In the next two months, the PGA Tour will play one World Golf Championship event, two major championships and the three-event FedEx Cup playoffs.
Does that make the summer sweat feel a little better?
This is the midpoint between the tour’s restart at the Charles Schwab Challenge in June and the U.S. Open, which will complete a two-month run that begins this week at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis, Tennessee, where 45 of the top 50 players in the world rankings are entered.
Here’s the lineup:
- WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
- PGA Championship at Harding Park
- Wyndham Championship
- The Northern Trust (first playoff event)
- BMW Championship
- Tour Championship
- Safeway Open (first event of the 2020-21 season)
- U.S. Open at Winged Foot
It’s like a music festival with your favorite bands. One sustained hot streak could change a career between now and mid-September for, say, Tony Finau.
“It will be a good time to start playing good golf,” said Jon Rahm, who is playing his first event as the No. 1 player in the world this week at TPC Southwind.
When the season restarted two months ago, it felt like a curiosity, almost a step into an alternate universe with no fans and all of the necessary virus protocols in place. Now the storylines are in place.
It’s been just more than one year since the last major championship was played, ending with Shane Lowry cradling the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush on a cold, gray windy afternoon that nevertheless lit up all of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
For all that has been delayed or lost, much of it comes back now, squeezed together in a makeshift schedule designed to maximize impact and opportunity. If things go well, there will be seven major championships played in the next 12 months including, potentially, two Masters in five months.
When the season restarted two months ago, it felt like a curiosity, almost a step into an alternate universe with no fans and all of the necessary virus protocols in place.
Now the storylines are in place:
- Can Brooks Koepka salvage what is looking like a lost season?
- Will Rory McIlroy find the edge that separates him?
- Is Bryson DeChambeau onto something?
- Can Tiger Woods find it again?
- Will Justin Thomas or Webb Simpson lock down player of the year the next few weeks?
And so on …
It’s Rahm – who completed his steady global ascent with his victory at the Memorial Tournament while absorbing a semi-controversial two-stroke penalty for his ball changing position in the greenside rough on the 16th hole in the final round – sitting atop the world rankings for the first time.
Beyond the world rankings, Rahm’s next career step is winning the biggest events. His breakthrough PGA Tour win at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in 2017 came against a powerhouse field as did his victory at Muirfield Village. He’s won the European Tour’s Race to Dubai but he’s still chasing his first WGC or major title.
He’s just 25 and seems to be growing into his game, which is built around both new-age power and old-school artistry. He’s more man than machine as a golfer and he looks to have a game and attitude built for the long run.
The No. 1 ranking had been a target of Rahm’s for a while, but it wasn’t until the tour’s three-month pandemic break that he turned it into something more tangible, resetting his goals during the time away from tournaments.
“It was the first time I stopped kidding myself and I acknowledged that I wanted to be No. 1 in the world and I wrote it as a goal,” Rahm said. “I always said it was a consequence of playing good golf. Play good (and) it will take care of itself. First time I kind of wrote it down and said this time I publish it. I made it a goal.”
It was just more than two years ago that Justin Thomas became the No. 1 player in the world and it felt different to him.
“I thought it was a lot of pressure,” Thomas said. “I think it’s probably one of the first times I felt like no matter how I played, I was going to get an interview after my round. That’s something there’s maybe two people in the world that get that done – I would say Tiger and probably Rory and now probably Jon. Every time you finish a round, it doesn’t matter if you shoot 65 or 95, they want to talk to you and hear about it and that’s just the way it is.
“I just remember being a little more nervous that week because it’s like all eyes are on you and you’re the best player in the world so you feel you should play up to that.”
The most important stretch of this uncommon season begins this week in Memphis. The question is how things will look two months from now when someone is holding the U.S. Open trophy at Winged Foot.
“It’s six really big events in an eight-week stretch,” Rahm said. “Good golf to be played, I hope. It’s one of those situations where somebody could get hot and possibly run away with the World Golf Championship, majors, possibly the FedEx Cup.
“We’ll have to stay mentally fresh, rest and be able to relax after rounds too, to play our best golf when you need it … It all starts this week though.”
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