Jon Rahm Secures First Major Victory at the US Open
JON RAHM loves Torrey Pines. It was where he won his first PGA Tour event, it was where his girlfriend accepted his marriage proposal and now it is the venue for his first major.
Just two weeks after being forced to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament with a six-shot 54-hole lead after a positive COVID-19 test, Rahm became the first Spaniard to win the U.S. Open.
With a birdie-birdie finish, Rahm shot a final round of 67 for a six under total, ultimately one clear of Louis Oosthuizen (71), who now finished second for a sixth time in a major championship. The win shot him back to the top of the world rankings and to second in the FedExCup standings.
Known for wearing his heart on his sleeve, it was a mature Rahm who emerged during the last two weeks. The 26-year-old could have been angry at the world for taking a near certain Tour win from his grasp, but instead he took it in stride. It was a far cry from the more “Happy Gilmore”- like temperament Rahm showcased in his early years on Tour.
To be fair, the fiery character had moved on from the worst of that long ago. He still had the occasional outburst, but at a much tamer level as he learned how to balance his passion and disposition.
Even so, Rahm’s wife Kelley knew something was different when Rahm was the least concerned of his family and inner circle after the positive test sent him into immediate quarantine and threatened to see his arrival at Torrey Pines come on tournament eve.
Kelley, who accepted Jon’s marriage proposal on a nearby cliff years earlier and gave birth to the couple’s first child Kepa just 10 weeks ago, could sense her husband had things in perfect perspective.
“He took everything so well. Better than anyone else. He really was quite incredible,” she said earlier in the week while watching him play.
How? Well, Rahm is a believer in karma and figured good things happen to good people. So he better stay good.
“I believed from the biggest setbacks we can get some of the biggest breakthroughs, and that's why I stay so positive,” Rahm said. “That's why I kept telling Kelley, when she was devastated about what happened, and to my family and everybody around me, something good is going to come. I don't know what, but something good is going to come, and I felt it today out there on the golf course.”
In fact, Rahm felt like his improving temperament had slipped at last month’s PGA Championship where he finished tied for eighth as good friend and mentor Phil Mickelson became the oldest major winner in history.
And so, looking at his newborn son, he vowed to work harder once again. The proof of that showed up at Muirfield Village before the positive test.
“Ever since the Sunday at the PGA, I felt a bit of a shift on the golf course mentally. I still had that grit, but almost like each miss bothered me less,” Rahm said. “I believe it's because I really set out to be an example for my son that he would be proud of.”
With Sunday being Father’s Day, Rahm’s first, and with his own father in attendance, three generations were there to celebrate the moment. “I've done some stuff in the past on the golf course that I'm not proud of, and I wish I could eliminate it. But I've accepted it … I know it's hard to believe, but there's been a steady progress,” Rahm continued.
“Becoming a dad was always going to help me because before, I could always have the excuse that getting mad helped me win golf tournaments, but right now I'm a role model to my son. He won't remember any of this because he's only 10 weeks old, but I do. Hopefully in the future, he can grow up to be someone who's proud of his dad.”
Keeping his new Zen in place at a U.S. Open must have been tough, but as Rahm pointed out there is no place he feels more at ease than Torrey Pines. You could say it is his happy place. It was here that he broke free from the pack at the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open in stunning style to become the youngest winner in tournament history, the first of his now six Tour wins.
On that day, nine players spent time in the lead, but Rahm went six under on his last eight holes with two eagles and two birdies to annihilate the competition and win by three.
This time around, in a brutal U.S. Open-style setup, he put together seven back-nine pars before making huge birdie putts from 24 feet on the 17th and 18 feet on the last to set a clubhouse mark no one could match. “Not that I was really thinking about it on 17, but last time I won here, I finished birdie-eagle, and I knew I could finish strong again. I knew history could get close to repeating itself,” Rahm said.
“On 18, and I knew at the end it snaps hard right. It doesn't really look like it, but it does. I trusted my read, and as soon as I made contact, I looked up and saw where the ball was going. It was exactly the speed and line I visualized, and I told myself, that's in.”
Rahm had felt that type of confidence from the opening hole when his slightly miss-hit an 8-iron into the first hole, but it ended up in a great spot and he buried his first birdie of the round.
“It felt like such a fairy tale story that I knew it was going to have a happy ending. I could just tell, just going down the fairway after that first tee shot, that second shot, and that birdie, I knew there was something special in the air. I could just feel it. I just knew it,” he says.
“If you follow golf, I feel like you've heard it a million times how much I love this place. It's been my favorite city for a long time. It was my wife's favorite city before we ever met.
“This one is very, very incredible, very hard to believe, that this story can round up and end up so good. It almost feels like it's a movie that's about to end and I'm going to wake up soon. I do love Torrey Pines, and Torrey Pines loves me.”
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