Arnold Palmer Invitational: Jon Rahm ready to defend No. 1 ranking ... again

Not to take away from Chris Kirk’s win, but last week felt like a bit of a bye week on the PGA Tour.

This week in Orlando, however, the stars are back for one last outing before The Players Championship.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of The Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Tournament Basics

Arnold Palmer Invitational

March 2-5

Bay Hill Club & Lodge | Orlando, Florida

Par 72 | 7,466 yards

Purse: $20 million/$3.6 million

FedExCup points for winner: 550

Betting favorite, via BetMGM: Jon Rahm (+650)

Last time out: Scottie Scheffler picks up second win

Scheffler backed up his first career win quickly last spring. Just weeks after his inaugural win in Phoenix, he held on to take a 1-shot win over Billy Horschel, Tyrrell Hatton and Viktor Hovland last year. Scheffler was one of just 10 players to finish the event under par, and he had one of the best final rounds, despite posting only an even-par 72.

No. 1 up for grabs … again

Once again, Scheffler, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy will be in a three-way battle for the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

The trio are all in the field this week for the designated event in Florida, and all have a path to retain or retake the top ranking.

Rahm retook that spot after his win two weeks ago at the Genesis Invitational, which marked his fifth win in nine international starts.

“There's a lot of satisfaction that comes to it when you get to be No. 1 when the other players have been playing great golf as well,” Rahm said Tuesday. “Scottie had a great year last year, Rory had a great year last year, and then toward the end of the year, I kind of picked up. And even with Scottie winning at Phoenix, I was able to get to No. 1 right after.

“So there's a lot of satisfaction that comes to it. I mean, if you're going to do it in any way, you want to get to No. 1 by winning.”

It’s not just those three in the race, however.

There are 43 players ranked inside the top 50 in the OWGR in the field this week. Many are set to compete in The Players Championship next week, too. Although Rahm, Scheffler and McIlroy are the only ones who could make a run at No. 1, McIlroy knows plenty of others are within striking distance.

“The run that Rahmbo has been on has been phenomenal. Obviously, what Scottie did last year. I've had a nice little run over the last sort of 12 months,” McIlroy said Wednesday. “But like everyone knows, there's so much parity in our game right now that any given week, any given tournament, someone can pop up and sort of put their hand up and claim to be one of the best players in the world.

“So I'm just happy to be in that conversation, and I just need to keep my head down and keep playing well.”

Jon Rahm is back in the field this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Jon Rahm is back in the field this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

More changes coming to the PGA Tour

The Tour announced several changes to its schedule for the 2024 season Wednesday, including tweaks to its designated events.

The Tour will hold eight designated events that feature a smaller field and no cuts. It’s not yet clear which tournaments will be considered designated or what the revamped 2024 schedule will look like.

“There’s ways to play into it. It’s trying to get the top guys versus the hot guys, right?” McIlroy said Wednesday. “I think that creates a really compelling product, but a way that you don’t have to wait an entire year for your good play to then get an opportunity. That opportunity presents itself straightaway.

“You play well for two or three weeks, you’re in a designated event. You know then if you keep playing well, you stay in them."

What about the Puerto Rico Open?

The battle at Arnold Palmer's golf course isn’t the only one on Tour this week.

A second tournament is being held at the Grand Reserve Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. The tournament features a $3.8 million purse and 300 FedExCup points on the line.

Ryan Brehm completely ran away with the event last year, one he needed to keep his Tour status. Brehm flew ahead and took a 6-shot win after he birdied five of his first 11 holes of the day. It marked the first win of his career and gave the 36-year-old a two-year exemption on Tour. Brehm won’t be in Puerto Rico to defend his title this year, however, as he’s playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational instead.

Bill Haas, Harry Higgs, Akshay Bhatia, Rafael Campos and Boo Weekley are among the biggest names playing this week in Puerto Rico.