Who is a future World No. 1? Jon Rahm has a prediction

This episode of GOLF’s Subpar Podcast was recorded in November, prior to Jon Rahm signing with LIV Golf. For more on Rahm’s departure for LIV, click here.

Jon Rahm has a prediction, but no, it shouldn’t surprise you. Or anyone who has watched golf over the past year, for that matter.

Rahm was the guest on the most recent episode of GOLF’s Subpar Podcast, and one of the questions he was asked was which player, who has not already occupied the spot, will be the next World No. 1?

He paused for a second, thinking. Then he came up with an answer: his Ryder Cup teammate.

Viktor Hovland,” Rahm said. “Viktor should be, in my mind, the one that’s ahead. There’s a lot of players with potential to do it, but based on his progression the last few years I think he’d be the clear one.

“Anybody seeing this , and as a fan of Viktor, they would understand.”

Viktor Hovland’s 2023 was a lifetime in the making
By: James Colgan

It’s hard to argue with Rahm.

After a winless 2022 season on the PGA Tour (he won the Hero World Challenge, an unofficial event), Hovland won three times in 2023, and they were all big ones — the Memorial, the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship. He’s now ranked 4th in the world, behind only Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and Rahm. (For what it’s worth, every player ranked 4th to 14th in the current OWGR has yet to get to No. 1, a group that consists of Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Max Homa, Matt Fitzpatrick and Collin Morikawa.)

Hovland’s late-season surge wasn’t limited to the States, either. He was crucial in Europe’s 16.5-11.5 Ryder Cup win, finishing with a 3–1–1 record and accumulating 3.5 points. Hovland even teamed with Ryder Cup rookie Ludvig Aberg for an historic 9-and-7 thumping of Brooks Koepka and Scottie Scheffler in Saturday foursomes.

Hovland also performed better than ever in the majors in 2023. He had two top-10 finishes and nothing worse than T13. He’s had three top 10s in his last five major starts overall after he failed to notch one in his first nine major starts as a pro.

A key difference has been Hovland’s work around the greens. While he was 8th in Strokes Gained and fifth in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-green last season, he was 88th in Strokes Gained: Around the Green. That number doesn’t pop off the screen, but it’s a major improvement from the previous year, in which he ranked 191st out of 193. He made a big jump in scrambling, too, improving from 99th in 2022 to 48th in 2023.

“Throughout the year I feel like obviously short game has improved massively, course management has been a big deal, I’m not short-siding myself as much as I used to, and just handling adversity a lot better because I believe in my game and if I hit one bad shot or make one mistake it’s not the end of the world,” Hovland said after he won the Tour Championship in August. “I keep pressing on, I keep making birdies, and suddenly we’re back in it again. Before, it felt like, man, I have to not give up any shots to shoot a good round of golf. Whereas now that’s not true anymore. I can hit one bad and I can get up and down and move on and birdie the next three and then suddenly we’re right there.

“So I would say those three things have been just a huge improvement this year.”

For more from Rahm, including his thoughts on Europe’s Ryder Cup win, a key difference-maker in the team room and more, check out the video below.

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