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Jon Rahm eyes return to top of world rankings this week at WM Phoenix Open

Jon Rahm hits from the first tee during the first round of the WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on Thursday.
 CHERYL EVANS/the republic
Feb 10, 2022; Scottsdale, AZ, USA;  Jon Rahm hits from the 1st tee box during Round 1 of the WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. Mandatory Credit: Cheryl Evans-Arizona Republic

Golf Wm Phoenix Open Day 1
Jon Rahm hits from the first tee during the first round of the WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on Thursday. CHERYL EVANS/the republic Feb 10, 2022; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Jon Rahm hits from the 1st tee box during Round 1 of the WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. Mandatory Credit: Cheryl Evans-Arizona Republic Golf Wm Phoenix Open Day 1

Another week, another chance for Jon Rahm to regain the title of World No. 1 by leapfrogging Scottie Scheffler and knocking Rory McIlroy from the top of the mountain.

All Rahm needs to do is win the WM Phoenix Open, have McIlroy finish worse than a three-way tie for second or finish alone in second and have McIlroy finish worse than 47th and Scheffler not defend his title.

Rahm has been adamant that he couldn’t care less about his ranking these days, but that wasn’t always the case. The first time meant something to him, in more ways than one.

During his Tuesday pre-tournament news conference at TPC Scottsdale, Rahm was asked whether he had any souvenir from reaching No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, which he achieved on July 19, 2020.

“I do. His name is Kepa. He’s almost two years old,” Rahm said of his first-born son. “Sorry, Kelley, but yeah. She can tell you the story more than me. We suspect that it was that night.”

Must have been quite the celebration.

Rahm enters this week riding a wave of momentum. The Scottsdale resident and Arizona State alum is making his eighth career start at his hometown event, recording four top 10s at TPC Scottsdale and has finished T-16 or better in all of them.

“I’m plenty familiar with desert golf. It’s just a place that I’m comfortable. It’s also a course that at first glance it might seem easier than what the scoring usually is,” he said. “With the scoring conditions getting as hard as they get on the weekend with the firm greens and fast, ball-striking obviously is a premium. So I think that’s always given me a chance to stay up there.”

Feb 9, 2022; Scottsdale, AZ, USA;  Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, left, chats with pro golfer Jon Rahm during the WM Phoenix Open Annexus Pro-Am at TPC Scottsdale.
Feb 9, 2022; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, left, chats with pro golfer Jon Rahm during the WM Phoenix Open Annexus Pro-Am at TPC Scottsdale.

As well as Rahm has performed at TPC Scottsdale, his best showing was in his tournament debut in 2015 as an amateur.

“Even then, I had a great back nine to put myself in fifth place,” Rahm said.

That Rahm isn’t already No. 1 is mystifying to him considering he has won four of his last seven starts worldwide. He had a chance at the Farmers Insurance Open two weeks ago to win his third straight start but closed in 2-over 74 and finished T-7. Rahm isn’t one to make excuses, but sources say he was sick, which is about the only thing to slow him down of late, and he noted both of his kids were sick last week and he was under the weather too.

Tipping point: Field sizes a coming flashpoint on PGA Tour; WM Phoenix Open shows why

As one of the newly minted designated tournaments for this season with a $20 million purse, the Phoenix Open has attracted a star-studded field. McIlroy, Scheffler and eight of the current top 10 are scheduled to compete.  The “Greatest Show on Grass” isn’t for everybody, but Rahm has embraced the largest outdoor cocktail party in sports. (With apologies to the Georgia-Florida game, but it has been supplanted for that title.)

“I think either you love it or hate it. There’s no in between. With my case, I love it. I want to come every year,” he said, noting that the fans have “gotten exponentially louder and louder.”

Last year, Rahm was playing with Justin Thomas when he chipped in at the par-3 16th, and the crowd lost its mind.

“I didn’t want to see the water bottle coming straight for my head from the third story, but I did see it,” he said.

Winning his hometown event, the tournament where he first burst on the scene in 2015 while still attending ASU, would be a thrill — and he wouldn’t mind if reclaiming the title of World No. 1 coincided with it.

“It’s something special,” he said of the Phoenix Open. “I was able to do it in (his native) Spain and haven’t been able to do it here, so I want to show up for myself and for the people that are here supporting me.”

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Jon Rahm eyes return to top of world rankings this week at Phoenix Open