Jon Rahm wins the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines to claim his first major title
Expect anything different?
The June Gloom never fully lifted, the crowds were limited, the concession stands kept running out of food and there wasn’t a playoff for the 18-hole playoff. But the 121st U.S. Open at Torrey Pines South delivered much like the 108th did, with a dramatic birdie putt on the 18th hole that shattered the tranquil setting with a thunderous roar spilling across the fairways, into the canyons, over the cliffs and onto the crashing surf below.
In 2008, Tiger Woods famously made a 12-foot putt at No. 18 to force a playoff he ultimately would win the next day. On Sunday, Spain’s Jon Rahm curled in an 18-footer from the opposite side of the hole on 18 after draining a 25-footer on 17 to win by a stroke over South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen.
The spoils: Rahm claims his first major title, becomes the first Spaniard to win the U.S. Open, ascends to No. 1 in the world golf rankings, collects a $2.25-million check, celebrates his first Father’s Day with a trophy and cleanses his palate of the bad taste from being forced to withdraw at his last tournament with a six-stroke lead because of a positive COVID-19 test.
“It felt like such a fairy-tale story that I knew it was going to have a happy ending,” Rahm said. “I could just tell, just going down the fairway after that first tee shot, that second shot and that birdie, I knew there was something special in the air.”
Louis Oosthuizen missed a last-ditch chance to pry a U.S. Open victory away from Jon Rahm, leaving the South African majorly disappointed.
Rahm, 26, is from Spain’s Basque Country, but few people have greater affinity for the courses on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean. He won for the first time on the PGA Tour here at the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open. He proposed to his wife, Kelley, on a trail in nearby Torrey Pines State Reserve. He joined the Grand Golf Club just across the freeway so the Arizona residents can vacation here regularly.
He will pull out his phone and show you a picture of the seaside cliffs in Barrika, his hometown along northern Spain’s Atlantic coast. You can hardly tell the difference from Torrey Pines.
“It had to happen,” Rahm said, “in a beautiful setting like this.”
Rahm was the pre-tournament betting favorite given his torrid form through 54 holes at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio and his string of high finishes on this same course at the Farmers. But he never had the solo lead until his 72nd hole and started the day three shots behind a trio of leaders.
After missing short putts at 13 and 14, he still found himself trailing Oosthuizen by two.
The 11th and 12th holes played the toughest on the course this week, both at 0.39 strokes over par, and proved to be the undoing of most of the field Sunday. Mackenzie Hughes, who had a share of the third-round lead, played them in a combined three over and shot a 77. So did Rory McIlroy after pulling within a shot of the lead. Defending U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau bogeyed both, then doubled the 13th en route to a, gulp, 44 on the back nine.
Oosthuizen bogeyed the 11th after hitting his tee shot into the right rough but avoided further carnage with pars on his next five holes to remain at five under. He knew Rahm birdied 17 and 18 to get to six under — if he didn’t see the electronic scoreboards, he could hear it — and patiently waited to take his shot at them.
With a gliderport next to golf course, paragliders can spend hours hovering at U.S. Open. “The gliders are part of the landscape,” says Rory McIlroy.
He stepped to the tee at No.17 and hit a slight draw down the left side.
Oosthuizen’s drive bounced once, twice and disappeared into the barranca.
He took a penalty stroke, hit a wedge to 10 feet and missed the par putt. That dropped him to four under and meant he needed an eagle on the par-five 18th. He managed a birdie — not enough — and had his sixth runner-up finish at a major.
“I pulled it by five yards,” Oosthuizen said of his tee shot at 17.
Playing three groups ahead, Rahm drove into the fairway bunker at No.17 and faced a wildly breaking left-to-right putt from 25 feet. He had missed short putts at 13 and 14 and watched one lip out at 15.
The old Rahm would have boiled over. But becoming a father in April certainly provided life perspective. So did what happened at the Memorial.
After the birdie at 17, he hit his second shot at 18 into the greenside bunker and, not wanting to risk knocking it into the water, hit out sideways to 18 feet. But he has history at the 18th green on Torrey South, draining a 66-footer for eagle in 2017 to win the Farmers.
And he knows history too. Rahm was just 13 during the 2008 U.S. Open, but he has watched replays of the historic finish and remembers seeing Lee Westwood have a similar putt that would have put him in the playoff with Woods and Rocco Mediate. Westwood didn’t play enough break, and the ball slid below the hole.
“I knew it snaps hard right at the end,” Rahm said. “I trusted my read.”
Different years, different sides of the hole, different golfers, different celebrations. (Woods went with the double fist pump, Rahm with the single.)
Same, unmistakable roar cascading through the canyons.
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