Jon Rahm leapfrogs Scottie Scheffler as world No 1 after claiming a two-shot victory in California; Rahm’s victory is his third PGA Tour win of the year and fifth in nine worldwide starts; Tiger Woods carded final-round 73 to finish tied-45th in comeback from injury
Jon Rahm secured a return to world No 1 after coming through a thrilling final-round tussle with Max Homa to claim a dramatic victory at the Genesis Invitational.
The Spaniard took a three-shot lead into the final round at Riviera Country Club but trailed Homa with six holes to play, only to move ahead by producing brilliant birdies on both par-threes on the back nine.
Rahm holed from 45 feet at the 14th and was inches away from a hole-in-one at the 16th to move to 17 under, with pars over the closing two holes enough to complete a two-under 69 and a two-shot win over Homa.
Victory is Rahm’s 10th PGA Tour title and a fifth win in his last nine worldwide starts, with his latest success enough to overtake Scottie Scheffler – who ended the week tied-12th – at the top of the world rankings.
Homa likened Rahm to Marvel super-villain Thanos after he continued his excellent season. He said: “Yes, he’s probably Thanos. He has a lot of the [infinity] stones in his toolbox. He’s a tremendous golfer, he has zero weaknesses. He’s been this dude for a long time.”
Rahm almost made a chip-in eagle from off the opening green and tapped in to match the birdie from Homa, who nearly holed his approach from the second fairway after having to pitch out from behind a tree.
A two-shot swing at the third saw Rahm run off the back of the green and then produce a clumsy chip to set up a two-putt bogey, allowing Homa to move within one of the lead by rolling in a 10-foot birdie.
The pair both exchanged pars over the next three holes, with Rahm squandering a birdie look from inside 10 feet at the sixth, with the Spaniard then converting from five feet at the next to match the birdie from Homa.
Homa failed to get up a down from the back of the green at the eighth, where a brilliant approach from Rahm set up a kick-in birdie to restore his overnight cushion, although the American responded by making a 15-footer at the next to reach the turn two behind.
Rahm made a mess of the driveable par-four 10th hole as he followed a wayward drive and poor chip from the trees by blading a chip into the sand on his way to a bogey-five, as Homa two-putted from 80 feet for birdie and a share of the lead.
Homa wasted a six-foot birdie chance at the par-five 11th but temporarily moved into the solo advantage when Rahm made a three-putt bogey at the next, only to hit his tee shot into trees on his way to a bogey at the 13th to join his playing partner on 15 under.
Rahm holed an incredible 45-foot birdie at the par-four 14th and followed a key par-save at the next by firing his tee shot at the par-three 16th to within tap-in range, moving him two ahead with two to play, as Homa failed to find a birdie over the closing five holes.
Homa scrambled an unlikely par at the last to retain solo second ahead of Patrick Cantlay, who posted a final-round 67, as Rahm two-putted from the fringe to complete a third victory of 2023.
Will Zalatoris carded a round-of-the-day 64 to finish in fourth spot ahead of Keith Mitchell, while Collin Morikawa played his last three holes in four under to jump into a share of sixth with Sahith Theegala.
Rory McIlroy ended a frustrating week in tied-29th after a level-par 71 on Sunday, as Tiger Woods marked his first non-major appearance since October 2020 by carding a two-over 73 to finish in a share of 45th.
Rahm’s latest victory is the 10th of his PGA Tour career, seeing him breaking the record of his hero and compatriot Seve Ballesteros, with the win also enough to put the 28-year-old at world No 1 for the fifth time in his career.
“I could explain exhaustion right now because that was a tough week and a tough Sunday,” Rahm said after his victory. “Max (Homa) battled out there and Patrick (Cantlay) gave us a scare, so I’m just glad I could come through at the end.
“I know he [Seve Ballesteros] didn’t play full-time PGA Tour and I know five of those were majors, but still to reach that milestone of double-digit wins is pretty incredible. To do it at a golf course with this legacy, this history and hosted by the man himself, Tiger Woods, it’s a true honour. I can’t really explain it.”
Rahm added: “I’ve never had three PGA Tour wins in a season and to do it this early on is incredible, and to do it at this golf course. Talk about the history of Riviera as a golf course, the history of Tiger Woods as a player, those two combined in this tournament, it’s a pretty big deal.
“As a historian of the game, to be able to win a tournament hosted by Tiger and the one hosed by Jack as well, it’s pretty incredible.
“I’ve won five out of my last nine starts, I haven’t finished worse than top seven and I’ve won three tournaments already .I don’t need a ranking to tell me, to validate anything, right? I’m having the best season of my life and hopefully I can keep it going.”