Rundown Rahm has fight on his hands to make the weekend at the Fortinet Championship

The World No. 1 carded a level-par 72 that left him seven shots behind the first round pace-setter Chez Reavie at the Silverado Resort.

For most of us the sight of World No. 1 Jon Rahm lingering outside the top 100 is something of a surprise.

For European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, you suspect it was something of an unpleasant bolt from the blue.

For Rahm, however, it was not entirely unexpected.

After the Spaniard carded a level-par lap of 72 to lie T104th in the first round of the Fortinet Championship he was as vivid as he felt he could be in explaining that he was suffering from a stomach virus, was on the mend, and still content that his pre-Ryder Cup plan is the right course of action.

"I didn't sleep good Monday night," he explained. "On Tuesday I played nine holes, but I wasn't feeling great, very tired. Went to sleep that night and woke up feeling terrible."

At which point, the noble Rahm did his best not to offend American sensibilities.

"My stomach just wasn't agreeing with me," he said. "It's not like I couldn't have played the pro-am, but I would have had too many unnecessary stops, let's just say it that way.

"I've heard there's a stomach virus going around, but my best guest is just a little run down from the season."

Harrington might prefer that it's a stomach virus; being rundown doesn't go away so quickly. The better news is that the 26-year-old isn't feeling sorry for himself.

"I think a lot of people out there have played with worse," he said. "Tiger Woods won a US Open with a broken knee, so I'm fine. A good meal tonight, a good night's sleep and I'll be okay."

Harrington will be further appeased that Rahm's post-round assessment of his golf was far from disastrous.

"Not my best ball-striking day, probably a little tight from having to be in bed for so long yesterday," he admitted. "Yet even with how I felt, I played a little bit better than I thought I was going to, to be honest.

"Started great, too bad I couldn't capitalize on some of the good chances early on. Towards the end, I was having a hard time focusing given the fact that I haven't had a solid meal since Tuesday morning.

"But we have three more days to go. You can't win it today, you can certainly lose it and it wasn't my best day."

There was also hope for Harrington in Rahm's explanation for his participation in the event in the first place (he alone of next week's 24 competitors is teeing it up this week).

Asked if he had considered withdrawing he replied: "Yes and no. Because it's a stress with the baby to pack up, go back home, try to practice at home and then fly again on Monday.

"You know, I'm going to get better in due time whether I play here or not, and I would rather get competition rounds in for the mental aspect of the Ryder Cup.

"Plus, right now in Arizona, it's hot, they're watering the courses to keep the bermuda grass in proper shape, so everything's a little bit slower, a little bit longer, and it plays nothing like Whistling Straits would.

"That's another reason why I wanted to come here, because at least I'm playing a firm, fast championship golf course."

Rahm is now top price 18/1 to win the tournament.

Let's take a look at the state of his game.

Putting the first round into context

This is just the 14th time in 124 strokeplay starts that Rahm has been outside the top 100 at the end of a round.

In his previous 28 laps on tour he had been T12th or better 27 times - and was inside the top 10 in 25 of those 28 rounds. Understandable though it might be, it's still a bolt from the blue.

His stats in round one

Let's compare his rankings through the entire 2020/21 season with this start to the 2021/22 campaign.

SG Off the Tee: (last year) 2nd → (this week) 23rd

SG Approach: 8th → 65th

SG Around the Green: 42nd → 121st

SG Putting: 42nd → 139th

SG Tee to Green: 1st → 74th

His record at responding to bad starts

He's been outside the top 100 in the field eight times after the first round and only twice did he make it to the weekend.

He has 45 career top five finishes, but is yet to land one from as far back as he currently is on the leaderboard. His current best was when T92nd in the 2018 Irish Open when he finished tied fourth.

He's not entirely without hope, however.

His first PGA Tour win was at the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open. He was T77th and seven shots back at that stage. He was aided a little by the fact two courses are used in that event prior to the cut.

More impressively, he won last year's BMW Championship having been T51st and eight shots back of the first round lead after an opening 75 - that victory witnessed him slice through an elite field at the weekend.

Rahm on not winning the Player of the Year vote

"Finishing runner-up doesn't feel too good. I felt like I played good enough to be able to earn that title, but unfortunate situations like the one at Memorial cost me, right? Had I been able to play, maybe win it, I think it would have tipped the balance towards myself. Maybe even play in the Olympics, have a good showing and maybe even earn a medal, that could have tipped the balance as well.

"It's tough, you know, but Patrick (Cantlay) won four times in a year and is the FedExCup champion. So I'm pretty sure I know Patrick deserves it, but I'll get my chance."

READ MORE: Ian Poulter: The Postman's best Ryder Cup quotes

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