Jon Rahm may still have won the Farmers Insurance Open with a score of -11 had he three-putted from the back of the 18th green at Torrey Pines South Course on Sunday, however, when the monstrous 60-foot screamer eagle putt dropped, there was a palpable sense of deflation amidst the groups behind, as what had developed into an intriguing close to the tournament was abrubtly cut short by the Spaniard’s birdie-eagle finish. The toiling challengers, moments after undoubtedly hearing the huge roar from the 18th green, would have been flummoxed at the sight of Rahm’s name on the leaderboard jumping from -10 to -13 over his final two holes in what seemed like the blink of an eye. At the close of play Rahm’s round of 65 left him three shots clear of CT Pan and Charles Howell III, with five players languishing behind at -9 and five more at -8. Perhaps a couple of the challengers might have got closer to -11 had Rahm only parred the 18th, but with their fight extinguished by his final blow, all they could do was trudge their way home as Rahm began his celebrations.
Rahm had progressed steadily through the week with rounds of 72, 69 and 69 and was just about staying in contention entering the back nine on Sunday. He snuck a little bit closer to the lead with a birdie on the 11th, yet most of the focus still remained with other contenders in what was a bunched leaderboard. Then, after two blows to 18 feet on the shortened par five 13th hole, Rahm drained his 18-foot eagle putt and was suddenly a major factor. He parred the next three holes, hitting every fairway and green in regulation on the way, but without giving himself any particularly easy looks for birdie. Not content to par his way home, attack mode was set to ON again on the 17th, when another perfect tee shot set up a 144 yard approach to 5 feet duly converted, and now Rahm became the man to beat. Like many of the young stars on Tour, Rahm’s chosen strategy when leading was simply attack as the best form of defence, with the objective of giving himself a decent look for birdie on the 18th. Attack mode notwithstanding, his second shot to the back of the green was as much a percentage play as would have been a decision to lay up and leave a wedge approach to that treacherous front pin. It was a very strategically-well-played hole to that point, but what he did next will go down in Torrey Pines folklore.
It is no surprise that Rahm has made such a prompt ascent to the winner’s circle on Tour given his amateur career and results in professional events to date. For the 2016/17 season thus far before the Farmers, results had been robust, albeit unspectacular. A T15 finish at the Safeway Open in October was followed in November by T15 and T50 at the Shriners and Mayakoba events respectively. His largest cheque pre-Christmas came from representing Spain in the World Cup down under thanks to a T8 finish alongside Rafael Cabrera-Bello. Rahm’s first appearance in 2017 resulted in a T34 at the CareerBuilder, leaving him a respectable 67th position in the FedEx standings. A reasonable start, but this form slightly belied what Rahm had shown during the 2015/16 season in two events in particular. Following the US Open at Oakmont, where a T23 week gave him the title of low amateur, Rahm turned pro and immediately made an impact finishing T3 at the Quicken Loans National, a result that also re-qualified him for The Open at Troon (he had forfeited his spot by turning professional), where he was T59 in his first major appearance as a pro. A few weeks later, Rahm went one better and finished in a tie for 2nd at the Canadian Open. It was too late for Rahm to make the Playoffs, but he had laid down a marker with these significant performances. One would expect him to feature a lot more on final day leaderboards in the months ahead, but he will do well to surpass a finish as memorable as that of Sunday.
Rahm’s final round of 65 was the lowest round of the week on the South Course and the joint-lowest round of the week in the tournament along with Justin Rose, who shot 65 on the North Course on Thursday. The win catapults Rahm to 6th in the FedExCup standings and 46th in the OWGR.
Scramble Picks – Waste Management Phoenix Open: I am keeping it straightforward this week. Why look beyond Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama (defending champ) and Jon Rahm. Ryan Moore is one to watch here and certainly Phil Mick cannot be ignored around Scottsdale. My outside shot for an up-and-down is going to be Kyle Stanley. Winner here in 2012; having a steady season to date; T14 last week at Torrey; I feel he is trending towards an each-way place which is surely worth a look at 80/1.