Golf roundup: Jon Rahm is No. 1 again with fifth win in past nine starts

AP photo by Ryan Kang / Jon Rahm high-fives a young fan at Riviera County Club after winning the PGA Tour's Genesis Invitational on Sunday in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES — Jon Rahm is playing at such a high level, he felt he didn't need the Official World Golf Ranking to tell him he was the No. 1 player in the sport.

Rahm earned another trophy Sunday in the PGA Tour's Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, his fifth triumph in his past nine tournaments worldwide, and this was a big one.

After a tense battle with hometown favorite Max Homa that required the 28-year-old Spaniard's best golf, he noted that he won on a course with a rich history and legacy, doing so at a tournament hosted by 15-time major Tiger Woods.

And now he's officially No. 1.

"I don't need a ranking to validate anything," Rahm said. "Having the best season of my life, and hopefully I can keep it going."

In a back-and-forth final round — Rahm went from a three-shot lead to a one-shot deficit at one point — he pulled away with a pivotal recovery for par, a 45-foot birdie putt and an 8-iron to two feet on the par-3 16th.

That carried him to a 2-under-par 69, and he finished at 17-under 267 for a two-shot win over Homa (68), who won this event two years ago.

"I wanted to push him. He is a spectacular golfer," said Homa, who got choked up twice speaking to the media because of how much his hometown event means to him. "I've known him since college, and he's been like this since then — No. 1 amateur in the world, No. 1 player in the world, all the accolades.

"I wanted to make him beat me, and I think I did that."

Patrick Cantlay got within one shot on the back nine until making two bogeys. He had a 67 to finish alone in third at 14 under, moving him to No. 4 in the world.

Will Zalatoris (64) was at 13 under, and Chattanooga native Keith Mitchell (70) was another stroke back, alone in fifth.

He was not alone as a Baylor School graduate with a good showing at Riviera, as Harris English shared 12th at 8 under after a bogey-free 65. All four former Red Raiders standouts currently on the tour played in the event, and all four made the cut, with Luke List (71) tying for 29th at 4 under and Stephan Jaeger (72) tying for 40th at 2 under.

Woods had four bogeys in an eight-hole stretch and shot a 73 to tie for 45th, but he could claim a small consolation. He finished a 72-hole event for the first time since the Masters last April, though he was quick to joke, "Unfortunately, my streak continues." He now has played 12 times as a pro at Riviera without winning.

Under the circumstances, this wasn't a bad week for the 47-year-old, who remains tied with Sam Snead for most PGA Tour victories (82). Woods played only three times last year because of a fused back and battered legs from surgeries (left) and a car crash (right). This was a rare appearance, and Woods doesn't know if he'll play again before the Masters.

He still had the largest gallery to the end, thousands of fans packed on the hill over the 18th green to watch him close out with a par in that familiar red shirt under a black vest.

And then the spectators turned their attention to a terrific duel between Rahm and Homa that wasn't really decided until Homa tried to chip in for a birdie on the 18th and fell to his knees when the ball banged off the pin.

Rahm has not finished out of the top 10 in his past 10 tournaments. It was his third win in five starts on the PGA Tour this year, and he already has earned more than $9 million the past two months.

This wasn't as easy as it looked at the end, when all he had to do was tap in for par and scoop up his two young sons.

"That was a tough week and a tough Sunday," Rahm said.

Homa began the final round three shots back. He quickly closed to within one shot, only for Rahm to come within inches of holing out from the fairway at No. 8 for a tap-in birdie, while Homa made a bogey from behind the green to slip three shot behind again.

And then it changed quickly.

After Homa birdied the ninth from 15 feet, he drove to the far edge of the 10th green and got down in two for a birdie. Rahm went well left. His pitch was short and rolled down the back of the green, behind a bunker. He pitched onto — and then over — the green into another bunker, and he had to make a six-footer for a bogey.

Two holes later, Homa took the lead for the first time when Rahm three-putted for a bogey, only for Homa to give it back with a bogey from a bad tee shot.

"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 — especially this golf course — can get you."

He steadied himself with a 6-iron for a dirt lie left of the 13th fairway that set up a long two-putt par, and then the par 3s won it for him. Rahm holed a 45-footer on the 14th, and then hit 8-iron — "Probably the best swing of the week," he said — over the bunker to tap-in range for a birdie on the 16th.

With the victory, he earned $3.6 million from the $20 million purse, the second straight elevated event on the PGA Tour. Rahm now has won just more than $9.4 million in the last two months on the PGA Tour.

Golf now has had three players at No. 1 in a span of three weeks — American player Scottie Scheffler won the Phoenix Open last week to replace Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, and now Rahm is back on top.

"It's the beauty of the year that we're living right now," Rahm said. "It's exciting for us to play and exciting for the golf fans because things like this can happen."

McIlroy, who began the year at No. 1 and won his first event of the year in Dubai on the Europe-based DP World Tour, was not a factor for the second straight week. He had a 73-71 weekend and tied for 29th.

Scheffler closed with a 68 and tied for 12th.

  photo  AP file photo by Charlie Neibergall / Bernhard Langer, pictured, won the PGA Tour Champions' Chubb Classic on Sunday in Naples, Fla. It was the 65-year-old German's 45th victory on the 50-and-older tour, tying Hale Irwin's career record for wins on the senior circuit.

