PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Jon Rahm feels motivation to measure up playing alongside world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and former world No. 1 Brooks Koepka in a featured pairing through the first two rounds of The Players Championship.
“I might have something to prove besides just good golf,” Rahm said. “It’s exciting.”
Actually, Rahm may not be alone wanting to break out.
McIlroy is the defending champion, looking to turn four consecutive top-5 finishes – including more than one disappointing Sunday finish – into his first victory this calendar year.
Koepka is looking to regain the form that drove him to world No. 1 before he hurt his knee last year and lost his spot to McIlroy. In three starts this year, Koepka has gone T-43 at the Genesis Invitational, missed the cut at the Honda Classic and T-47 at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The No. 1 ranking is up for grabs among this threesome.
With a victory this week, Koepka can gain back the top ranking, as long as McIlroy finishes worse than solo 45th.
Rahm can also get to No. 1 with a victory or solo second-place finish, depending on what both McIlroy and Koepka do.
A win would also help Rahm wash away any bad memories of last year’s finish. He was the 54-hole leader but knocked a risky 8-iron in the water from a tough spot in a fairway bunker at the 11th hole on his way to shooting 76.
Rahm was asked if the No. 1 ranking is a goal.
“I don't know how many times I'm going to answer this question,” he said. “Yes, it is. But, again, it's a consequence of good play
“If I do my job properly, and I play good, and I win the tournament, that will be a reality. If I just focus on being No. 1, and play badly, that will never happen. Yes, it is a goal, but I'm here to win tournaments. I'm going to perform, and that's what I'm here to do.”