Not even the strangest of twists, of which he knew nothing till it was all over, could take away the beauty of the shot or the stunning win that catapulted Jon Rahm to his fourth PGA Tour win and to the top of the official golf rankings at Dublin, Ohio. He shot a final round 75 for a total of nine-under 279 and a three-shot win over Ryan Palmer, with whom he had won the Zurich Classic team event in 2019.
Tiger Woods opened with a birdie, but then fourth, eighth and ninth and in between double bogeyed seventh for a front nine 40. Another bogey on 11th meant he was hurtling down faster, but saved himself with back-to-back birdies on 16th and 17th, before ending the week with a bogey for a 76. He was Tied-40th.
Meanwhile, Jack Nicklaus, whose course it is at Muirfield, revealed earlier on Sunday he and wife Barbara tested positive for the coronavirus in March, and they have since tested positive for the antibodies. They spent more than a month in isolation and quarantine and are fine now.
Five years ago, Rahm was at the Memorial to receive the Jack Nicklaus Award as the nation’s best college player and now he was here to lift the Memorial title and become World No. 1. On Sunday, Nicklaus, as promised, was there to greet him behind the 18th green.
Rahm’s victory march at the Memorial Tournament seemed beyond doubt at the turn which he took at two-under as his closest rival and playing partner, Ryan. Palmer, turned in two-over. The overnight lead of four had swelled to eight.
Then came some hiccups. Rahm dropped a shot at tenth and doubled 11th. Palmer birdied 12th and Rahm added another bogey on 14th. The lead was now just three with four to play on a Muirfield Village track that had the world’s best struggling.
Then came another twist, known initially only to television viewers. Rahm went behind the green with his tee shot on Par-3 16th. Then he hit a flop shot from deep grass. It was a beauty as it landed perfectly on the fringe and rolled towards the hole before disappearing into it. With no spectators to take over, Rahm let out a guttural scream and displayed a ferocious fist pump after executing the shot of the tournament.
A replay of Rahm’s chip appeared to show the ball had very slightly when he placed his lob wedge behind it. The Tour officials reviewed it and gave him a two-shot penalty. But thankfully it did not alter the outcome of the tournament.
A surprised Rahm said he didn’t realise anything was wrong. “It doesn’t take anything from the shot,” he said. “It’s not going to take anything away from today,” he said.
It was supposed to be a birdie, but later turned out to be a bogey, as the ball was adjudged to have moved in the thick grass as Rahm prepared for the shot. Rahm was not informed till the round was over and just as well. Rahm parred the 17th and 18th, while Palmer bogeyed 17th and the Spaniard won by three despite dropping from 11-under, which is what he presumed his finishing total was, nine-under, which is what the final total became after the two-shot penalty. Palmer at six-under was still three behind.
Rahm won his first title of 2020, made it a fourth successive year to log a PGA Tour title, and best of all ascended to the top of the world rankings. Only one Spaniard had scaled that peak before him and it was the late and legendary Seve Ballesteros, who Rahm calls as his idol and the ‘reason why he plays golf’.
Woods, in his first competition since February, tied for 40th. He said, “Tough, tough conditions to start out my first week back, Thursday and Sunday,” Woods said. “But it was good to get the feel and the flow of competing again.”
Matthew Fitzpatrick had a 68 for the low score of the final day to finish third. Palmer (74) and Mackenzie Hughes (72), earned spots in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September as the leading two players from the top 10 who were not already eligible.