Jon Rahm continues torrid pace, watches Tiger on TV in event with ‘major’ feel

February 16, 2023

Ben Jared

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Jon Rahm doesn’t just like the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club. He loves it. So much so that after blitzing his way up the leaderboard with an opening 65, the Spaniard will kick back and watch TV as tournament host Tiger Woods makes his return to competitive golf.

“I’m going to go ahead say yes; I love watching Tiger, I love watching many players and I love watching golf,” Rahm said Thursday after eight birdies and two bogeys left him at six under, one back of clubhouse leader Max Homa (64).

Granted, former World No. 1 Rahm will watch most PGA Tour events in some capacity. But at Riviera, Rahm’s eagerness to turn the TV on is up on previous years. That’s because there’s a notable increase in the atmosphere given it’s now a designated event on the PGA Tour with a $20 million purse, but more because 15-time major winner Woods announced last Friday he’d return to competition from a seven-month ankle injury hiatus.

Ticket sales in the 24 hours after Woods announced he’d play were the highest since his own TGR Foundation took over the event in 2017. Crowds on Thursday for Woods’ group were enormous.

Rahm says it almost feel likes a major. Almost.

“Listen, it’s not officially a major championship, but feel-wise this is comparable to a major championship,” he said. “When you have Tiger as a host and this golf course as a venue, this tournament’s always had a great field. The last few years we’ve had every single player in the top-10 in the world and many in the top-50 in the world. It might be a little bit better feel-wise, very slightly better this year.”

While the buzz at Riviera is higher, Rahm’s desire to win it isn’t. It was already high. The 28-year-old’s record at Riviera is impressive; a best finish of T-5 in 2021 and a T-9 in 2019. But he wants to be champion at Riviera.

“It’s a golf course where you need to strike the golf ball well, you need to move it both ways from tee to green which is obviously usually my forte and that’s why I think I’ve had success here,” he said. “But in the past, haven’t really gone to the back nine with a chance to win in this tournament and I would love to give myself a chance.”

He’s never been more poised to grab a first victory at Riviera given current form. Worldwide since the Tour Championship in August, Rahm has three wins, a runner-up result and hasn’t finished worse than eighth. He won the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the American Express for his eighth and ninth wins on the PGA Tour.

Four of Rahm’s PGA Tour wins have come in Southern California: a Farmers Insurance Open title and the 2021 U.S. Open both at San Diego’s Torrey Pines, as well as two victories in the desert.

“My record is decent in California, right?,” he coyly said.