There has been a lot of conversation over the last few days over who should be in the PGA Tour’s designated events in 2024 and beyond. Honestly, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to matter because Jon Rahm is just going to win them all.
Rahm, who has won five of his last nine starts and is vying for his third elevated victory (in four tries) this season, shot a 65 on Thursday in Round 1 of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which was his 18th round in the 60s in 21 total rounds so far in 2023.
It has been a truly extraordinary run for world’s No. 1, and he has a chance to make it even more special over the next three days at Bay Hill. Let’s dive deep on his first 18 holes and take a look at how the rest of the tournament is shaping up.
1. Jon Rahm (-7)
Rahm somehow lost strokes off the tee — arguably his strongest statistical category and still gained seven total on the best field of the year. It has become so ridiculous at this point that it’s almost impossible to know which direction to go when attempting to contextualize what Rahm is doing.
How about we do it like this?
Rahm has played 21 rounds on the PGA Tour so far this year. He’s been inside the top seven on the leaderboard after 19 (!) of them. Oh and there’s also this.
No matter how you dice it, Rahm is having an all-time season, and it doesn’t appear that that is going to be slowing down any time soon. The question for him — perhaps the biggest question of this early golf year — is whether he can maintain this dominance up to (and through) the Masters. A lot of golf fans won’t necessarily care about Rahm winning the biggest events of the year — even though it’s a massive deal — if it doesn’t translate into a major championship come April, May, June or July.
3. Kurt Kitayama (-6)
T3. Chris Kirk, Cameron Young (-5)
T5. Adam Schenk, Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Aaron Rai, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Rickie Fowler, Keegan Bradley (-4)
With all due respect to Kitayama, the players beyond him — especially the ones two back — represent some fascinating storylines. Scheffler is going for his second consecutive Arnold Palmer Invitational as well as his second straight title defense after winning Phoenix last month. Spieth is trying to find something ahead of April. Fowler is trying to truly establish that he’s back as a top player. Young is going for his first win ever. Oh and Schauffele and Cantlay are looking to climb into that top three in the Official World Golf Rankings from just outside of it.
If not for what Rahm has done, we would be talking more about how insane Scheffler has been so far this season. Phoenix and Bay Hill victories two years in a row would be immense, but Scheffler insisted he’s just trying to hang on.
“This is a golf course that is, I would say it’s very challenging to bring a lot of confidence to because like there’s no really easy holes,” Scheffler said. “It’s kind of a strange golf course when it comes to that.
“I appreciate the fact that this golf course is very challenging and I feel like it’s a place where I can just try and hang in there. That’s what I did last year. I didn’t play amazing for four days. One of the guys I played a practice round with this week asked me what I did so well last year, and I just told ’em I survived. That’s really what it felt like. This place is brutal and it’s only going to get harder as the week goes on. This is Thursday morning. It’s typically the easiest conditions. So we’ll see what happens as the week goes on.”
Don’t let Spieth figure out his putter
Spieth (68) was one of just two players in the top 22 who lost strokes to the field on the greens. That’s not good, but it’s part of a mini-trend thus far in what has been the worst putting season of Spieth’s career on the PGA Tour. There’s plenty of time to correct that, but Spieth has lost strokes putting in each of his last three tournaments and is worse than the Tour average overall. The flip side of that is that if he starts to fall in love with some lines at Augusta, it could get silly for the rest of the field.
2023 Genesis Invitational updated odds and picks
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Jon Rahm: 7/5
- Scottie Scheffler: 15/2
- Xander Schauffele: 12-1
- Patrick Cantlay: 12-1
- Cameron Young: 16-1
- Rickie Fowler: 24-1
What a strange board. When the No. 2 player in the world who is also the defending champion of this golf tournament shoots 68 in the first round and sits T5, you certainly expect something shorter than +750. That shows just how dominant Rahm has been in the early part of the year. I’m going deeper, beyond all of this and settling on Spieth at 30-1. I’m not totally sure why he’s longer than Fowler, but see above for my thougths on him turning his putting around leading to a potential victory either this weekend or sometime soon.