First major title and a US Open at that – photo USGA – Jeff Haynes
Just two weeks after one of his most gut-wrenching moments in golf and perhaps even life, Spaniard Jon Rahm has won his first major title and become the first Spaniard to win the US Open.
At the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago, Rahm was forced to withdraw from that event after taking a six-shot lead through 54 holes, being informed of a positive Covid 19 test as he walked from the 54th green that day.
It would have left many resentful of what appeared to be an unfair decision and the manner in which it was carried out, but Rahm took it on the chin, took an enforced two weeks away from the tour and now, on the southern coast of California and at a venue what has meant so much to him, he has won his greatest title.
“You know, I think I said it yesterday in an interview,” said Rahm in an interview immediately after his win had been confirmed. I’m a big believer in karma, and after what happened a couple weeks ago I stayed really positive knowing good things were coming.
“I didn’t know what it was going to be, but I knew we were coming to a special place, I knew I got breakthrough win here and it’s a very special place for my family, and the fact that my parents were able to come, I got out of COVID protocol early, I just felt like the stars were aligning, and I knew my best golf was to come.
“I have a hard time explaining what just happened because I can’t even believe I made the last two putts, and I’m the first Spaniard ever to win a U.S. Open. This was definitely for Seve. I know he tried a lot, and usually we think a lot about him at the Masters, but I know he wanted to win this one most of all. I just don’t know how to explain it.”
Torrey Pines was the scene of Rahm’s first PGA Tour victory more then four years ago and where he proposed to his now wife and, thus, the venue has significant sentimental value to him.
“I’ve said it once — I’ve said it a million times and I’m going to say it once again. It reminds me a lot of back home. It’s not exactly the same, but the coastline, the weather, the property, this is basically a good summer day where I grew up, and these poa annua greens is something I know and I understand and I grew up on, and I think it’s something that really resonates with me. I’m really confident in it.
“Like we just said, everything that’s happened here, I don’t know why, but every time we come here, we’re just happy. As soon as we land in San Diego, it’s like, we are in our spot. Again, once again, we were in our spot, and I was able to come out on top.”
The victory will take Rahm back to the number one position in world golf, a standing he held, albeit briefly, 12 months ago.
Rahm’s final round of 67 allowed him to come from three shots off the 54 hole pace to win by one over Louis Oosthuizen, but that brief summary alone hardly describes a dramatic final day in which as many as ten players had genuine chances of emerging as the winner.
Through nine holes of today’s final round the defending champion, Bryson DeChambeau, had taken the lead outright before Oosthuizen joined him when he too birdied the 9th. At that point the pair was one ahead of Rahm, Rory McIlory, Collin Morikawa, Brooks Koepka and Mackenzie Hughes.
DeChambeau parred the 10th but at the 11th he started an almost inexplicable run of dropped shots which would eventually see him finish with a back nine of 44, a round of 77 and an eventual share of 26th place.
As the afternoon wore on, it appeared that the chances were narrowing to Rahm, Oosthuizen and Koepka but it would be two sliding left to right putts of 20 feet or so at the 17th and 18th which gave Rahm the outright lead, forty minutes or so before Oosthuizen was due to finish.
Louis Oosthuizen acknowledges a sympathetic crowd after finishing one shot short of a playoff – photo USGA
Oosthuizen kept his hopes alive when he made a fine 8-foot second putt for par at the 16th but then surprisingly hit his tee shot into the penalty area to the left of the fairway at the 17th and took bogey. He was now two behind and needing an eagle at the last to force a playoff.
When his drive had missed the fairway, the unlikely task became almost impossible and although he would make a birdie to finish one behind, the title went to Rahm.
Oosthuizen finished runner-up in a major title for the 6th occasion, his only success coming in 2010 when winning the Open Championship by a massive seven shots.
Oosthuizen, though, did little wrong. His round of even par 71 was hardly an implosion and he said as much after his round.
“I played good,” he said. “Just fell a little short again. It was Jon played a great round of golf, 4-under today on that golf course is a really good score. I could see early on what was happening with the leaderboard at the end and knew that I need to push at the end to do something.
“Right now I didn’t win it. I’m second again. No, look, it’s frustrating. It’s disappointing. I’m playing good golf, but it’s not — winning a major championship is not just going to happen. You need to go out and play good golf. I played good today, but I didn’t play good enough.
“I definitely left a few birdies out — not birdies, but a few putts or shots out there. I’m not going to — I took the tee shot on at 17, and I knew it was a crucial hole for me to take it on and give myself a birdie opportunity. I didn’t pull it off, but standing on that tee again (17th), I’ll probably do the same thing, taking a driver and taking the shot on.
“I feel like I had my shots, I went for it, and that’s what you have to do to win majors. Sometimes it goes your way, and other times it doesn’t.”
Harris English’s round of 68 would see him eventually finish 3rd alone, birdies at his final two holes elevating him to his best finish in a major championship, one place ahead of his previous best of 4th in this event last year.
Adam Scott finished as the leading Australian in 35th place one shot ahead of Wade Ormsby, with Marc Leishman 64th and Matt Jones 65th.