Langer catches Irwin

NAPLES, Fla. — Hale Irwin, you've got company.

Germany's Bernhard Langer matched Irwin's record for PGA Tour Champions career victories Sunday, when he won the Chubb Classic for the fifth time to reach 45 triumphs on the 50-and-older circuit previously known as the Senior Tour and the Champions Tour.

The 65-year-old Langer matched his age with a closing 7-under-par 65 for a three-stroke victory over Ireland's Padraig Harrington (65) and Steve Stricker (66) of the United States. Two other Americans, Jerry Kelly and Dicky Pride, shared fourth at 13 under after each closed with a 68.

Langer finished the 54-hole event on Tiburon Golf Club's Black Course at 17-under 199.

"It's extremely special because we've been talking about it for so long, it seems now," Langer said. "When I first came out here, I thought, 'This is never going to happen.'"

At 65 years, 5 months, 23 days, the German star extended his record as the oldest winner in tour history. He holds the top three spots on that list.

Irwin, now 77, won 45 times from July 1995 to January 2007. The American player also won 20 times on the PGA Tour, getting his last of those wins the year before his first senior triumph.

Langer, a two-time Masters winner with three PGA Tour victories overall, has 42 career wins on the European circuit now known as the DP World Tour. He earned his first senior win in October 2007 and has won at least once every year since then, with this his second win of 2023.

"Just right now, I just feel relieved and grateful and thankful for everybody that's been on my team and helping me through these years, " Langer said. "Like we said, for a German kid from a village of 800 people and starting as a caddie to do what I've done, it takes a lot of people to do that, not just one."

Langer also won Chubb Classic titles in 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2022.

  photo  AP file photo by Lynne Sladky / Lydia Ko ended her golfing year in 2022 with a victory, and she began 2023 with another triumph Sunday.

No. 1 and plays like it

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia — Lydia Ko began her new golfing year the same way she ended 2022: with a big win and a big check.

The top-ranked player in women's golf, Ko closed with a 4-under 68 to finish at 21-under 267 and win the Aramco Saudi Ladies International. It's the sixth Ladies European Tour victory for the 25-year-old New Zealander.

Ko held off India's Aditi Ashok — the 24-year-old also had a 68 to finish a stroke back and alone in second — to capture the richest prize among regular events on this tour. She won $750,000 from the $5 million prize fund at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.

In late November, Ko won the LPGA's season-ending CME Group Tour Championship and $2 million, the richest payoff in women's golf, which elevated her to No. 1 in the world.

She got married in December, skipped the LPGA Tour's season opener in Florida last month, then showed she still was in top-ranked form by posting her 26th career victory worldwide.

After opening with a 64, she stepped back with a 69 on Friday but regained position with Saturday's 66.

"I'm playing with the world's best. The field this week was really good, so I knew it was going to be a challenge," Ko said. "The first one of the year, it's really hard because you don't have anything to base yourself off.

"You don't know if you're going to play well or bad. But the start definitely helped, and I think I stayed really patient and I was not as nervous as I thought I would be, which is definitely good."

Lilia Vu, who had a one-shot lead going into the final round, slipped to a 71 and shared third with fellow American player Lexi Thompson (66) and Belgium's Manon De Roey (63).

Olesen finishes strong

CHONBURI, Thailand — The 54-hole leader of the DP World Tour's Thailand Classic became the winner Sunday at Amata Spring Country Club without much in the way of drama.

As far as Thorbjorn Olesen is concerned, that was more than fine.

The 33-year-old from Denmark earned his seventh victory on the Europe-based circuit, closing with a bogey-free 6-under 66 to finish at 24-under 264 and win by four shots.

Olesen started the final round two shots ahead of countryman Nicolai Hojgaard and Germany's Yannik Paul of Germany, and he never let them — or anyone else — threaten him as he mostly cruised through the last 18 holes.

After two spectacular birdies on the 13th and 14th, Olesen never looked back. He had six birdies in all during the final round, splitting them equally between the front and back nines, though he lamented not capitalizing chances for even more.

"It was a bonus to make birdies on two tough holes," he said of the back-to-back pickups. "It made me feel a little more comfortable. I felt steady and felt in control."

Olesen's first win in Asia is also his first anywhere since the British Masters last May, and his success will return him to the top 100 in the next edition of the Official World Golf Ranking.

Paul had five birdies and one bogey for a 68 as he finished second, and fellow German player Alexander Knappe made seven birdies on the back nine for a 67 to finish at 18 under, tying Dutch golfer Joost Luiten (69) for third.

Hojgaard (71) was another stroke back, alongside Spain's Rafael Cabrera Bello (68) and France's Antoine Rozner (66).

Former Jacket wins again

Georgia Tech alumnus Andy Ogletree closed with a 1-over 73 to finish at 7-under 281 and win the International Series Qatar tournament by three shots over Thailand's Gunn Charoenkul (68).

Ogletree won $450,000 for his second title on the Asian Tour's International Series, which is funded by LIV Golf. The first was a four-stroke triumph in November in Egypt, where he finished 23 under par.

The 24-year-old from Mississippi won the 2019 U.S. Amateur and was the low amateur at the Masters the following year, when he tied for 34th.