The Official World Golf Ranking's formula might say that Rory McIlroy is still the No. 1 player in the world, but there's little question as to who has been the best player on the course during the past four months.
Spain's Jon Rahm won again on Sunday at the American Express in La Quinta, California. It was his second straight victory and fourth win in his past six worldwide starts (he tied for second at the BMW PGA Championship in September and tied for fourth at the CJ Cup at South Carolina in October). In fact, Rahm has won each of his past three worldwide starts in official events -- DP World Tour Championship, Sentry Tournament of Champions and the American Express.
Somehow, Rahm's latest victory will move him only from fourth to third in the world rankings. Rahm has expressed his frustration that under the new OWGR formula, his wins at the limited-fields Sentry Tournament of Champions and DP World Tour Championship in November don't carry as much weight as his others.
Regardless, if Rahm keeps his torrid pace, he's going to catch McIlroy soon.
"In my mind, I feel like I can get a lot better," Rahm said. "I feel like that's the mentality I should have. Again, I work very hard to do what I do. I could find mistakes in every single round I've played. Very few times I would say I've played a flawless round."
What's even scarier for Rahm's opponents is that the PGA Tour's next stop is the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, where he became the first Spanish player to win the U.S. Open in 2021.
Here's what happened in professional golf this weekend:
What happened on the PGA Tour
The American Express
Where: LaQuinta Country Club, LaQuinta, California
Winner: Jon Rahm
Why he won: Rahm, the hottest player on the planet, got all he wanted from PGA Tour rookie Davis Thompson, who was right in it until his putt on the par-3 17th inexplicably hit the flagstick and lipped out. On the par-4 18th, Thompson mishit his approach shot, which ended up over the green. Rahm took the lead with a birdie on the 16th and carded pars on the last two holes to finish 27 under, which was 1 stroke better than Thompson.
The putts weren't falling like they had been in the first three rounds for Rahm, but he did enough to pick up his second straight victory. Rahm is a staggering 54 under in eight rounds since the start of 2023. According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, it was his third career finish at 27 under or better, which is the most in PGA Tour history.
"Body's been feeling great," Rahm said. "My swing's been feeling really, really good and it shows, right? Even when I'm saying I may not be as comfortable as I would like, I'm shooting 64s because everything is just firing when it needs to. I'm, in a weird way, glad that today went the way it went. I've enjoyed some runaway victories, I've enjoyed some comebacks, but today was certainly a struggle."
Rahm tied the late Seve Ballesteros for second-most victories by a Spanish player on the PGA Tour with nine; Sergio Garcia has 11. Rahm moved to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings for the first time in his career.
What happened on the LPGA Tour
Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions
Where: Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, Orlando, Florida
Winner: Brooke Henderson
Why she won: A recent equipment change didn't slow down Henderson, who picked up her 13th career LPGA victory with a wire-to-wire win at Lake Nona. She carded a 2-under 70 on Sunday to defeat England's Charley Hull and Sweden's Maja Stark by 2 strokes. Nelly Korda shot even par on Sunday and finished fourth at 11 under.
The Canadian, who switched to TaylorMade prior to the season, hit 71% of fairways and 80% of greens in regulation over her four rounds. She was 9 under on the par-5s. She had 19 birdies. Henderson has produced 16 consecutive rounds of par or better at the TOC and has just three bogeys in her past 108 holes at Lake Nona. More importantly, the back troubles that slowed her down at the end of last season weren't an issue. She could be in store for a very big season.
Starting the season with a win! 🏆— LPGA (@LPGA) January 22, 2023
Brooke Henderson wins the 2023 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions! 👏 pic.twitter.com/SvKRSJnjTZ
Henderson said she didn't finalize which clubs were going to be in her bag until about a week ago. She delofted her new irons but was very comfortable with a new putter.
"Honestly, I think all parts of the game were working really well this week, which that doesn't always happen, so it was really nice to benefit from that and be able to hoist this trophy," Henderson said. "Off the tee [on Sunday], maybe the driver wasn't as good as the rest of the week, but it was still very consistent. Ballstriking I gave myself a lot of good birdie looks, and especially the first three days made a lot of putts.
"Yeah, really can't complain about anything. I'm really happy I made the switch to TaylorMade, and hopefully the success just continues."
Thompson's near miss
Thompson, a former University of Georgia star, will probably be thinking about his unfortunate break on the 17th hole on Sunday for a while. On Jan. 1, 2019, a new USGA rule took effect that allows players to leave the pin in the cup on putts. Before that, hitting the flagstick with a ball from on the green resulted in a 2-stroke penalty. The rule change was implemented with the hope of speeding up play.
Thompson said he usually leaves the pin in on long putts.
It's a cruel game.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 22, 2023
Davis Thompson was THIS close to tying the lead on 17 @TheAmExGolf. pic.twitter.com/Ygj9MURRvJ
"I feel like it helps me with my speed," Thompson said. "I'll probably play the 'what if' game in my head for a long time, unfortunately. I had a great read. I probably hit it too firm. If it had great speed it would have just hit the flag and dropped, but we'll never know. I'm proud of myself for this week."
