Jon Rahm is a classy champion, complicated victory and all

Jon Rahm

Jon Rahm hits a tee shot on the 2nd hole at Muirfield Village Golf Club on Sunday.

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DUBLIN, Ohio — With his win here on Sunday at the Memorial Tournament, 25-year-old Spanish golfer Jon Rahm became the top-ranked player in the world.

Eight facts right there. Golf does facts well.

Rahm holed out with a sand wedge from lush, wet, greenside rough on the par-3 16th. Indisputable. Millions saw that.

He thought it was for a birdie 2.

(Source: Rahm, post-round interview.)

It was actually for a bogey 4.

(Source: his scorecard.)

Still, he won by three.

(Source: Leaderboard beside 18th green at Muirfield Village Golf Club.)

Jon Rahm
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The great man himself, the club’s founder and the tournament host, Jack Nicklaus, came on to the home green to congratulate the winner.

(Opinion, fact, first-hand observation.)

Nicklaus was ready to shake hands with the winner if the winner wanted to shake hands with him.

(Source: Nicklaus pre-tournament comments.)

Nicklaus said in a televised interview on Sunday that he and his wife, Barbara, had Covid-19 in March and that he is no longer a carrier of it. As Nicklaus approached Rahm, each extended a right fist in the direction of the other and bumped knuckles.

(Observation.)

Between them, these two golfers have won 18 majors and three Memorial titles.

(Source: Wikipedia. Yes, Wikipedia.)

Through his career, Nicklaus was generally hesitant to sole his club when his ball was sitting in rough, fearing that he might move it. The movement of Rahm’s ball was virtually imperceptible. Still, he could have been more careful.

(Observation; observation; opinion.)

When in doubt, hover.

(Phrase invented for the purposes of this story.)

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Rahm said in a post-victory interview that he has lost two family members to what he described as Covid-related issues. One was his maternal grandmother, the other was his mother’s aunt.

“They did not die because of Covid, but I think they did pass away because of the mental effects of the quarantine,” Rahm said. “Both of them were in nursing homes. One was my mom’s mom, the person that, when I was growing up, spent the most amount of time with me, outside my parents. She taught me so many things and I have so many memories with her. She passed away on the Wednesday of Travelers. Yesterday, they took her ashes to her family rest spot in Madrid. So, it’s emotional.

“The other person was my mom’s aunt, somebody we were all close with.

“It goes to show there’s more important things in life than me accomplishing what I accomplished today. We’re going through a pandemic.” 

This is a complicated win.

(Opinion.)

It was about 95 degrees, humid and windy when Rahm, the 54-hole leader, and his Sunday playing partner, Ryan Palmer, began their rounds at 2:30. It was about 75 degrees and still and less humid when they finished, about five hours later. Palmer, a four-time winner on Tour, took solo second.

(Reporter observation.)

Palmer’s check for his second-place finish appears to be the second-best check of his 20-year professional career. He earned $1.01 million at the Memorial. Last year, when Palmer and Rahm won the New Orleans better-ball event, they split $2.1 million. (That is, $1.05 million.) When Palmer won in Hawaii a decade ago, he earned $990,000.

(Source: PGA Tour records.)

You have to play a lot of golf to have those three paydays on your ledger sheet.

(Observation.)

It was a strange, still quiet finish. (No fans.) It was strangely quiet when Rahm holed out on 16. (No fans.) It’s been a strange golf season in a strange year. Still, as Rahm said Sunday night, he has now had meaningful actions with (his description) with the two greatest golfers ever. He grew up idolizing Tiger Woods as a golfer, and when Rahm defeated Woods in singles on Sunday at the 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris, he wept with appreciation for where his life in golf had taken him. He also played the first two rounds of the 2019 Masters, won by Woods, with Woods.

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(Broad commentary.)

Now he has won at the course that Jack built.

“The two greatest golfers this game has ever seen,” Rahm said. “It’s pretty incredible. To survive the Golden Bear’s test this week, it’s pretty surreal. This golf course was playing very, very difficult. It was tough. And to get it done and to get that moment with Jack on the 18th is pretty incredible. Four years ago, I was here as the Jack Nicklaus Award recipient, spending some time with him, asking him questions about Oakmont and how to play it and just trying to pick his brain a little bit. As luck would have it, four years later I’m here. Hopefully I can do my part to grow the game like he did, and make it better for the future generations.”

Pretty classy, right?

(Opinion.)

The veteran rules official gave Rahm the two-shot penalty.

“When he put the club down behind the ball, it moved ever so slightly to the left, so it changed positions,” Slugger White said.

(Observed fact, via TV closeup shot.)

“He accepted it like the gentleman, and the man, that he is,” White said.

Fact, fact.

Michael Bamberger may be reached at Michael_Bamberger@golf.com.

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Michael Bamberger

Golf.com Contributor

Michael Bamberger writes for GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. Before that, he spent nearly 23 years as senior writer for Sports Illustrated. After college, he worked as a newspaper reporter, first for the (Martha’s) Vineyard Gazette, later for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He has written a variety books about golf and other subjects, the most recent of which is The Second Life of Tiger Woods. His magazine work has been featured in multiple editions of The Best American Sports Writing. He holds a U.S. patent on The E-Club, a utility golf club. In 2016, he was given the Donald Ross Award by the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the organization’s highest honor.