Rahm the king of consistency since turning pro

September 25, 2019
Justin Ray

If it weren’t for the Houdini-like escapism and clutch putting Danny Willett flashed on the back nine Sunday, Jon Rahm would have won his fourth Rolex Series event last week at Wentworth.

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Rahm has been on an absolute tear since the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. In those nine starts worldwide, he has a scoring average of 68.47, gaining more than 2.5 strokes on the field per round. The BMW PGA was his sixth top-five finish during that stretch – his worst during that run is a tie for 12th.

Rahm has performed at an extremely consistent, elite level since turning professional in 2016. In 81 official starts around the world, Rahm has 30 top-five finishes – a clip of 37 percent. That is the highest percentage of any player in the world during that span who has at least 40 starts – Rory McIlroy is second at 35.6%, while Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson are tied for third (33.3%).

Rahm obviously has the talent to become a major champion, and potentially the number one ranked player in the world. So how does this start to his career compare to some of the recent world number one players aged 35 and younger? Not surprisingly, Jon is on top of the list:

First 81 Official Worldwide Starts as Pro – Top 5 Percentage

Jon Rahm – 37.0%

Jordan Spieth – 32.1%

Rory McIlroy – 26.0%

Brooks Koepka – 18.5%

Justin Thomas – 17.3%

Dustin Johnson – 9.9%

Jason Day – 8.6%

Obviously, not all beginnings to pro golf careers are created equal: Rahm was an accomplished collegiate player when he turned pro, while Rory was on the European Tour as a teenager. Brooks Koepka toiled on the Challenge Tour, while Jordan Spieth’s early PGA Tour win put him on the world’s premier circuit quickly. Still, this gives you an idea of the type of consistency Rahm has shown as his pro career has taken off.

Rahm is part of a very strong field this week in Scotland at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, joining the likes of McIlroy, Rose, Tony Finau, Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Matt Wallace and more.

RETURN TO THE OLD COURSE

The Old Course at St Andrews is one of three historic venues hosting the Alfred Dunhill Links this week. Just how penalizing are the dreaded fairway bunkers there? Since 2015, players have hit 82% of greens in regulation from the fairway – and just 17% from fairway bunkers.

Said greens are much larger than normal on a links setup, of course, making lag putting an important skill to point to this week. On average, players three-putt 12% of the time on the European Tour from outside 30 feet. Twelve different holes on The Old Course have averaged a higher percentage of three-putts from that distance, a testament to the undulating greens players will face this week.

NOTES ON PLAYERS COMPETING THIS WEEK

Rory McIlroy has had more commended performances this year than last week’s, but his Wentworth turnaround was one to remember. Rory finished in the top-ten despite carding an opening round 76, the first time he’s ever done that as a professional. After losing 4.0 strokes to the field tee-to-green in the first round, McIlroy gained a whopping 15.6 over rounds two through four combined. Rory will shoot for his first career Dunhill Links win this week, a tournament he has finished runner-up in three times.

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– The PGA Tour has a deep field this week at the Safeway Open, headlined by Justin Thomas. JT has had success in Napa, finishing T-3 and T-8 in his previous two starts in the event. Thomas is second in birdie average at the Safeway Open over the last five years (5.1 per round), trailing only Phil Mickelson (5.3).

– When the most consistent ball-strikers in the world are discussed, Thomas should be at the forefront of the conversation. JT is the only player to rank in the top-five in strokes gained tee-to-green each of the last three seasons on the PGA Tour.

Mickelson begins his 28th full season on the PGA Tour this week. Joaquin Niemann, who won the season-opener in West Virginia two weeks ago, was born more than six years after Lefty’s professional debut. When Joaquin was born, Phil had already racked up 13 PGA Tour wins. Don’t count the veteran out just yet: Mickelson leads all players in scoring average in this event the last five years at 69.17.

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Hideki Matsuyama has played 12 career rounds at the Safeway Open across two courses in his career – he’s never failed to break par. Though he hasn’t found the winner’s circle since 2017, Matsuyama had a strong statistical profile last season on the PGA Tour: he was 3rd in strokes gained tee-to-green, 5th in strokes gained approach, 7th in birdie average and 12th in scoring.

Sungjae Im finished runner-up last week at Sanderson Farms, and – of course – is in the field this week in Napa. Nobody plays more tournament golf than Sungjae: this week, Im will play in his 92nd official worldwide event in the last 129 weeks dating back to April 2017.

– Former Cal standout Collin Morikawa tees it up about an hour from his collegiate stomping grounds this week. Morikawa played just nine PGA Tour events last season, but made an immediate impact, winning the Barracuda Championship and picking up two other top-5s. Morikawa didn’t play enough rounds to officially qualify in the season stats, but it he did, would have finished in the top-10 in birdie average, strokes gained approach and greens in regulation.