ROCHESTER – A couple of good beatings from Jon Rahm will provide Scottie Scheffler with some added motivation this week at a PGA Championship that could herald the start of a new Major rivalry.
Golf, like every sport, is quick to latch onto any intriguing rivalry and a Rahm v Scheffler one may still be in the nascent phase but possesses all the necessary ingredients.
There will be 156 golfers teeing off at Oak Hill on Thursday but world No. 1 Rahm and No. 2 Scheffler have separated themselves from the pack.
Rahm, a four-time winner this season including at April’s Masters, is the hottest player on the planet but Scheffler is not far behind having finished no worse than 12th in his last 13 starts, a run that includes two wins.
“That’s a great stretch of golf,” conceded Scheffler.
“When I show up to a tournament I expect to do my best and try and play well. Most importantly, I just try and have a good attitude and go out there and play.”
The quality of their play is reflected in the world rankings.
The fiery Spaniard and the chilled American have swapped the No. 1 spot almost every month in 2023 and it will be up for grabs again in Rochester.
The tug-of-war started in July 2021 with the Rahm on top before Scheffler snatched it in March 2022.
Rory McIlroy got in the mix taking over top spot that October before Scheffler reclaimed it on Feb 12, 2023.
A week later Rahm was back on top with Scheffler again nudging him from his perch in March.
The Spaniard grabbed it back in April and grimly held on.
“I wouldn’t say Jon doesn’t motivate me,” Scheffler added. “I think any time you see guys playing really good golf, you want to be doing the same thing.
“Jon just beating the crap out of me at a couple different tournaments this year, it’s always motivating when you don’t do what you want to do, and that’s usually trying to win the tournament.”
If a rivalry is to evolve into something special it needs to be played out on that sport’s biggest stage – the Majors.
Scheffler, Masters champion in 2022 and Rahm, Green Jacket winner this April, have played some of their best golf at the Majors but have not yet had that defining moment.
Since 2020, Scheffler has contested 11 Majors and finished in the top 10 seven times. Over the same period Rahm has played 12 with six top 10s, including a US Open win in 2021.
Always a thoughtful character on tour, Rahm referred to a quote attributed to Arnold Palmer – “The road to success is always under construction” – and said it is better for him not to enjoy things like the Masters for too long if he wants to win more Majors.
“Obviously it’s a big deal when you get to win (a Major),” he said.
“Try to enjoy it as much as possible. But at the end of the day this is our job. You’re here to perform, so (I’m) trying to focus on that, as well.” REUTERS, AFP