As he walked up to the tenth tee, Jon Rahm had an incredible eight stroke margin over Ryan Palmer. Just when it seemed like the back nine might turn into a coronation march for the Spaniard, Rahm conceded three shots on two holes and Palmer made a birdie on the 12th to reduce the advantage to four strokes. That reduced to three when he missed par inside six feet on the 14th hole.
But Rahm produced the shot of the tournament, chipping in from the thick grass around the green for a brilliant birdie (bogey) on the 16th to move four ahead. Palmer made bogey on the 17th to stretch that to five, all but confirming the result for Rahm. At the end of the round, Rahm was adjudged a two-stroke penalty for moving the ball on 16th, reducing the final margin to three. At 9-under 279, Rahm secured a memorable Memorial Tournament victory and became the newest world No. 1 in golf.
Jon Rahm pays tribute to the course and his opponent
You know, conditions were so tough. I knew I wasn’t going to play 18 perfect holes. I knew at some point something was going to go south. For the most part on the front nine, I got pretty good breaks, and I was able to get it done.
You know, there was a couple shots that might have ended up in the worst spot, like my tee shot on 8 could have been a lot worse, my tee shot on 9 could have been a lot worse, but they didn’t. I knew at some point they could get a little twisted. It doesn’t take much on this golf course.
If it’s a difficult golf course on a regular day, imagine when they’re ready to basically let the greens die, fairways die. It was so firm out there, so windy, and then we started to get a little drizzle, that it’s just no easy task. Any miss is going to be heavily penalized, and I was fully aware.
Unfortunately for me Ryan played amazing when I started playing bad. Made a par on 10, 11, birdie on 12, and then he had some chances to put more pressure on me. But when I needed it the most after that missed putt on 14 I said that’s enough, started hitting good shots and I timed with it; real highlight with that little flop shot on 16, which will probably go down so far as my greatest chip shot. I don’t know if I’ll ever top that.
With Rory McIlroy finishing outside the top 30, Rahm only needed a second place finish to secure the number one ranking. But he did it in style pulling off a sensational victory to ice the cake on a day he will never forget.
Rahm became the 24th golfer to climb the summit and become world number one. He is also the fifth youngest golfer to have achieved the feat, only the second Spaniard after Seve Ballesteros to claim the top spot in the OWGR rankings. Victory also meant that Rahm extended his run of winning seasons to four. He is also the third fastest to number one after turning professional. Tiger Woods took just 290 days to gain the top ranking, while Jordan Spieth needed 2 years and 245 days. Rahm took a modest 4 years and 27 days to reach the top perch in world golf.
Jon Rahm thrilled at emulating Seve Ballesteros
I don’t know how to describe it. It’s been a goal since I was 13, 14 years old. I remember I heard a story on the radio from my swing coach back in Spain, Eduardo Celles. We were driving somewhere and he asked me what my goals were and my ambitions and this and that, and I remember telling him, I think 13 or 14 years old, it’s like, I’m going to be the best player in the world, and that’s what I set out to be.
Every day I wake up trying to be a better player, a better person, every single day, a better husband, and that’s how I can sum it up. Any time I can join my name to Spanish history or any kind of history, it’s very unique. Seve is a very special player to all of us, and to be second to him, it’s a true honor.
The course played tough all week, but Sunday was the pinnacle. The average score of 75.9 was the highest at Muirfield Village Golf Club since 1979. Rahm shot 73, but as he shaped up to play his chip off the grass around the bunker at 16, the ball moved ever so slightly. That was enough for the rules official to slap Rahm with a two-stroke penalty, reducing his card to a 75.
Matthew Fitzpatrick was the pick of the golfers on Sunday. With Jim Mackay on his bag for the second straight week, the Englishman shot a brilliant 68, nearly eight strokes better than the field for a solid third place finish at 5-under 283, just one behind second placed Palmer.
As the PGA TOUR moves on to the 3M Open next week, golf can continue to celebrate an immensely successful run since its return from a #COVID19 suspension midway through the Players Championship in February. In a double header at Jack’s Place, 23 year old Collin Morikawa and 25 year old Jon Rahm have affirmed the health of golf with their stupendous achievements these past two weeks. Morikawa won the Workday Charity Open in a sensational playoff against Justin Thomas last week.