Jon Rahm returns to No 1 sport with Genesis Invitational win, Tiger Woods tied for 45th place

Spanish golfer Jon Rahm holds up a trophy upon winning during round four of the Genesis Invitational. Photo: Caroline Breham/EPA

Spanish golfer Jon Rahm holds up a trophy upon winning during round four of the Genesis Invitational. Photo: Caroline Breham/EPA

Published Feb 20, 2023


by Rebecca Bryan

Los Angeles - Jon Rahm used two late birdies to power past Max Homa for a victory in the Genesis Invitational on Sunday that moved the Spaniard back to number one in the world

Spain's Rahm grabbed his third US PGA Tour title of 2023 after wins at the Tournament of Champions and the American Express in La Quinta, California.

It was his fifth win in his last nine worldwide starts, a run that included his third Spanish Open triumph in October and victory in the DP World Tour Championship in November.

Rahm was thrilled to capture a win at Riviera Country Club, the classic course west of downtown Los Angeles that has produced such champions as Ben Hogan but where, Rahm noted, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have never won.

Woods, who hosted this week's event, was in the spotlight as he returned to competition for the first time since missing the cut at the British Open.

The 15-time major champion, still limited by the severe right leg injuries he suffered in a February 2021 car accident, carded a final-round 73 to finish on one-under 283, tied for 45th.

"It's progress, but I didn't win," said Woods, who reiterated that he's targeting the four major championships and perhaps "a couple" of other events this season -- the most his surgically repaired leg will allow.

ALSO READ: Tiger Woods goes low at Riviera but still 12 back of leader John Rahm

"It certainly was a little bit more difficult than I probably let on," added Woods, who goes through an elaborate ice-bath recovery protocol between each round to allow him to continue.

"It's hard," he acknowledged. "The body is sometimes saying 'no' even though the mind says 'yes.'"

While Woods drew massive galleries all week, those that watched Rahm and Homa duel in the final group were also treated to a show.

Rahm, who captured the 10th US tour title of his career said it was a "true honor" to win at Riviera.

"I can't really explain it," he said.

For a while, however, it looked like Rahm might let this one get away.

He started the day with a three-shot lead over Homa and was up by three through eight holes.

ALSO READ: Tiger Woods struggles to keep calm, shoots 69 in Genesis Invitational return

Homa closed the gap with a birdie at the ninth and Rahm's bogey at the par-four 10th, where he was well left off the tee, proved especially costly as Homa rolled in a six-foot birdie to pull level atop the leaderboard at 16-under par.

Rahm fell a stroke behind with a three-putt bogey at the 12th, where, he said he hit two "abysmal" putts.

"If you tell me on the ninth tee after that tee shot that I was going to be one back on 13 tee, I wouldn't believe you because I was feeling that good," Rahm said. "But it's golf and this golf course can get you.

After Homa bogeyed 13, Rahm dropped the hammer.

He recovered from a poor drive himself at 13 to par, then rolled in a 46-foot birdie bomb at 14.

He pushed his lead to two strokes with an aggressive birdie at the par-three 16th -- where his eight-iron off the tee was "probably the best swing of the week."

ALSO READ: Tiger Woods: 'If I’m playing, I’m playing to win'

It flew straight at the flag and left him less than three feet.

"I think I'm just more proud of myself of kind of re-setting when things got difficult," Rahm said.

Homa, a local favorite from nearby Burbank who won the title in 2021, couldn't find an answer, although he added interest at 18 with a third shot from the left rough that skipped across the cup.

He closed with a three-under par 68 for a 15-under par total of 269 -- one stroke in front of American Patrick Cantlay, who was alone in third after a 67 that featured five birdies in his first 11 holes.

"I really just wanted to push him," Homa said. "He is a spectacular golfer. I wanted to make him beat me, and I think I did that."

Rahm, who last held the number one ranking in March of 2022, supplanted Scottie Scheffler just a week after the American toppled Rory McIlroy with a victory at the Phoenix Open.

With recent changes to the ranking system, Rahm expects such shifts to be common for some time, and he won't be using the rankings as a measuring stick.

"I've won five of my last nine starts, I haven't finished worse than top seven," he said. "I don't need a ranking to validate anything.

"(I'm) having the best season of my life and hopefully I can keep it going."