Peter Casey – USA TODAY Sports. Pictured (from left): Justin Rose and Jon Rahm.
- Europe’s two highest-ranked players, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose, are skipping the European Tour’s flagship event.
- Given their pedigree, Rahm and Rose will be difficult to fade.
- However, golf is ultimately a mental pursuit, and Rahm and Rose may be distracted at Fort Worth.
Hey, did you notice all those American-born golfers who skipped the recent Players Championship to compete in the European Tour’s Rocco Forte Sicilian Open instead? No? Oh, that’s right — because it didn’t happen.
In fact, the very idea that a U.S. player would eschew the PGA Tour’s flagship event to play a middling tourney in Europe — even if they were dual members of that circuit — is laughable, bordering on sinful. No player would give up the prestige of playing in such a big tournament — or perhaps more importantly, none would give up the world ranking points and potential huge cash prizes attached to it.
There is a reason, though, which extends beyond personal glory. There’d be a sense that skipping the biggest tournament of the home tour’s season is akin to a swift kick in the teeth, as if a player is publicly trying to embarrass the circuit on which he plays.
All of which leaves one question unanswered: Why isn’t it a bigger deal that Europe’s two highest-ranked players are skipping the European Tour’s flagship event this week?
Check that. Jon Rahm and Justin Rose aren’t just skipping the BMW PGA Championship — they’re skipping it to play in the Fort Worth Invitational on the PGA Tour.
This is the professional golf equivalent of leaving your fiancée at the altar … then marrying her sister the same day.
My guess is that the lack of outrage is born from the fact that this isn’t exactly anything new.
Rahm has now foregone the festivities at Wentworth for two years running. Sergio Garcia has played only twice in the past two decades. Ian Poulter skipped it for years because he hated the course setup.
Even so, this is a proverbial triple-bogey in an otherwise strong event with a stellar field.
Rahm is currently No. 4 in world ranking; Rose is No. 5. Along with players such as Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson, Rahm and Rose will be the main cogs for their side at the Ryder Cup later this year. Rahm often speaks about what his home country of Spain means to him. Rose takes such joy in his English patriotism that he might only remove his Olympic gold medal to play golf.
What does this mean for those of us trying to prognosticate their possibilities at Colonial this week? It could mean a full fade — or at least a partial one.
Look, you won’t cash many tickets fading two of the world’s top five players on a consistent basis. Rahm finished runner-up at this tournament last year, and Rose owns the methodical type of tee-to-green game that should work wonders on this track, even if he hasn’t played here since 2010.
But it’s hard to imagine each player won’t have his heart and mind on the proceedings across the pond this week. Even if both are fully invested in the task at hand, there just might be an underlying sense that they made a poor decision that could be gnawing at them even inside the ropes.
Again, this isn’t an easy fade. You can view the recent exploits of Rahm and Rose, pore over the analytics and easily convert their play into title contentions this week.
Sometimes, though, the game is about more than what the data can tell us. Golf is ultimately a mental pursuit, more than anything.
During a tough week to find many fades, this might just be enough to steer clear of two of the field’s better players.