Jon Rahm’s renewed putting confidence has former world No. 1 golfer in line for bounce-back PGA Tour season

Jon Rahm arrives at this week’s CJ Cup in South Carolina riding a subtle wave of momentum. Two weeks removed from his runaway victory at the Open de España on the DP World Tour, the Spaniard will make his 2022-23 PGA Tour season debut alongside some of the best players in the world.By all accounts, Rahm’s prior campaign was a disappointment in relation to his standards. Collecting only one PGA Tour win last season, the man who began the 2022 calendar year atop the golf world saw his name drop outside the top five of the Official World Golf Rankings by the time the season had concluded — something that hasn’t happened in three years.”After finishing what hasn’t been my best PGA Tour season, even though it was still pretty good to go to Wentworth, have the Sunday and then follow it up by playing good in Spain and having a very, very meaningful win,” Rahm said. “Hopefully, I can keep that good play going and translate those wins to the PGA Tour, which I’ve done in the past. I’ve played great in the fall on the European Tour in the past and I’ve translated it to the PGA Tour.”The parallels to three years ago are already present. In 2019, Rahm finished runner-up at the BMW PGA Championship and parlayed his success at Wentworth into victories not only at the Open de España but later the DP World Tour Championship. The 27-year-old has already replicated two-thirds of this stretch, and has returned to No. 5 in the world as a result.Perhaps the similarities won’t end there and this is only the beginning for Rahm, as it was in the 2019-20 season, and another climb to world No. 1 is in the cards. However, if he is to accomplish such a feat and leapfrog a bevy of the game’s elite that includes Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy (who has a chance of his own to ascend to world No. 1 this week), he will need one club and one club in particular to continue to cooperate: the putter.

Rahm’s turnaround on the greens has been as gradual as it has been sudden after experiencing a valley in performance during the early parts of 2022. Visibly angry on the golf course, this discourse wouldn’t stop in between the ropes as Rahm was peppered with questions regarding his putting woes for most of the spring. Eventually, as all greats do, he leveled out and rattled off 10 positive putting performances in his last 12 starts. It wasn’t until the BMW Championship in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, however, that he was able to find a different gear.”Honestly, it’s a little setup thing, it’s very small. And a lot of it with putting is confidence. When you see a lot of putts not go in, a lot of putts burn the edge, which is what happened earlier in the year. It’s not like I wasn’t close, I just saw a lot of lip-outs and a lot of close calls,” said Rahm. “Confidence can go down a little bit. But I think it was at BMW [Championship] where after 27 holes I saw three putts go in and confidence went right back up, and for the next few events I played amazing.”Amazing may actually be an understatement. In Rahm’s last 15 rounds worldwide, he has averaged +1.61 strokes gained putting. For reference, that is nearly double what the PGA Tour’s top putter, Lucas Herbert, averaged last season. While this run of quality on the greens is simply unsustainable, if a semblance of this form was to be combined with the ball-striking for which Rahm is known, an all-time season would be the result.

“My ball-striking is so good that my putting’s never going to be really that high up there statistically. And if it were, if I kept this ball-striking level and my short game and putting was top 20 on the PGA Tour, well, we’d be looking at a season where I’m winning eight times and that’s just very hard to do.”

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