Spain's Rahm debuts at No. 1 in WGC St. Jude Invitational


Washington (AFP)

Spain's Jon Rahm makes his playing debut as world number one at this week's WGC St. Jude Invitational, hoping to continue his hot hand in a string of big events.

Rahm won the Memorial two weeks ago to overtake Rory McIlroy and climb atop the rankings for the first time, becoming the first Spaniard since Seve Ballesteros to hold the top spot.

"It's a true honor and it's humbling to be here knowing how hard I've worked to get to this point, to be the first Spaniard since Seve, knowing how some of the best golfers in Spain and in Europe haven't been able to get there," Rahm said.

"Getting here is great, but at the same time, I can only think I need to keep playing that good or better to hopefully stay here for a long time."

Rahm, a 25-year-old whose six European Tour titles include the 2017 and 2019 World Tour Championship in Dubai, would achieve a rare feat if he can emerge victorious from a field that features 45 of the world's 50 top players at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.

Only five players have won a US PGA title in their debuts at number one -- Welshman Ian Woosnam at the 1991 Masters, American David Duval at the 1999 BellSouth Classic, Fiji's Vijay Singh at the 2004 Canadian Open, Australian Adam Scott at the 2014 Charles Schwab Challenge and American Dustin Johnson at the 2017 WGC Mexico Championship.

"To be number one in the world is a great thing," Rahm said. "It's a reward for playing good golf in the last four years not just last week."

Rahm, who has won a PGA title in four consecutive years but has yet to capture a major crown, is excited about a schedule that offers up a WGC event, next week's PGA Championship in San Francisco, three weeks of US PGA FedEx Cup playoff events and the US Open on September 17-20 at Winged Foot near New York.

"It's six really big events in an eight-week stretch, good golf to be played I hope," Rahm said.

"Somebody could get hot and possibly run away with WGC, majors, possibly a Fedex Cup. It would be a good time to start playing good golf in one of those.

"At the same time, we have to stay mentally fresh, stay relaxed and play our best golf before the end when it matters most. It all starts with this week so I want to play good golf."

Rahm, who will play alongside Americans Bryson DeChambeau and Rickie Fowler on Thursday and Friday, admits it's difficult to consider one player better than all the rest given the parity among the world's top talent.

"It's really tough to dictate one player alone," he said. "At the same time it would be foolish of me to say I don't think I'm the best player."