Jon Rahm shrugged off all the fear of a tough track and tough conditions to reel off four birdies in a row from the 13th and take sole lead at the end of the third day of the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio. A win this week could make Rahm, the first Spanish player to become World No.1 since Seve Ballesteros, who last held the top spot in August 1989.
With the Muirfield Village track showing all its dangerous features in firm, fast and dry conditions Rahm’s four-under 68 was worth its weight in gold as he reached 12-under and four shots clear of Ryan Palmer (73) and Tony Finau (73). Rahm’s 68 one of the two equal best rounds of the day.
Tiger Woods will stay at 82 as far as PGA Tour titles are concerned. The 83rd will have to wait. After just squeezing inside the cutline on Friday, Woods shot one-under 71 and was Tied-37th.
The positive was that his back did not flare up as did during his 76 on the second day. Woods said, “I was moving better today and felt like I did the first day, and consequently I could make the passes at the golf ball like I did the first day.”
There was a stage when Rahm was as much as four behind when he came off the 12th green. Four holes later he was miles ahead and four clear of the field. Two-under and bogey free after the front nine, he drained a 50-footer to get to 12-under on 11th.
Finau himself was three-under for the day and 12-under for the tournament when he came to the 12t tee.
Then came the Par-3 12th, where the swirling wind took his tee shot over the green and another mistake was added as he chipped short and ended with a double. Another bogey on 14th and another double on 17th meant he plummeted to 73 for the day and to eight-under for 54 holes despite a birdie on 15th.
Palmer, who had a share of the lead on the back nine, bogeyed two of his last three holes for a 73.
Woods had his moments when he made back-to-back birdies on five and six, but did not get one on the par-5 seventh and bogeyed ninth. Two more birdies followed on 14 and 15, but so did a bogey on 16.
Woods will play the upcoming PGA Championship and FedExCup Playoffs, but has not confirmed the World Golf Championships – FedEx St. Jude Invitational in two weeks.
Rahm had just one win in the two-man team event at Zurich Classic in 2019 on PGA, but had three wins, including season-ending DP World on European Tour, besides a second place while defending the Hero Challenge, a specially sanctioned PGA Tour event.
Since the restart, Rahm missed the cut at Colonial and finished out of the top 25 in the other three events he played. Now he is one round away from joining Seve Ballesteros as the only Spaniards to reach No. 1 in the world ranking.
Justin Thomas’ caddie, Jimmy Johnson, began feeling dizzy and light-headed early on the back nine. He decided to stop and Thomas’ father and coach, Mike Thomas, who has been following all week stepped in for the last four-plus holes.
“I can tell he was light-headed and just didn’t have a lot of energy,” Thomas said. “I told him on 12 that if he needed to leave, he needed to leave. Just make sure he’s OK, versus both of us worrying about it out there. I hit my tee shot (on 13) and Jimmy was gone and my dad was there.”
Thomas three-putted the 15th for bogey, double bogeyed the 16th with a tee shot in the water as he shot 40 on the back nine and carded 75.
As Thomas said, “We haven’t played a major in a while, so this was as close as I thought … I actually thought that on 18, kind of reading my putt and obviously with no people here it doesn’t feel like a major in that sense, but just the golf course is so perfect.”
One of the reasons why Muirfield Village is fine with the course becoming really tough this week, is that Monday onwards the course starts re-doing the greens.