Jon Rahm is back on top…
The 28-year-old Spanish professional golfer has returned to No. 1 in the world after winning the Genesis Invitational with a performance that left no doubt who’s playing the best golf.
Caught in a battle with hometown favorite Max Homa at Riviera, Rahm delivered two big moments with a 45-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the par-3 14th and then a tee shot to 2 feet for birdie on the par-3 16th.
He closed with a 2-under 69 for a two-shot win over Homa.
“Pretty incredible,” Rahm said. “[To win] at a golf course with this legacy, this history and hosted by Tiger Woods, is such an honor.”
This week will be the 44th that Rahm will sit at No. 1, which ties Nick Price for the 11th-most all-time, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Among active PGA Tour players, only Woods (683), Rory McIlroy (122) and Jason Day (51) have spent more weeks atop the rankings.
Patrick Cantlay got within one shot on the back nine until two bogeys. He had a 67 to finish alone in third, moving him to No. 4 in the world.
Woods had four bogeys in an eight-hole stretch and shot 73 to tie for 45th.
“Unfortunately, my streak continues,” Woods said with a smile, alluding to his 12 appearances at Riviera as a pro without ever winning.
His success was measured in progress. It was his first time playing 72 holes since the Masters last April — Woods only played twice more since then as he tries to cope with leg and back injuries that will make PGA Tour appearances rare. He did not know if he would play again before the Masters.
Woods still had the largest gallery all the way to the end, thousands of fans packed on the hill over the 18th green to watch him close out with a par in that familiar red shirt under a black vest.
And then the spectators turned their attention to a terrific duel between Rahm and Homa, each with two victories on the PGA Tour this season.
Rahm now has five wins in his last nine starts worldwide, dating to his win in the Spanish Open. He has not finished out of the top 10 in his last 10 tournaments.
It was his third win in five starts on the PGA Tour this year, and he already has earned more than $9 million the last two months.
This wasn’t as easy as it looked at the end.
“That was a tough week and a tough Sunday,” Rahm said.
Homa, who won at Riviera two years ago, began the final round three shots back. He quickly closed to within one shot, only for the Spaniard to come within inches of holing out from the fairway at No. 8 for a tap-in birdie, while Homa made bogey from behind the green to slip three shot behind again.
And then it changed quickly.
After Homa birdied the ninth from 15 feet, he drove to the far edge of the 10th green and got down in two for a birdie. Rahm went well left. His pitch was short and rolled down the back of the green, behind a bunker. He pitched onto — and then over — the green into another bunker, and he had to make a 6-footer for bogey.
Two holes later, Homa took the lead for the first time when Rahm three-putted for bogey, only for Homa to give it back with a bogey from a bad tee shot.
The par 3s won it for Rahm, with his putter and a full swing. He finished at 17-under 267 and earned $3.6 million from the $20 million purse, the second straight elevated event on the PGA Tour.
Rahm now has won just over $9.4 million in the last two months on the PGA Tour — wins at Kapalua and the California desert and on the classic course of Riviera off fabled Sunset Boulevard. He finished third in Phoenix and tied for seventh at Torrey Pines in his other two starts this year.
This is the fifth time Rahm has been No. 1 in the world, and the way he’s playing, it looks as if he might stay there for some time.
McIlroy, who began the year at No. 1 and won his first event of the year in Dubai on the European tour, was not a factor for the second straight week. McIlroy had a 73-71 weekend and tied for 29th.