Jon Rahm–a possible superstar Spaniard in the making–won the PGA Tour’s Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, by several strokes over Ryan Palmer to become the #1 in World Rankings for the first time in his four-year career. For a while, Rahm looked like a runaway freight train when he increased his four-stroke lead starting the day to an eight-stroke lead after the front nine. But a bogey and double bogey at the 10th and 11th holes soon put him only three strokes in front of Palmer as they arrived at the reachable par five 15th hole. Ryan the drove well into the fairway, but committed a dastardly mistake on his next, second shot. It looked like he made way too short of a backswing with his fairway metalwood, shoving the ball way right into the water.
On the par three 16th, Rahm surely played one of the greatest little wedge shots of this Tour season by a leader in the final holes. He, too, had committed a bad mistake by missing the green to the left when the pin was tucked back left. Under both of those circumstances–Palmer’s second shot on the 15th and Rahm’s first shot on the 16th–you must make sure that if you miss the green, you miss on the other side, thus Ryan going left and Rahm going right. That’s called “good course management.”
Fortunately for Rahm, his teeshot on the 16th cleared the water hazard and settled between the water and sand bunker in thick rough. Yet, he had an almost impossible little wedge shot to get close to the hole. Instead, he lofted the ball extremely well as it landed perfectly, just over the thick rough onto the fringe, and the ball rolled at a reasonable speed right into the middle of the cup for a birdie. That pretty much put the tournament away for Rahm as the winner as both players parred the last, 18th hole.
However, television cameras had gotten a close up shot of Rahm’s ball as he addressed it with his wedge on that 16th hole, and those pictures showed clearly that Rahm caused the ball to move and change position. That is supposed to be a one stroke penalty. Rahm was asked about it right after he finished the round and before he signed his scorecard. He was surprised, not knowing that he may have caused the ball to move. It was pretty obvious that he sincerely didn’t notice it, which can easily be possible since the ball was in some thick rough. PGA Tour officials had not ruled on it when the telecast ended. That’s why I started this post saying Rahm won “by several strokes,” since we didn’t know if it was a penalty. But it wouldn’t affect the outcome.
Jon Rahm is now rising to his capability, being #1 in the world. But he still needs to work on his temper. Even though he had a seven-stroke lead after ten holes today, he missed the fairway with his teeshot on the 11th hole and slammed the head of his driver into the teeing ground with a lot of force. Six-time major champion Nick Faldo, being one of the TV commentators, remarked that Rahm should not have done that. Nick said, “chill.” Everyone knows that Jon Rahm has a temper that gets out of control, sometimes even when he is in contention the closing holes to win the tournament like today. And some of those times it may have cost him the win. But not today.
Rahm is a powerful guy. In my day, if you would have done that the steel club shaft might have broken, which would incur a fine. IMO, the PGA Tour should not allow players get away with that behavior. It makes the Tour look bad. Of course, it is a judgment call of Tour officials as to whether the player is committing the infraction of “conduct unbecoming a professional golfer.” But I think he should at least be fined and it announced to the public.
Regardless, congratulations to the Spaniard that, for all we know, may be following in the footsteps of the great, much beloved, and now deceased Seve Ballesteros, Rahm’s boyhood hero.