There are presents, and then there’s the gift Jon Rahm received on Sunday at the U.S. Open. On Father’s Day, Rahm tossed aside his macaroni card and “World’s #1 Dad” mug in favor of a slightly more valuable offering: a birdie in place of what may well have been a tournament-derailing bogey on Sunday at a major championship. The kicker? It all came thanks to a drop that even he couldn’t believe.
The situation began just off the 9th tee at Torrey Pines, a straightaway, 607-yard par-5. Rahm entered the hole two strokes back of the leader at the time, Bryson DeChambeau, at three under for the day. It was the first of three par-5s for Rahm on Sunday, and the Spaniard needed birdies to remain in the mix of a packed leaderboard.
There’s not much to the tee shot on the 9th, or much to the 9th hole overall. It’s a par-5 that resembles a runway — dead-straight and with a fairly wide margin for error on either side.
Perhaps feeling the pressure of the leaderboard around him, Rahm overcooked his drive into the trees, missing well left of the fairway. As his ball sailed through the air, it became evident that it would be fortunate to remain in the field of play.
Seconds later, Rahm’s ball rocketed back to earth and came to rest, evidently just on the other side of a large, green fence constructed by the tournament. It was a brutal break, but one that required a relatively simple solution: a provisional tee shot and one-stroke penalty for a lost ball.
Except, when Rahm began searching for his lost ball, a rules official instructed him that he was eligible to receive Temporary Immovable Object (or TIO) relief for the original shot. According to model local rule F-23, players are eligible to receive free relief from objects designated as Temporary Immovable Objects by the tournament committee. Under the rule, Rahm was eligible to receive a free drop from the temporary fence, consistent with that of an immovable obstruction.
“TIOs (such as a grandstand or a tent) are not normally present and are not considered to be part of the challenge of playing the course,” the rule states. “Because of their temporary nature, this Local Rule provides an additional relief option that is not allowed from immovable obstructions, although the player can still choose to treat the TIO as if it were an immovable obstruction and use the relief procedures available in Rule 16.”
Even with his original tee shot remaining on the other side of the fence, Rahm’s ball was eligible for relief because it landed on the gap between the TIO and the course’s defined boundary. As a result, Rahm was able to take a free drop from the proper side of the fence, no closer to the hole.
According to NBC on-course reporter Jon Wood, who was with Rahm at the time of the drop, even Rahm was shocked he received relief as a result of the fence. According to Wood, Rahm said he “couldn’t believe” he got relief.
After the drop, Rahm punched out to safety. From there, he chipped on, rolled in a three-foot putt for birdie to move to four under and two strokes back of the lead.
On his first Father’s Day after becoming a dad, the golf gods hand-delivered a gift to Rahm. Sometimes, it truly is better to receive.