Jon Rahm and the rarity of three straight wins
Could accomplish unusual PGA TOUR feat at Farmers Insurance Open
January 24, 2023
By Justin Ray , Twenty First Group, PGATOUR.COM
- January 24, 2023
- Jon Rahm is looking to win for the third time in as many starts. (Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
Contrary to the recent actions of Mr. Jon Rahm, it’s remarkably difficult to win a professional golf tournament.
Rahm is on a rampage, winning four times in his last six worldwide starts. If we go back one additional tournament (a tie for second at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth), Rahm is 134 under par with a 66.9 scoring average in his last seven tournaments around the globe. Since last August, the current world number three has teed it up 10 times in official events globally. He’s finished outside the top 10 just once in that span – a T16 at the TOUR Championship.
Coming off victories in each of his last two starts, Rahm now heads to Torrey Pines, site of both his first TOUR title (2017 Farmers Insurance Open) and first major victory (2021 U.S. Open). Since 2017, Rahm is a combined 36 under par at Torrey Pines South when combining play at both the Farmers Insurance Open and the U.S. Open, 15 shots better than any other player in that span.
To paraphrase the great Larry Bird quote, “Which one of you is coming in second place?”
But hang on. Not so fast.
Winning three straight is a mean feat
First, let’s take a second to acknowledge how difficult it is just to win two consecutive starts on the PGA TOUR, as Rahm has just accomplished. In the last eight seasons, it’s happened 16 times. Nobody did it in the calendar years of either 2011 or 2020. Rahm has been one of the game’s dominant forces since turning professional, and this is the first time he’s won back-to-back starts on the PGA TOUR.
Winning three starts in a row is incredibly rare in the modern game, as it’s only happened twice in the last decade. Going back a bit further, one Torrey Pines stalwart (you can guess who) made it look much easier than it is. Since the beginning of the 1997 season, there have been 62 instances of a player teeing it up on TOUR having won his previous two starts, and while 18 times – around 29 percent – that player went on to win, a staggering 14 times that player was Tiger Woods. In 24 different starts in his TOUR career Woods was coming off victories in back-to-back starts. This includes times when he won three, four, five, six, and even seven times in a row.
Woods’ win percentage when he was coming off wins in back-to-back starts? A hefty 58.3%.
The other 38 times since the start of ’97 are spread across 22 different players. Four different players won for a third time in as many starts, good for a win percentage of just 10.5%, and that’s where their streaks ended.
Players Seeking 3rd Win in as Many Starts - PGA TOUR Since 1997 Opportunities Won 3rd Straight Percentage Tiger Woods 24 14 58.3% All others combined 38 4 10.5%
Rahm is the third different player since 1997 to head to Torrey Pines seeking a third win in as many starts. Woods did it on three occasions, winning twice and finishing runner-up in the other instance. Xander Schauffele also did it in 2019, winning the WGC-HSBC Champions and Sentry Tournament of Champions before heading to southern California. He finished in a tie for 25th place at Torrey Pines that week.
Feeling the California love
Rahm has been blistering hot in the Golden State, a trend that continued with his win last week at The American Express. Since 2017, Rahm is the runaway leader in virtually every statistic in PGA TOUR events in California, including wins (4), Strokes Gained: Total (+2.11), scoring average (68.74), Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (+1.71) and bogey avoidance (1.97 per round).
Rahm is a whopping 246 strokes under par in California in that span. No player is within 50 strokes of him; Patrick Cantlay ranks second in that statistic in that stretch at 189 under, 57 back.
Jon Rahm in PGA TOUR Events in California - Since 2017 Rank Wins 4 1st Scoring average 68.74 1st SG: Total +2.11 1st SG: Tee to Green +1.71 1st Bogeys/worse per round 1.97 1st Score to par -246 1st
Throughout his career, Rahm has done everything statistically better in the friendly confines of California. That’s saying something considering how well he’s played coast to coast and overseas.
Rahm averages one-quarter of a stroke more gained per round on his approach shots since 2017 in California compared to his overall TOUR average. He’s also a better putter, by more than one-tenth of a stroke per round. Overall, Rahm in California gains nearly a half stroke more per round on the field than everywhere else.
Jon Rahm - Strokes Gained Per Round on PGA TOUR Since 2017 Overall In California Off the Tee +0.86 +0.93 Approach Green +0.39 +0.64 Around Green +0.14 +0.15 Putting +0.29 +0.40 Total +1.68 +2.12
In only three starts this season, Rahm is enjoying otherworldly ball-striking. He leads the TOUR in both Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and greens-in-regulation percentage. It’s been 18 years since a player finished the season leading both of those statistics, though Rahm came close last season, ranking first and third, respectively.
Rahm’s one relative weakness last season was performance around the green. He ranked 139th in scrambling, 180th in sand saves and 143rd in Strokes Gained: Around the Green. Again, it’s early, but Rahm is in the top 15 in all three of those statistics, a scary proposition for the rest of the TOUR.
As if his peers needed more reason to be concerned after watching what happened in Maui and La Quinta.