It was a remarkable performance for Thompson, who was making only his 20th PGA Tour career start. Thompson twice reached No. 1 in the World Golf Amateur Ranking and was SEC Player of the Year in 2021. His father, Todd, was a former Georgia team captain and is the executive director of the Southeastern Junior Golf Tour and tournament director of the RSM Classic at Sea Island, Georgia.
Thompson, 23, won once on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2022 and earned his PGA Tour card by finishing 16th on the season-long points list. He earned $872,000 for his second-place finish on Sunday.
"I had a great week," Thompson said. "Competing against the best in the world is my dream and I did that today and proved that I can hang with them. It was a lot of fun. A lot of nerves and I hit a lot of quality golf shots under pressure, which was really cool."
Moving up and down
Players who made moves in the right direction this week
Kirk, another former Georgia player, posted a front-nine 29 on Sunday and finished 8-under 64 to tie for third. He was solo third in his last start at the Sony Open in Hawaii. It's the first time he has recorded back-to-back top-fives since 2014.
A late double bogey on the par-3 17th cost him some money, but the rookie from UNLV keeps churning out top-10 finishes. It was his eighth top-15 finish in his first nine starts this season.
Erik van Rooyen
The South African player's 2021-22 season was derailed by injuries, and then he withdrew from the Houston Open in November after an opening-round 75. On Sunday, he fired a 10-under 62, matching his lowest round on tour. He tied for sixth at 23 under.
Shelton qualified for the FedEx Cup playoffs as a rookie in 2019-20 but lost his card the next season when he made just 11 of 32 cuts. A tie for sixth at the American Express should give him loads of confidence.
Players who made moves in the wrong direction this week
The 2009 U.S. Open missed the cut, but not before setting Twitter ablaze with a, well, unusual putting stroke on a 3-footer on Thursday.
Lucas' new backstroke (or lack thereof) is...unique. pic.twitter.com/v92etmSx14— Sam Harrop (@sam_golf) January 19, 2023
Cantlay had a chance to claim world No. 1 by winning the American Express, but he was never in contention and tied for 26th at 18 under.
Fowler, whose last PGA Tour victory came nearly four years ago, has a new swing. Unfortunately, the results this weekend were familiar. He tied for 54th at 13 under.
Best of the week
In his 33rd career start on tour, Dylan Wu had a nice par save on No. 18 on Saturday to card an 11-under 61, which tied the Nicklaus Tournament Course record (also set by Will Zalatoris last year). Wu's previous low was an 8-under 64 in the 2022 Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
Round of the day on Moving Day 👏 @Dylan_Wu59 ties @WillZalatoris' course record on the Nicklaus Tournament Course with a 61 @TheAmexGolf. pic.twitter.com/tncZ7v1KqH— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 21, 2023
What bad back? Xander Schauffele's albatross on the fifth hole on Sunday at the American Express was the first on the PGA Tour since Stephan Jaeger had one during the final round of the 2022 John Deere Classic.
ALBATROSS FOR XANDER!@XSchauffele holes out from 225 yards to move to 18-under @TheAmexGolf 🔥 pic.twitter.com/TLGu90jdIN— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 22, 2023
France's Victor Perez made this shot out of a bunker on No. 17 in Abu Dhabi on Sunday to help pick up the biggest victory of his career. He became the first player from France to win a Rolex Series event and become a legitimate contender for a spot on the European team for the Ryder Cup.
Victor Perez's incredible bunker shot today with French commentary 🇫🇷😂— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) January 22, 2023
🎤 via @GolfCanalPlus #ADGolfChamps | #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/Ji5wi0VhKf
Jason Day sank this bomb en route to carding a 5-under 67 Sunday to finish tied for 18th at the American Express.
Perfect speed, perfect putt 💯 @JDayGolf drains it from distance @TheAmexGolf. pic.twitter.com/gpesLKFeha— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 22, 2023
The golf gods taketh. The golf gods giveth. South Korea's Seonghyeon Kim missed the cut after this roller coaster of emotions in Friday's second round.
The craziest back-to-back holes you've ever seen 😳 pic.twitter.com/qZ1psGsgmc— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 21, 2023
More photos emerged from Justin Thomas' wedding in Franklin, Tennessee, in November, when he married longtime girlfriend Jillian Wisniewski. There was reportedly a no-phone policy at the ceremony, so there weren't many photos available until Sunday.
NBC Today contributor Jason Kennedy, a close friend of the couple's, officiated the wedding and published a few photos to his Instagram account.
Best social media of the weekend
Something wrong, Tyrrell?#GolfPsycho pic.twitter.com/b5aLorSLnE— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) January 20, 2023
Doing the Carlton
Chip in for eagle ✅— LPGA (@LPGA) January 19, 2023
Dance with @alfonso_ribeiro ✅ @daniellekang | #HGVLPGA pic.twitter.com/xxz961POx0
Be like Tiger
The only way to play as me, and my friends, is in PGA TOUR 2K23, available now. #team2k pic.twitter.com/5lwCJ73o4v— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) January 20, 2023
One Tee Hill
💀💀💀💀💀— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) January 18, 2023
.@sacoomba you crazy for this onepic.twitter.com/DCG20VvE1A
Happy 83rd birthday to the Golden Bear
A true legend of the game.— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) January 21, 2023
Happy 83rd birthday to @jacknicklaus! 🥳 pic.twitter.com/IeJhgS8i99