Jon Rahm moves to No. 2 in world rankings as he leads European charge into 2018
The Ryder Cup is going to be insane after the 2018 season
Remember the end of 2017 ... when we all thought the United States was going to be a solid favorite heading into the 2018 Ryder Cup and have a fluid path to their second straight trophy? Yeah, that's not looking so hot anymore. We're still eight months out, obviously, but Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and Sergio Garcia all won events around the world on Sunday. All three will be in Paris representing Europe.
Now, the issue for Europe is still going to be at the bottom of their lineup, but if their stars are playing like this, it might not matter. Fleetwood had probably the best win with. Garcia had the most under-the-radar victory as he took the Singapore Open by five. Rahm capped off the most outrageous ascension in the Official World Golf Rankings when he took the CareerBuilder Challenge and moved to No. 2 in the world.
The win was his fourth in the last calendar year and touched off a three-tournament stretch in which the only golfer to best him is also the only one currently ranked ahead of him: Dustin Johnson (or "Superman" as Rahm called him on Sunday).
We all considered the possibility (probability?) of Rahm moving to No. 1 in the world someday. I'm not sure anyone thought he would get this close this quickly.
He took down Andrew Landry in a playoff at the CareerBuilder over the weekend with a birdie on the fourth playoff hole. He won the tournament like he wins all tournaments: by playing King Kong golf off the tee and using his embarrassingly deep array of iron shots to work the ball both ways and give himself as many 10-15 footers as possible. You do that often enough, and you're going to run into a lot of wins.
"It wasn't my best putting week by any means," said Rahm. "But luckily, I was hitting it really well so anything inside of 10 feet I was taking advantage of. But besides that, I didn't make many putts."
The playoff was a microcosm of this. Three narrowly missed birdie putts after a stripe show off the tee before he finally got one to fall that resulted in a win. The win was his fourth in the last 52 weeks.
"To think of being No. 2 in the world, it's hard to believe," said Rahm. "You dream of doing those things, you want to do them and you believe in yourself. But to get to where only Seve [Ballesteros], Ollie [Jose Maria Olazabal] and Sergio have gotten, coming out of Spain, and now me, at the age of 23, to me it's beyond belief. It's a huge accomplishment not only for me but for Spain."
The counterpoint to the European hyperbole that flowed on Sunday is that Rahm, Fleetwood and Garcia were always going to be great in the Ryder Cup. It's the 10-12 positions that they need to work on. It's obviously too soon to talk specifically about what this means for the Ryder Cup or the distant future, but it's also not nothing. All three of those guys have primed themselves for monster seasons.
If nothing else, it's a nice Euro response to Johnson winning in Hawaii and Justin Thomas' end to 2017. The Americans had all the momentum coming into 2018 from an international competition perspective, but that's not the case anymore.
The reason we're even talking about any of this sort of gets at the heart of this year. On the No Laying Up podcast, following the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, Chris Solomon and Tron Carter were discussing how European Tour players are insistent that this year's event is going to be an all-timer. Paris is the background against which all of golf unfolds in 2018. Every superstar's surge, every rising star's glimmer, every fluctuation in the standings will get the Zapruder film treatment in 2018. That's how much this tournament is going to mean.
There are individual implications as well. Fleetwood moved to No. 12 with his win and looks like a genuine superstar as well. Garcia moved to No. 9 with his victory. It was an impressive day for the Euros. But maybe nobody from that side has been more impressive in the last year. The scariest part is how easy Rahm has made it look. How his short, pumping swing makes you wonder just how much is left in the tank. How he never seems to be fatigued. How he's going to develop every shot in the book (and maybe some that aren't) by the end of his career.
He's a terror on all types of turf, and he knows it.
"From summer on I'll try to play a lot more golf in Europe," he said. "I have a pretty good record there, as well. I like going back to Europe, I like being close to home and I like changing the game of golf ... going back to European style, which I always enjoy playing. So I do want to support European Tour as much as I can."
I know of one place in late September where he'll be doing just that.
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