PGA TOURLeaderboardWatch + ListenNewsFedExCupSchedulePlayersStatsGolfbetSignature EventsComcast Business TOUR TOP 10Aon Better DecisionsDP World Tour Eligibility RankingsHow It WorksPGA TOUR TrainingTicketsShopPGA TOURPGA TOUR ChampionsKorn Ferry TourPGA TOUR AmericasLPGA TOURDP World TourPGA TOUR University

Comparing Rahm and Rory, the planet's two hottest players, before they play in Phoenix

5 Min Read

Stats Report

Comparing Rahm and Rory, the planet's two hottest players, before they play in Phoenix

    Written by Justin Ray, @JustinRayGolf

    Long ago solidified as the biggest party in golf, the on-course stakes of the WM Phoenix Open finally match the celebration surrounding it.

    This week, 18 of the top-20 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are in the field at TPC Scottsdale. The last time that any official tournament worldwide – that wasn’t a major championship, THE PLAYERS, a WGC or a FedExCup Playoff event – had that many of the top-20 all competing was the 2007 Wells Fargo Championship. It’s a far cry from the field strength of years past: just nine years ago, only four of the top-20 players in the OWGR teed it up at this event.

    But as one of the PGA TOUR’s designated events in 2023, that’s all changed. Headlining the list of superstars are the two hottest players in the sport: Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm. The European duo has combined for nine wins and 32 top-10 finishes worldwide since the beginning of last year. This is just McIlroy’s second career trip to the WM Phoenix Open, while the Arizona State product Rahm has made seven previous appearances, finishing T16 or better on each occasion.

    Let’s take a look at both players’ excellent form as they prepare for their first big head-to-head tilt of the year.

    Comparing Recent Runs

    McIlroy won his only start of 2023 to date, the Hero Dubai Desert Classic on the DP World Tour. Despite all his past success, it actually marked the first time in Rory’s career that he won his first start of a calendar year. Meanwhile, Rahm picked up a pair of PGA TOUR titles in January, the Sentry Tournament of Champions and The American Express.

    Going back to the late stages of 2022, the pair has had near-mirroring excellent on-course results. Over his last eight worldwide tournaments, McIlroy has won three, finished in the top-10 each time, and recorded an average finish of 3.1. Rahm has won four of his last eight – with the same number of top-10 finishes and identical average result (3.1).

    Strokes Gained Ranks on PGA TOUR (since beginning of 2021)

    Top 10s88
    Average finish3.13.1
    Average strength of field*199200
    Scoring average67.567.3
    *Strength of field rating via Official World Golf Ranking

    Judging equal sample sizes for each player, they have been in the same tournament field during this time on three occasions. Their finishes? Each have a first, second and fourth – McIlroy taking THE CJ CUP, Rahm taking the DP World Tour Championship. Rahm narrowly takes McIlroy in scoring average (by two-tenths of a stroke), as well as having an average strength of field number just slightly higher than Rory’s.

    Strokes Gained Analysis

    Rahm and McIlroy have assembled two of the most complete statistical resumes on the PGA TOUR in recent seasons. Since the beginning of 2021, McIlroy is ranked second on the PGA TOUR in both Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green per round and Strokes Gained: Total. The only player with superior numbers than him in that span? Jon Rahm. Strokes Gained: Ball Striking is a stat that incorporates performance off the tee and approaching the green. Rahm is second on TOUR in that metric since 2021 started, while McIlroy ranks fourth.

    Strokes Gained Ranks on PGA TOUR (since beginning of 2021)

    Ball Striking4th2nd

    Since 2010, winners at the WM Phoenix Open have gained 65.4 percent of their strokes against the field with ball striking. Among all courses regularly played on TOUR in that span, that’s the highest such rate of any single venue. Performance with driver is especially valuable here, with 29.2 percent of winners’ strokes gained coming off the tee in that span – also the most of any course. Players who win the WM Phoenix Open the last 13 years have had an average Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee ranking of 10.2 for the tournament – significantly lower than the TOUR average in that same span (18.4).

    Rahm’s game travels anywhere, but his elite driving may further explain some of his gaudy statistics at this venue in his career. Since making his debut here as an amateur in 2015, Rahm ranks second among all players in cumulative score to par, at 80 under. He’s also fourth in that span in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking per round and sixth in Strokes Gained: Total per round.

    Additional numbers and storylines

    Two weeks ago, Rahm teed it up at Torrey Pines seeking his third PGA TOUR win in as many starts. It may not seem like it, because the tournaments are stretched across a large period – but McIlroy is technically in the same boat this week. Rory won his previous two official PGA TOUR events, the TOUR Championship and THE CJ CUP in SC. McIlroy is one of just five men since 1997 to win three consecutive starts on the PGA TOUR, having done so in 2014 when he won The Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship in succession.

    Meanwhile, finishing ahead of Jon Rahm is becoming a rare feat in recent months. In his last eight tournaments around the world, there have been a combined 763 opposing players in those fields. A mere 17 – just 2.2 percent of competitors – have topped Rahm during that stretch. Rahm is currently enjoying a staggering statistical double-dip, leading the TOUR this season in both Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee per round (+1.04) and greens in regulation percentage (79.2%). It’s been 18 years since a player finished the season leading the TOUR in both of those statistics.

    The European Ryder Cup team last fielded a group with both the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 players back in 1991, when Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal topped the ranking. Less than eight months from Rome, the European team is looking like it may match that past impressive top of the lineup.

    Privacy PolicyTerms of UseAccessibility StatementDo Not Sell or Share My Personal InformationCookie ChoicesSitemap

    Copyright © 2024 PGA TOUR, Inc. All rights reserved.

    PGA TOUR, PGA TOUR Champions, and the Swinging Golfer design are registered trademarks. The Korn Ferry trademark is also a registered trademark, and is used in the Korn Ferry Tour logo with permission.