Rahm excited for chance at $15 mn, Player of Year prizes


Washington (AFP)

Second-ranked Jon Rahm is excited about his chances at this week's US PGA Tour Championship, where a $15 million playoff crown and Player of the Year award are up for grabs.

The season-ending showdown for the FedEx Cup features 30 players at East Lake in Atlanta with the world's top-ranked golfers owning an edge on the field at Friday's start.

"Excited to be here. This is the highest I've entered," Rahm said. "I'm excited for that, excited about my game."

World number one Dustin Johnson, who lost to Rahm in an epic playoff fight at the BMW Championship last Sunday, tees off at 10-under when play begins Thursday, an edge earned thanks to his US PGA Tour season points crown.

Spain's Rahm will open on 8-under, third-ranked American Justin Thomas starts at 7-under, American Webb Simpson begins on 6-under and PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa tees off at 5-under with others as far back as 10 strokes adrift to start.

"You still need to play really well even if you start with the lead," Rahm said. "It's a nice little cushion, but... If I made up three strokes in one round, it's not that many.

"(Chasers) have the pressure of the FedEx Cup on your shoulders four days in a row. If you're behind, it almost helps because you already know where the leader is at."

East Lake also is the sort of course where strokes can find their way onto the scorecard quickly.

"The course is a challenge. Every part of your game needs to be solid," Rahm said. "It's not one of those where you can somehow have a weak spot and win it.

"If you don't happen to hit it that good, that's how much better your putting and chipping needs to be.

"It's a winner take all situation. The objective is pretty clear."

All includes a $15 million playoff prize for the winner after Monday's final round.

"The money is great, but we're all here to be the best," Rahm said when asked what he would do with $15 million.

"Hopefully, if I manage it properly, my kids and possibly my grandkids and even my great grandkids might have their way paid through college."

The PGA Player of the Year crown is likely at stake this week as well with Thomas, Johnson, Rahm, Simpson and Morikawa all owning two titles this season.

"I think it comes to who, if any one of us, wins this week, who gets that elusive third win," Rahm said. "I hope it's me."

Rahm won the Memorial in July, a month after the tour returned from three months off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There have still been no events with spectators.

"After quarantine and taking so long off, it just took a while to get everything working the right way," Rahm said. "Even though I won Memorial, I still had some weeks where I was a little off."

Rahm and Johnson will be in the last pair Friday, each chasing his first Cup title.

"I do think we bring out the best in each other," Rahm said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we both play really good this week."

Rahm doubts last week's long playoff putt to win will give him any sort of edge on Johnson, who won the week before at Boston.

"He probably moved on as soon as that playoff was over," Rahm said. "I'm expecting him to come in with fireworks and come on strong."

- Setting virus example -

Rahm has been amazed how well the tour has avoided a COVID-19 outbreak while traveling across the United States.

"It's a testament to all the players and caddies out there that have been as careful as possible," he said. "We see other sports struggling with it.

"I would like to hang out with friends and go to restaurants and have a good time and a weekend off but I can't. You can't risk it because I know I can test positive and indirectly put somebody else in danger. I don't want to do that."

"It's clear if you do what you're supposed to do, sports can go on, and I think we're a perfect example."