An illness. A missed cut. Is there concern with Jon Rahm heading into Ryder Cup?
Jon Rahm was fighting daylight and his putting stroke. Captured by Golf Channel cameras after his late afternoon round at the Fortinet Championship, he rolled in a 20-footer on the practice green at the Silverado Resort and Spa North Course, said something short to his team around him and pulled in another ball to putt. When he dropped that one in too, he drooped his shoulders, said something again and nodded his head forcefully. He was good.
Or, maybe more accurately, better. On Tuesday, despite a body of work that perhaps spoke otherwise, he learned that he had not been voted PGA Tour player of the year by his peers. On Wednesday, a day before the start of the Fortinet, he was forced to withdraw from the pro-am with a stomach illness that he said made him feel “way worse” than his bout with Covid over the summer. On Thursday, he shot a 72, on Friday, he shot a 71, and he was done, his first missed cut since May.
The only golfer of the 24 heading to next week’s Ryder Cup to play this week, Rahm will now rest and recalibrate too. Which, he says, might not be the worst thing.
“Well, I’ve got two more days off. I think it’s primarily rest,” Rahm said. “I just, you know, I feel like with having those stomach issues early, I wasn’t nearly as rested as I could have been, my body got a little bit tight, but I’m feeling good today. It was a tough course out there.
“If anything, I get to rest a couple extra days and be able to figure out what’s going on with my swing, which technically is not really anything bad. It’s just I think a lot of those swings were made to look worse because of how tough it is out there. It’s firm, it’s fast, the fairways are hard to hit. I just maybe didn’t hit the shot sometimes. I just feel I could have been rewarded a little bit more, that’s about it.”
Just how hard was it for Rahm? The cutline was three under — and he made just five birdies total. On Thursday, he hit six of 14 fairways; on Friday, he was one worse. Away from the tee box, his strokes gained numbers were woeful — on Approach the Green, he was 65th in the field on Thursday, and 116th on Friday; on Around the Green, he was 121st during the first round, and 40th during the second; and on Putting, Rahm was 139th on day one, and 77th on day two.
Rahm’s final hole encapsulated it all well — needing an eagle on the par-5 18th to make the weekend, he drove it into a fairway bunker, laid up short of the green and dropped a wedge that dropped 44 feet right of the hole. After contact on the third shot, he just started walking.
“It’s very simple — not my best ball-striking-wise,” Rahm said. “Still wasn’t bad. Could have been better on the greens, you know. Feel like I might have made a couple of mistakes mentally on some approach shots, maybe I could have focused a little more, visualized better, but I think I left a lot of shots on the greens.
“The back nine, starting on 10, I hit a lot of good putts, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17. Maybe I didn’t have the speed, but a lot of them were very close and they just didn’t go in. And yesterday, I didn’t make enough putts; I feel like I left a lot of them inside 10 feet. Make a couple others, and at least I’m making the cut, maybe a momentum change and I finish a little better. It’s unfortunate to start the year with basically one of my worst Tour rounds in a while. It’s what it is. Course was tough out there today and just need to be better.”
Of course, after the stomach illness, a missed cut could actually be for the best. Consider his comments on Thursday: “Towards the end, a lot of times my mind just wasn’t in it; I was having a hard time focusing given the fact that I haven’t had a solid meal since Tuesday morning.” And this: “I’ve heard there’s a stomach virus going on, but I think in my case, it’s just a little run down from the season and just happened to manifest this way.”
Not quite the form you want heading to Whistling Straits for the Ryder Cup.
“All in all, tough for us to see him leave — world no. 1, we all want to watch,” analyst Trevor Immelman said on the Golf Channel broadcast. “But from a Ryder Cup standpoint, maybe good for him to get the weekend off and just make sure he recovers properly.”
Fellow analyst Jim Gallagher Jr. agreed.
“Yeah, I think it’s all about rest for him now,” he said on Golf Channel’s Golf Central show. “Got to get rehydrated. When you feel the way he did, you kind of lose that energy. But you know, he hit 10 fairways. When you don’t feel well, you’re not going to play well. And I think that’s one of the things. You know, he obliged his commitment — he kept playing — but I think big picture, it might be a blessing in disguise for him to miss a cut.
“Get a couple days, get back to being ready for next week because next week is going to take a lot out of you.”