positive for the virus in the US since the PGA Tour restart, a concern for Westwood.

"I like what the European Tour have done in giving things longer than the PGA Tour," he said.

"When I look across the Atlantic at what's happening, I'm a little bit worried for them. They don't seem to have got it under control."

- World's top 20 -

Official World Golf Rankings updated July 20, 2020:

1. Jon Rahm (ESP) 9.10 (+1)

2. Rory McIlroy (NIR) 8.48 (-1)

3. Justin Thomas (USA) 7.51

4. Dustin Johnson (USA) 7.18

5. Webb Simpson (USA) 6.87

6. Brooks Koepka (USA) 6.43

7. Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 6.14

8. Patrick Reed (USA) 5.96

9. Adam Scott (AUS) 5.75

10. Patrick Cantlay (USA) 5.67

11. Xander Schauffele (USA) 5.38

12. Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 5.03

13. Collin Morikawa (USA) 4.98

14. Tiger Woods (USA) 4.81

15. Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 4.76

16. Justin Rose (ENG) 4.55

17. Tony Finau (USA) 4.44 (+2)

18. Marc Leishman (AUS) 4.37 (-1)

19. Gary Woodland (USA) 4.31 (-1)

20. Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG) 4.23 (+7)