Jon Rahm: Misses out on Player of the Year; will it fuel his Fortinet Championship victory bid?

Covid and the PGA TOUR’s quirky rules contributed to Jon Rahm missing out on the 2020/21 Player of the Year vote, might the field feel the force of his indignation this week?

News that Patrick Cantlay has won the player vote for the PGA Tour's Player of the Year title has prompted predictable debate that, in effect, is an overhang from the conclusion to the FedExCup Playoffs.

And also from the conclusion to the Memorial Tournament in June.

Because in the latter Jon Rahm left the 18th green at the end of the third round feeling pretty confident about completing a successful defence of his title, holding a six shot lead on the field.

However, within seconds of his last putt dropping he was informed that he had tested positive for Covid and would have to withdraw.

Patrick Cantlay, previously needing something outrageous to win, was suddenly tied for the lead with Collin Morikawa and he would emerged the impressive champion, his second triumph of the season.

Rahm was not without consolation: he sat out his isolation and then felt that "karma" helped him win a first Major in his next start at the US Open.

But when Cantlay added a third victory in the penultimate event of the season it vaulted him ahead of Rahm and suddenly the impact of that turnaround at Muirfield Village held much greater importance.

Rahm entered the Tour Championship two blows behind Cantlay due to the staggered starting strokes and, although he ended the week the join low-scorer, Cantlay won the title, with it the FedExCup and now the membership have voted him top dog for the season.

Cue, debate.

The case for Rahm is that he not only had that first Covid test wrench one victory from his hands, he also had another positive test which stopped him competing at the Olympics and the WGC St Jude.

There are also these numbers:

And these:

The case for Cantlay is that he won four times when no-one else won more than twice all year.

The case against that is that one win came courtesy of Rahm's withdrawal and another after he started the week two shots clear.

The flip of that is that everyone knows Rahm is the undisputed World No. 1, Cantlay probably got a few nods because his story is an exceptionally fine one: he has recovered from a car crash that killed his friend and left himself badly injured.

That he dispatched Bryson DeChambeau with a display of icy cool nerve in the penultimate event of the season almost certainly added an element of recency bias.

And being blunt, Rahm won once all season.

On the one hand, it's a pity the delicate PGA Tour keeps the voting numbers out of the public domain. It would be nice to see if it was close.

On the other, the difficulty of the decision would not necessarily be reflected in those numbers. It would be neat if it has been something like 51-49 in Cantlay's favour, but it could also have been 100-0 in his favour and every single one of those voters might have tossed and turned in their sleep before voting Cantlay.

Perhaps the biggest mystery is why anyone cares because who remembers who wins the Player of the Year? Surely, if anyone, with any degree of certainty (rather than guesswork) knows who won in 2017 they are wasting their memory.

There might, however, be something to be gained because sportsmen and women are prickly by nature.

Billy Horschel is the latest example of that, admitting after winning the BMW PGA Championship that it was not so much that Steve Stricker didn't pick him for the Ryder Cup team which irked, but: "I didn't get that phone call. I was a little upset. It gave me a little fire in my butt."

We're used to the idea of stoking the fire in the belly, one in the butt is a new one.

But the vindaloo effect was real and he was not the first, nor is he likely to be the last, golfer fuelled by a metaphorical slap in the face.

Might Rahm be next?

Let's take a closer look.

Rahm's odds this week

Rahm in the calendar year

18 starts

13 top 10s

7 top fives

1 win

Footnote: he was also the joint low-scorer in the Tour Championship

Rahm on Poa Annua greens in California

14 starts

9 top 10s

7 top fives

2 wins

READ MORE: Padraig Harrington: "Intuition matters, otherwise we'd have Artificial Intelligence pick the team."

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