The second-ranked golfer in the world sliced his tee shot right. The second-ranked golfer in the world managed only an approach that fell an unsatisfying 71 feet from the hole. The second-ranked golfer in the world needed three shots from there, and the second-ranked golfer in the world had a five when par was four.
On his first hole during the final round of last week’s Workday Charity Open, the second-ranked golfer in the world felt like the 2,000-ranked golfer. He felt just rank.
On the second hole, Jon Rahm became the top-ranked golfer.
Eagle. He then birdied his fourth, sixth and seventh, 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18 holes. An 8-under 64. On the same Muirfield Village Golf Club that would host this week’s Memorial.
“I started with a bogey on 10, and I think I just told (caddie) Adam (Hayes), let’s just go for it; I have nothing to lose whatsoever, a lot to win,” Rahm said earlier this week. “I started hitting good shots, making a couple putts, and that’s how I ended up being low. Didn’t really focus on the score or anything special. …
“If I can keep doing it, hopefully – I’m feeling good in every other part of my game, so if I can just keep the ball in the fairway, I should have a chance.”
Rahm was No. 1 last Sunday. He had the day’s low round. He was No. 1 this week. He had the low score over four rounds.
On a course this week where few could “just go for it,” Rahm did. Again. He shot rounds of 69 and 67 to play into contention. He shot a 68 to take the lead. He shot a 75 on Sunday to win by three shots over Ryan Palmer.
Rahm is No. 1 today. He needed to win and have Rory McIlroy finish worse than a tie for second. McIlroy tied for 33rd.
“I made that deal with myself very young,” said the 25-year-old Rahm, who is the second Spaniard to achieve the feat, following the late Seve Ballesteros. “I believe at 13 or 14 I started working towards that goal, and everything I’ve done golf-wise has been to become No. 1 in the world and become the best player I can be.”
He was the best this week when few were. Muirfield was a minefield. Fast greens. Slow rough. High wind. All on top of one of the world’s best golf courses. On Sunday, one player broke 70. Five broke par.
Jon Rahm became the top-ranked golfer.
“One of the best performances of my life,” he said. “Yesterday was probably one of the best rounds of my life, and finished today with some clutch up-and-downs. And God, I’m glad it happened that way.”
Jon Rahm wins
Rahm played like the world’s best through nine holes on Sunday.
Starting the day with a four-shot lead, he birdied the par-5 5th after reaching the green in two. Same thing on the par-5 7th. Birdie after getting home in two. He was now up seven. He just missed three birdies in a row. His 92-foot birdie putt – which the CBS telecast estimated had a one percent chance of going in – came up inches short.
Muirfield Village played like one of the world’s best for five holes on the back nine.
With now an eight-shot lead, Rahm bogeyed 10. Seven-shot lead. Rahm double-bogeyed 11, after hitting into the water on his tee shot. Five-shot lead. Palmer birdied 12. Four-shot lead. Rahm bogeyed 14. Three-shot lead. Five holes. Five shots shaved off Rahm’s lead.
Rahm played like one of the world’s best at the end.
On the par-3 16th, after hitting his tee shot over the green, Rahm chipped in. Birdie. Four-shot lead.
“Come on!” he yelled.
After his round, after Rahm talked with PGA Tour rules official Slugger White, it was determined that Rahm moved his ball as he addressed it before the chip-in. Penalty. The two became a four. A five-stroke victory became three.
“It barely moves at all,” Rahm said after his round. “Everything goes down with it. But the rules of golf are clear, and the ball did move. Unfortunately it’s going to have bittersweet feeling to what was possibly one of the greatest shots of my career, the shot that this Sunday gave me the victory, but that goes to show, you know, I accept the penalty. That goes to show that you have to fight until the end.”
The second-ranked golfer in the world became the top-ranked golfer.
Ryan Palmer finished second
The players tied for second entering the round could not catch Rahm.
Palmer was within three shots after 14 and technically within two shots after Rahm’s birdie-turned-bogey on 16, but then he bogeyed 16 to finish with a 74. Tony Finau was out of it early. He had four bogeys and two double bogeys for a 78.
Matthew Fitzpatrick was the only player to break 70, shooting a 4-under 68, and finished third, four shots behind Rahm. Matt Wallace and Jason Day tied for fourth, five shots behind, Mackenzie Hughes and Henrik Norlander tied for sixth, six shots behind, and Finau was eighth, seven shots behind.
How did Tiger Woods do?
The player who once spent the most consecutive weeks (281) and most total weeks (683) at No. 1 tied for 40th this week.
Tiger Woods, playing in his first tournament since mid-February due to ailment and the Tour’s three-month hiatus due to the coronavirus, shot a 4-over 76 on Sunday, following rounds of 71, 76 and 71. He birdied the 1st, played holes 4 through 11 at 6-over, then finished 1-under over his last three holes.
“I completed and played again. It’s been a while,” said Woods, who was uncertain when he would play again, though the PGA Championship begins Aug. 6. “It was nice to get my feet wet and compete and play again. Tough, tough conditions to start out my first week back, Thursday and Sunday. But it was good to get the feel and the flow of competing again.”