Everything’s coming up black for Rahm on the roulette wheel of pro golf

Mark McGowan

Jon Rahm at the Genesis Invitational (Photo by David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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There’s a roulette betting strategy called the ‘Martingale System’ and the basic premise is that the even money bets (red-black, odd-even, 1-18 or 19-36) all have an equal chance of coming up and, over an extended period of time, will arrive on a near 50-50 basis, so if you’ve enough of a bankroll, by doubling your bet each time you lose, you’re virtually guaranteed to come out on top.

So, for example, let’s say your starting stake is €1 and you’re betting on black. If black comes up, you’re a Euro to the good, but if it’s red, you double down. If black comes up this time, you’re still a Euro up because you’ve lost €1 but won €2, and you then revert back to the start and put down €1 on black again.

The basic theory is sound, but of course, nothing is ever that simple. A run of five consecutive blacks means you win €5, but a run of five consecutive reds means you’re putting down €32 on the next spin, seven in a row means you’re up to €128, and of course, you’ve lost €127 to get to that point. Abnormalities happen, and at an American casino in 1943, the ball landed on a red segment 32 times in a row.

By the 33rd spin, you’d be down over €4 billion and needing €4 billion plus one to keep the system going, so the system’s flaws are obvious, but still, over a year-long period, there’d be very little discrepancy in this casino’s red to black ratio.

You’ll often see sports commentators and pundits pointing out that luck has a tendency to balance itself out over the course of a season, and while that’s generally true, it doesn’t mean that it can’t have a huge bearing on a week-to-week basis.

And last week, luck was very much on Jon Rahm’s side. While this doesn’t mean that Rahm isn’t deserving of the top spot in the world rankings – he’s clearly been the best player on the planet over the past four months – but anybody watching the Genesis Invitational over the past few days could clearly see that Lady Luck was more than a little kind to the big man from the Basque Country.

The ricochet off the grandstand on the 17th during the second round is the most obvious example, and though you can’t rule out a chip-in, given the position the ball should’ve finished, a par was much more likely than a birdie. Instead, he made eagle.

In the third round, he hit a pull-hook into a broadcast compound, well left of the par 4 third hole. It was a genuinely terrible shot, especially coming from a player of Rahm’s calibre, but he got a free drop on the line it crossed into the compound, giving him a clear line to the green and a relatively straightforward par. Now, to be clear, there’s no allegations being made here. The fenced off area would be in play on a non-tournament week, Rahm certainly wasn’t aiming there, and the drop was overseen by the proper authorities, but still, it was incredibly fortunate.

Would he still have made par had he been forced to pitch sideways to the fairway or manufacture some sort of escape through the trees? Possibly. Would it have been considerably more difficult? Most certainly!

Then on the 13th in the final round, trailing Max Homa by one, both Homa and Rahm pulled their tee shots into the tall trees flanking the left side of the hole. Homa was blocked out with no real hope of reaching the green and it ended up costing him a bogey but Rahm’s ball somehow made its way through and it led to a pretty stress-free par.

Quite how things may have played out had the shoe been on the other foot is hard to say, but there’s a good chance that Homa would’ve won his second title at Riviera.

Perhaps we’ll see Rahm in contention at Augusta only to see his approach to the 15th collide with the pin and spin into the water a la Tiger Woods in 2013, in which case we’ll know that balance has been restored, but there’s no Martingale System when it comes to golf.

You put yourself in a contention and take any break that comes your way.

With the form he’s in, maybe Rahm deserved it, but I’m not quite sure Max Homa would agree.

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