Jon Rahm walked up to his ball on the front of the 4th green at Olympia Fields Country Club on Saturday, and in one motion, he picked it up. He picked up a penalty, too. His ball marker was in his pocket. It wasn’t on the green. Both Rahm and his caddie paused. Rahm bogeyed the hole.
Rahm was flawed.
Then he was flawless.
Rahm started Sunday three shots out of the lead, then birdied the 1st, 4th, 10th and 12th holes. Then, in a 15-minute sequence, then-leader Joaquin Niemann bogeyed the 14th hole, Rahm birdied the 15th, and Rahm birdied the 16th on a 30-foot putt to take a two-shot lead. Then, in another 15-minute sequence, Dustin Johnson would catch Rahm with a 43-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, only for Rahm to drop a 66-footer for birdie on the first playoff hole that would hold up for the win.
On a week where scores were high, Rahm went low. He shot Saturday’s low round with a 4-under 66. He shot Sunday’s low round, too, with a 6-under 66 to finish at 4-under overall with Johnson, the third-round leader who was seeking his second straight victory. Hideki Matsuyama and Joaquin Niemann were two shots back.
Rahm had hoped he would not finish Sunday one shot back after his one-stroke penalty.
“I just hope I don’t lose by one,” he said. “I’m just going to say that. I just hope. And if I do, well, very well my fault. It’s as simple as that.”
He finished tied.
Then he finished flawlessly.
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The 10 key shots
- Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama begin their day at 1-under and hold a one-shot lead over Joaquin Niemann and Mackenzie Hughes. Johnson birdies the par-5 1st hole to move to 2-under and grab a one-shot lead over Matsuyama and a two-shot lead over Niemann and Hughes. Johnson and Matsuyama then each birdie the par-4 2nd hole.
- Johnson birdies the par-4 4th to move to 4-under and grab a three-shot lead over Matsuyama and Niemann and a four-shot lead over Hughes and Jon Rahm.
- Johnson bogeys the par-3 8th to fall to 3-under. It is his first bogey in 20 holes. He is tied for the lead with Niemann, and they are one shot ahead of Matsuyama.
- Johnson bogeys the par-4 10th hole to fall out of the lead. He is at 2-under with Matsuyama and Rahm and one shot behind Niemann. Tony Finau, Sebastian Munoz and Jason Kokrak are at even-par.
- Niemann bogeys the par-4 14th hole to fall to 2-under and into a share of the lead with Johnson and Rahm. Matsuyama and Finau are at 1-under and a shot behind. Munoz, Kokrak, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Brendon Todd are at even-par.
- Rahm birdies the par-5 15th hole to take the outright lead. His drive had been going out of bounds right, then hit a tree and stayed in. He is at 3-under, one shot ahead of Johnson and Niemann, two shots ahead of Matsuyama and Finau, and three shots ahead of Munoz, Kokrak, Fitzpatrick and Todd.
- Rahm drops a 30-foot putt on the par-3 16th hole to move to 4-under and take a two-shot lead over Johnson and Niemann, a three-shot lead over Matsuyama and Finau, and a four-shot lead over Munoz, Kokrak, Fitzpatrick and Todd.
- Johnson birdies the par-5 15th hole to move to 3-under and one shot behind Rahm.
- Johnson drops a 43-foot birdie putt on the 18th to tie Rahm at 4-under. Johnson had driven it into the right rough, then knocked his approach on. Niemann and Matsuyama finish two shots behind.
- The playoff begins on the 18th hole. Rahm hits it into the right rough off the tee, while Johnson hits it left, but his ball hits a tree and it ends up in the fairway. Johnson hits his second shot on the green, about 20 feet from the hole, while Rahm hits his second shot on the green, 66 feet from the hole. Rahm curls in his putt for birdie. Johnson misses his putt by a half-foot.
- Jon Rahm runs on emotion. But emotion did not run him over after his mistake on the putting green on Saturday. It’s definitely something to watch going forward.
- Dustin Johnson continues his incredible run. It only took a 66-foot bomb to defeat him.
- Tiger Woods’ season is over. We’ll see what rest does for him when he tees it up in three weeks at the U.S. Open.
The final word
“Well, it seems like it was so long ago, right. At that point, I made bogey there, I was 3-over par — no, sorry, I was at 4-over par, and a lot of holes to play. Yesterday was just trying to finish strong and get myself in contention, and once I teed off today with the good weather and how I started striping it the first few holes, I knew I had a chance. I just tried not to think about it. I had such a good round yesterday, and I was so proud of making the six-footer for bogey that it just went right through my mind and focused on the task at hand.” – Rahm on how he was able to rebound after his Saturday penalty.