Last year on May 1, Jon Rahm halted a “drought” to win the Mexico Open. It’s a little bit insane to call it a drought unless you’re operating by some very high standards. In June of the previous year, he won the U.S. Open, so it hadn’t even been a year since his last American victory. Bbut for the Rahm we know today, it counts as a rare down period in a career that is chock-full of winning.
In Mexico, though, he kicked off a 365-day hot streak that is hard to believe when you consider it in full. It includes, of course, a Masters victory this month, and while the green jacket is the obvious headline, it’s also just the tip of the winning iceberg. The man racked up seven total wins in 24 events, had 15 top-10s and missed zero cuts (he withdrew from the Players Championship earlier this year with illness while being well within the cutline).
Despite intense competition, Rahm rose to World No. 1. The only real blemish is that he somehow couldn’t crack the top 10 in the three post-Mexico majors last year, which he remedied in brilliant fashion at Augusta.
So how good was this stretch? As we put it into context, we can spare you the biggest suspense: As you might have guessed, it’s not the greatest of all-time. In terms of wins, Tiger Woods blows away the competition; he had 11 wins in a 365-day stretch between June ’99 and ’00, and 12 between Oct. ’99 and ’00. There were also bunches of majors in that stretch, and, well, you get the point—Tiger is Tiger. Tiger of ’99 and ’00 exists somewhere in the clouds, and everybody else is everybody else. (Although, in the “everybody else” category, Wikpedia tells us there have been 14 instances of players winning eight or more PGA Tour events in a calendar year, led by Byron Nelson capturing 18 in 1945. Some of these records were done in an era of far less parity, and Tiger and Vijay Singh are the only players to do it post-1975. But this just cements the point that Rahm isn’t breaking any win records.)
What’s more interesting is that by Strokes Gained, Rahm wasn’t even the best player of the past 12 months! That honor goes to Rory McIlroy, who, according to Data Golf, averaged 2.66 strokes gained over the field in 22 events in that span, while Rahm was just behind at 2.62. McIlroy had four wins in that same stretch, including the Tour Championship (where he won both the actual tournament and the lowest 72-hole score), but couldn’t capture any majors. If nothing else, this highlights just how good Rahm is at winning; seven wins in 15 top-10s means that when he was anywhere close to the lead, he managed to ring the bell about half the time, while McIlroy had the exactly same number of top-10s—15—but won at about half of Rahm’s rate.
In that same 12-month span, the top six in SG was rounded out by Scottie Scheffler (2.44), Xander Schauffele (2.34), Patrick Cantlay (2.30), and Tony Finau (2.27), with everyone else below 2.0. Combined, those four had eight wins between them.
Breaking it down to more granular numbers in the Strokes Gained field, Rahm is no less impressive. Here’s how he ranked over the last 365 days in all the major categories against the rest of the world top 150:
Putting Rahm was fifth, behind Taylor Montgomery, Maverick McNealy, Sam Burns, and Cam Smith.
Around the Green: This is definitely the least important and most variable of the SG stats, but here, Rahm was a solid 36th.
Approach: Rick Gehman, a Golf Digest contributor and the founder of RickRunGood.com, and I found that approach correlates best to winning of any stat, so it might be a little surprising that while Scheffler is first, Schauffele is second, and Rory is 10th, Rahm was all the way down in 18th here. Still very good, but maybe lower than expected.
Off the tee: Rahm finished seventh here, though we can raise that up to sixth when we see that Gordon Sargent finished first with just a single event. McIlroy and Scheffler were 1-2 by this metric.
Tee to green: Here, it goes Scheffler, McIlroy, Finau, Schauffele, Rahm, which is a murderer’s row you’d expect from a stat that is basically “anything but putting.”
And from that last ranking, we can start to see a glimmer of Rahm’s statistical greatness; He’s neck-and-neck with the best players in the world before they reach the green, but he’s a better putter (fourth) than any of them. That’s a lethal combo.
In the end, when we contextualize the incredible year Rahm has had, we’re able to place it exactly where it is—spectacular, but not quite historical. He does everything well, has no weaknesses, and most of all, as we all learned yet again at Augusta, he has a nose for the win.
When professional golf is ridiculously competitive, and five to 10 players routinely stand out above the rest, it becomes a game of small margins. What Rahm has shown, and what the numbers confirm, is that where there’s an advantage to be eked out, he’s on the case, and that’s how he positions himself above even McIlroy, Scheffler, and the other greats of the game.