Check this item
LA QUINTA, Calif. – What a difference just 365 days can make.
Exactly a year ago, Jon Rahm was ranked 137th in the Official World Golf Ranking. Four worldwide victories later, including a playoff triumph Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, the 23-year-old Rahm is the world’s second-ranked golfer.
“You dream of doing those things, you want to do them, you believe in yourself,” said Rahm, who passed Jordan Spieth in the OWGR, “but to get to where only Seve (Ballesteros), Ollie (Jose Maria Olazabal) and Sergio (Garcia) have gotten, coming out of Spain, and now me, at the age of 23, to me it’s beyond belief.”
Four days before he was set to defend his title at the Farmers Insurance Open, Rahm entered Sunday’s final round at PGA West’s Stadium Course in the penultimate group trailing leader Austin Cook by two shots. Through the first 54 holes – 18 each on the CareerBuilder’s three courses – Rahm was a combined 13 under on the par 5s, making nothing worse than birdie in 12 tries.
But Sunday on the Stadium, Rahm went uncharacteristically cold on the par 5s, carding four disappointing pars.
“If you told me that on three of those drives (on the par 5s) I would be in the dead center of the fairway and long, I would have not (believed that I would’ve won),” said Rahm, who ranked T-7 on Tour in par-5 scoring last season and was T-20 entering this week. “… Not only that, if you told me that I was not going to have a putt closer than 10 feet for birdie, I probably wouldn’t have believed you, either.”
Luckily for him, though, Rahm got his birdies elsewhere, including two on the par 3s (he struggled on them Saturday) and the most important one from 11 feet, 9 inches on the fourth playoff hole (the par-4 18th) against Andrew Landry, a 30-year-old rookie searching for his first Tour victory.
After Landry birdied the 18th from 11 feet in regulation to get to 22 under and force the playoff, each player gave himself birdie looks on each of the four playoff holes – three times at No. 18 and once at No. 10. The first six combined attempts at a winning birdie missed, then Rahm, who once lost a 10-hole playoff as an amateur in Spain, finally converted after a clutch approach shot from the right rough, just before the sun set behind the Santa Rosa mountains.
“Once we got back to 18 (for the final time), I was really aware that it was going to be probably the last hole that we were going to play today,” Rahm said, “and I did not want to come back the next day and play it.”
Rahm, who opened the week with a daily-best 62 around La Quinta Country Club, missed three fairways and five greens on the front nine Sunday, but showed his mettle by avoiding bogey and carding an opening 2-under 34. He turned with three birdies in the first five holes on the back nine, including one at the 195-yard par-3 13th, where he stuck his tee ball inside 3 feet.
He may have made four pars down the stretch in regulation, but Rahm did enough with a bogey-free 67 (266 total) as others fell flat late. Austin Cook, the 54-hole leader, was out of it early and finished T-14 after a 75. Martin Piller, the third player in the final group, shot 70 and ended up T-3. Jason Kokrak made a run but closed with a bogey-double. John Huh’s final-round 66 wasn’t enough, nor was Sam Saunders’ 64.
Landry, who was a three-time All-American at Arkansas despite having just one scholarship offer, may still be winless on Tour, but it wasn’t for a lack of toughness. Razorbacks head coach Brad McMakin called Landry “the toughest guy I’ve ever been around.”
When Landry was in college, he played an event at UCLA alongside Dustin Johnson.
“He didn’t even know who he was – and he didn’t care,” McMakin said.
It would explain how Landry, who made just one bogey in 76 holes, matched the now World No. 2 shot for shot in the playoff until the very end.
“I’ve been playing well all year, had a great season last year and I’m rolling it over right into this, into the fall and now starting the year out,” said Landry, who has three top-10s this season. “So second place finish, we’ll take it and move on next week.”
As for Rahm, he will defend his title next week at Torrey Pines riding a hot streak. In his last three starts, he hasn’t finished worse than second. (Had it not been for Johnson’s other-worldly showing at Kapalua, Rahm might have three consecutive wins.)
“So far I’ve only lost against Superman this year,” Rahm said.
Rahm is showing superhero-like stuff himself. Gwk