How a ‘very rare’ error may doom Jon Rahm at the Northern Trust

Jon Rahm

Jon Rahm on Saturday, after finishing his third round at the Northern Trust.

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Jon Rahm looked up. Then down.

His ball, on his second shot on the par-4 16th at Liberty National, had also gone up. And down, into the water on the other side of the green. About 30 yards away, Rahm swiped softly at some grass with his wedge. 

“He’s so good at slicing underneath those,” analyst Nick Faldo said on the CBS broadcast. “It all went wrong.” 

“He’ll get to drop it up by the green, but you’re right, Nick, he went for the shot he trusts,” analyst Frank Nobilo said. “But no doubt he’ll regret that option.”

As with a lot of things in life, that will depend on the weather. 

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Rahm would bogey the 16th, and he and Cameron Smith finished Saturday’s third round of the Northern Trust in a share of the lead. There’s also a possibility they could finish the regulation tournament that way, too. Sunday’s scheduled final round has been bumped back a day due to nearby Hurricane Henri, and while PGA Tour officials believe the tournament will be completed then, storms are also expected Monday — with no immediate word on how a winner would be determined in that scenario.

Of course, had Rahm come up a little shorter on 16, made his par and finished in the lead alone, he’d “hope the hurricane comes and stays for two days and we don’t have to play again,” as he said afterward. But he didn’t, he was tied and he was left with only trying to explain what had happened. 

“I read the lie and it looked like a lie where the ball went soft, and I was just trying to hit a flop shot that if anything would end up short and I would try to end up with par,” Rahm told reporters. “Never in my mind I thought that ball was going to be somewhat of a flyer. That’s why I went as aggressive as I did. 

“Had I thought that was a possibility, I would have probably tried to run it up and be a little bit more cautious, but you know, just right or wrong, looking at it, I didn’t believe it was going to happen.”

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No doubt there are any number of other shots Rahm might regret — his second shot on the par-5 13th certainly comes to mind, though even there, Rahm “absolutely flushed” the iron, only for his ball to drop into the water ahead of the green. It would lead to a double bogey, his first hole over par all week. 

The only other one from the world’s top-ranked player came on a 30-yard pitch shot that went 10 yards long. 

“This is a little uncharacteristic,” Nobilo said on the CBS broadcast.  

“It really is,” analyst Dottie Pepper said. “It’s very rare you see Jon make a short game error. You kind of forget about the 13th when the ball just fell out of the air. The wind was swirling and a lot of people were messed up by it. 

“This is very rare.” 

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Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor