Jon Rahm will be rare Masters champ to play following week

AP photo by Charlie Riedel / Jon Rahm chips to the 18th green at Augusta National on the way to winning the Masters on Sunday.

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — A jubilant but exhausted Jon Rahm wondered if he'd earned a break from the golf course.

Worn out from the four-shot victory he wrapped up Sunday at the Masters for his second major championship, the 28-year-old Spaniard thought hard about passing up the RBC Heritage and taking some well-deserved rest.

In the end, Rahm decided to honor his commitment, and on Thursday, he will begin his bid to become just the second player ever to follow a win at Augusta National with one at Harbour Town Golf Links.

"It did cross my mind, and obviously I think it would have crossed anybody's because I was so tired," he said Wednesday, just three days after playing 30 holes at the weather-delayed Masters. "But that's why I decided to come in yesterday afternoon and take it easier and just give my body a rest before I got into competition mode."

Rahm, No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking again and a four-time winner on the PGA Tour this season, assured everyone he was in it to win it, just like always.

"I still intend to hopefully do the jacket double," Rahm said with a smile.

Bernhard Langer in 1985 remains the only golfer to win in back-to-back weeks the green jacket awarded to Masters champions and the tartan jacket that goes to the winner at Harbour Town.

Usually, many of the game's best take the week off to refresh and relax ahead of a busy spring and summer, with three of the four majors still ahead this year: the PGA Championship is next month, the U.S. Open is in June and the British Open is in July. And even those who play talk about the seaside course's relaxed atmosphere after the pressure cooker of Augusta.

A reigning Masters champ hasn't played at Harbour Town since Jordan Spieth in 2015. He opened with a 74, shot a 62 the next day to make the cut and finished tied for 11th. (He wound up winning the event for the first time last year.)

Rahm's ready to block out the cheers and accolades — his congratulations included a voicemail from Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal — to concentrate on the challenging, tight layout. He has played Harbour Town once, in June 2020, when it was the PGA Tour's second event back after a two-month pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It was warmer and less windy then, Rahm recalled, than what he'll experience this week. He's confident his game will emerge as his routine kicks in.

"If I can get through the first two days," he said, "I think on the weekend, I'll feel back to normal."

The field will again include Spieth, as well as second-ranked Scottie Scheffler, the 2022 Masters champ whose first entry into the RBC Heritage will mark his 100th start in four PGA Tour seasons.

This is the sixth of seven designated PGA Tour events that feature elevated purses ($20 million this year, up from $8 million a year ago) and a field that will include many of the best in the sport. The winner will receive $3.6 million, more than twice the $1.44 million Spieth earned in 2022.

There are seven of the top 10 players in the world, 28 of the top 30 in FedEx Cup points and all but one of the 20 players who have won on the PGA Tour this season, with world No. 3 Rory McIlroy the missing man after withdrawing Monday, two days after missing the cut at the Masters.

PGA Tour's fall set

The PGA Tour announced a fall schedule that will have seven tournaments for players to either retain full status, earn a spot in the Masters or become eligible for some of the $20 million events the following season.

This will be the first time since 2013 the fall is not the start of a new season. Instead of a wraparound schedule, the tour is returning to a calendar season that begins in January.

Missing from the fall schedule is the Houston Open, which is moving to the spring in 2024, and the CJ Cup in South Korea. The CJ Cup has been played twice in Las Vegas (2020-21) and last year in South Carolina because of the pandemic. One possibility is that CJ returns in 2024 as the new title sponsor of the Byron Nelson; AT&T is ending its title sponsorship of the longtime Dallas-area event.

Only the top 70 players — down from 125 — will qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs this year, with the top 50 advancing to the second event. Those 50 are eligible for all the designated events in 2024 that offer the $20 million purses. The top 30 advance to the season-ending Tour Championship.

The FedEx Cup points continue into the seven-tournament fall schedule for players who finish No. 51 and beyond. That allows them to either finish in the top 125 to retain full tour status or be among the top 10 not already eligible who qualify for two $20 million events at the start of the new season.

Winners of fall events, which offer a total of $56.6 million prize money, earn an invitation to the Masters, the PGA Championship, The Players Championship and the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

The fall schedule starts with the Fortinet Championship on Sept. 14-17 in Napa, California, before taking a two-week break for the Ryder Cup in Italy. The other tournaments: Sanderson Farms Championship (Oct. 5-8 in Jackson, Mississippi); Shriners Children's Open (Oct. 12-15 in Las Vegas); Zozo Championship (Oct. 19-22 in Japan); World Wide Technology Championship (Nov. 2-5 in Los Cabas, Mexico); Butterfield Bermuda Championship (Nov. 9-12); RSM Classic (Nov. 16-19 on St. Simons Island, Georgia).