Arnold Palmer Invitational: Jon Rahm ready to defend No. 1 ranking … again
Not to mention Chris Kirk’s victory, but the past week felt like a farewell week on the PGA Tour.
However, this week in Orlando, the stars returned for the last time ahead of The Players Championship.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of The Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Arnold Palmer invitation
Bay Hill Club and Lodge | Orlando, Florida
K 72 | 7466 yards
Wallet: $20 million / $3.6 million
FedExCup points for the winner: 550
BetMGM Favorite: John Ram (+650)
Last Time: Scotty Sheffler Takes Second Victory
Last spring, Scheffler quickly sealed his first career win. Just weeks after his first victory in Phoenix, last year he managed one-punch wins over Billy Horschel, Tyrrell Hatton and Victor Hovland. Scheffler was one of only 10 players to finish the tournament under par and had one of the best final rounds despite posting only an even par 72.
#1 in the draw…again
Once again, Scheffler, John Rahm and Rory McIlroy will face off in a three-way battle for the top spot in the official world golf rankings.
This week, all trios are in the field for the designated event in Florida, and all have the option to keep or regain first place.
Rahm reclaimed the spot after winning the Genesis Invitational two weeks ago, his fifth win in nine international races.
“It’s really nice when you become No. 1 when other players are also great golfers,” Ram said on Tuesday. “Scotty had a great last year, Rory had a great last year, and then towards the end of the year, I recovered a bit. And even after Scotty won in Phoenix, I was able to become No. 1 right after that.
“So it brings a lot of satisfaction. I mean, if you’re going to make it in any way, you want to be #1 by winning.”
However, these three are not the only ones in the race.
This week, 43 players made it to the Top 50 in OWGR. Many of them are also going to take part in the Players Championship next week. While Rahm, Sheffler and McIlroy are the only ones who could be number one, McIlroy knows many more are within reach.
“Rambo’s run was phenomenal. Obviously, what Scotty did last year. I’ve had low mileage in the last 12 months,” McIlroy said on Wednesday. “But, as everyone knows, our game is now so parity that any week, in any tournament, someone can appear, raise his hand and say that he is one of the best players in the world.
“So I’m just happy to be part of this conversation and I just have to keep my head down and keep playing well.”
More PGA Tour Changes
The tour announced several changes to its schedule for the 2024 season on Wednesday, including changes to its assigned events.
The tour will consist of eight specific events with a smaller field and no cuts. It is not yet clear which tournaments will be considered scheduled or what the updated schedule for 2024 will look like.
“There are ways to play on it. It’s an attempt to pit the best guys against the hot guys, right?” McIlroy said on Wednesday. “I think it makes for a really compelling product, but you don’t have to wait a whole year to play well to get an opportunity. This opportunity presents itself immediately.
“You play well for two or three weeks, you participate in the appointed tournament. You know that if you keep playing well, you will stay in them.”
How about the Puerto Rico Open?
Arnold Palmer’s golf course battle isn’t the only one this week.
The second tournament takes place at the Grand Reserve Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. The tournament has a $3.8 million prize pool and 300 FedExCup points at stake.
Last year, Ryan Brehm completely ran away from the event he needed to keep his Tour status. Brem took the lead and took the win by 6 shots after hitting five of his first 11 holes of the day. It was the first win of his career and gave the 36-year-old a two-year waiver from the Tour. However, Brem will not be in Puerto Rico to defend his title this year as he is playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational instead.
Bill Haas, Harry Higgs, Akshay Bhatia, Rafael Campos and Boo Weekly are some of the biggest names playing this week in Puerto Rico.