Sunday was obviously a very good day for Jon Rahm. He shot 63, erased what at one point was a nine-stroke deficit to Collin Morikawa, and won the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
And he did it all that at Kapalua on the island of Maui, which ought to be known as TPC Garden of Eden.
For Rahm, though, the really good news is what his remarkable win could mean for his 2023 season moving forward. For most of the past decade, the Sentry TOC at Kapalua has been a superb harbinger of season-long success.
Since 2016 – that’s seven events — the TOC champion has gone on to finish among the top six on the money list every year but one. The exception occurred in 2021, when Harris English followed up his Sentry victory with a mere eighth-place finish on the money list.
It gets better. Save for English and 2022 champion Cameron Smith – who would have made it except that he quit the PGA Tour for LIV Golf following his British Open victory – the TOC winner has finished top four in the final FedEx Cup standings annually since 2017.
That list includes Justin Thomas, second in 2020; Xander Schauffele, second in 2019; Dustin Johnson, fourth in 2018; and Thomas again, the 2017 season-long champion.
It can also translate to Major Championship success. Thomas at the 2017 PGA and Smith at the 2022 British Open both followed up their TOC victory with a Major title. Since 2016, when Jordan Spieth went on to finish runner-up at the Masters, Sentry champions have finished among the top 4 in at least one Major championship.
Schauffele tied for second at the 2019 Masters, Dustin Johnson tied for third and English was solo third at the 2018 and 2021 U.S. Opens, and Thomas was fourth at the 2020 Masters.
So in recent years, anyway, winning at Kapalua plainly means something.
Of course, Rahm‘s game makes him a likely candidate for all those season-long or Major championship accomplishments no matter how he does in another event.
Rahm is coming off what by his standards was an ordinary 2022 season.
He finished only 55th on the official money list and 16th on the FedEx Cup points list, winning just once. That came at the Mexico Open back in May. His best Major performance was a tie for 12th at the U.S. Open.
There was a time not so long ago when the list of accomplishments of reigning TOC champions was so ordinary that the event resembled a second-level exhibition. Between 2010 and 2015, the TOC champion never finished among the top 15 on the season-long money list, never finished top 10 on the FedEx Cup points list, and never accomplished a top-five finish in any Major.
Between 2004 and 2006, Stuart Appleby dominated what was then called the Mercedes Championship, winning it annually. But he won only one other of his 73 Tour starts, and never finished higher than 15th in his dozen Major starts over those three seasons, missing four cuts.
The Sentry has grown a lot in stature over the past decade, and it has also grown as a harbinger of season-long success. For Rahm that may be nearly as good a development Sunday as his victory itself.