21 Jun 2021 | Professional golf |

This time, Rahm won't be denied

by PGA of Australia

Jon Rahm celebrates sinking a birdie putt to clinch the US Open

By Tony Webeck

His putt on the 72nd hole had all the hallmarks of Tiger Woods circa 2008; his birdie at the hole prior setting up a shot at history alongside three giants of the game of golf.

As the pre-tournament favourite Jon Rahm’s major championship breakthrough was in some ways expected but the events of the past month – and the manner in which he won the 2021 US Open at Torrey Pines’ South Course – will forever be etched in folklore.

Denied a win at The Memorial Tournament two weeks ago when informed he had tested positive for COVID-19 with a six-stroke lead through 54 holes, Rahm’s preparation was disrupted. Yet he arrived at the scene of his first PGA TOUR win and where he proposed to his wife with the belief that the golf gods might owe him one.

Those same gods can be fickle but perhaps there was some divine intervention as he rolled in consecutive left-to-right birdie putts from 24 and 18 feet at the 71st and 72nd holes respectively to post 6-under par with the equal-best round of the tournament, a 4-under 67.

When Louis Oosthuizen (71) made a clutch putt at the par-3 16th trailing by one stroke a playoff looked more than possible yet a poor tee shot into the penalty area left of the 17th fairway led to a bogey, the two-shot deficit going down the final hole too much to rein in as he recorded his sixth runner-up finish at a major.

Rahm’s release after his birdie putt at 18 resembled Woods in 2008 as he forced an 18-hole playoff with Rocco Mediate and his birdie-birdie finish joins Ben Hogan (Oakmont, 1953), Jack Nicklaus (Baltusrol, 1980) and Tom Watson (Pebble Beach, 1982) as the only US Open champions to win in such a fashion.

“I’m a big believer in karma and after what happened a couple weeks ago I stayed really positive knowing good things were coming,” said Rahm.

“I didn’t know what it was going to be, but I knew we were coming to a special place. I knew I got my breakthrough win here and it’s a very special place for my family.

“The fact that my parents were able to come, I got out of COVID protocol early, I just felt like the stars were aligning, and I knew my best golf was to come.

“I have a hard time explaining what just happened because I can’t even believe I made the last two putts, and I’m the first Spaniard ever to win a US Open.

“This was definitely for Seve (Ballesteros). I know he tried a lot. Usually we think a lot about him at the Masters, but I know he wanted to win this one most of all.

“I just don’t know how to explain it.”

As the championship entered its final nine holes the leaderboard was littered with former major champions all jockeying for top spot, going shoulder to shoulder and invariably bumping each other out of Rahm’s way.

Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau bullied his way to a share of the lead only to implode over the closing eight holes, dropping eight shots including a quadruple bogey on 17 that saw him plummet to a tie for 26th.

Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy entered the frame only to fade late; Harris English posted a score of 3-under that for a fleeting moment looked as though it might not be bettered and Oosthuizen had a two-shot lead with eight holes to play only for bogeys at 11 and 17 to ultimately prove fatal.

It was a week in which Australians failed to feature towards the top of the leaderboard, Adam Scott (73) finishing as the leading Aussie at 5-over par for the championship and in a tie for 35th.

South Australian Wade Ormsby completed a memorable US Open debut with a final round of even par 71 to finish one shot back of Scott at 6-over and in a tie for 40th, his best career finish in a major championship.

A Sunday 77 saw Marc Leishman finish 64th at 12-over par, one shot ahead of Matt Jones who was tied for 65th with a 13-over par total for the four rounds.

US Open

Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Cse), San Diego, California

Winner Jon Rahm           69-70-72-67—278          $US2.25m

T35       Adam Scott        70-75-71-73—289           $65,416

T40       Wade Ormsby   72-74-73-71—290           $52,074

64         Marc Leishman 74-70-75-77—296          $25,907

T65       Matt Jones         72-71-79-75—297           $25,907

MC        Cameron Smith 72-75—147

MC        Brad Kennedy    74-78—152

MC        Steve Allan         80-79—159

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