WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?

Two late birdie bombs propel Rahm

1st Spaniard to win U.S. Open
by Matt Ward

 

SAN DIEGO, CA. Heading into the final round for the 121st U.S. Open no less than 13 players were within four shots of the lead held jointly by three players. The Sunday fireworks came early during the concluding round and as the final pairing of Louis Oosthuizen and Mackenzie Hughes left the 9th green – the lead was shared by Oosthuizen and defending champion Bryson DeChambeau.

Five players — Hughes, Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm — were just one shot behind.

Only one player among those closest to contending successfully negotiated the rigors of the back nine of the South Course at Torrey Pines without a blemish on his scorecard — it was Rahm winning his first major and adding to the legacy of Spanish golf in becoming the first player from his country to claim the championship of the second oldest major event in golf.

Rahm reached the penultimate hole one stroke behind the South African Oosthuizen. Facing a challenging 25-foot putt with no less than six feet of break from left-to-right the 26-year-old sunk the putt and emphatically punched the air with his fist and move into a tie for the lead.

On the final hole Rahm positioned his tee shot and opted for a 4-iron second to the dangerous par-5 finisher protected in front by a menacing pond. Rahm’s 2nd sailed right finding the greenside bunker. After surveying the position of the flagstick and realizing how perilous a play it would be to attempt to get close to the hole, he opted to play smartly to the right leaving himself 24 feet. Incredibly, Rahm sunk the birdie putt pushing him into a lead he would never relinquish.

Rahm’s final round 67 matched the low 18-hole round for the week giving him a 72-hole cumulative score of 278.

The stage of the 18th green on the South Course at Torrey Pines is a most familiar one for the Spaniard — in 2017 Rahm curled in a 50-foot eagle putt to claim his first PGA Tour title in the Farmers Insurance event after also trailing by three strokes going into the final round.

Rahm’s last event came at The Memorial two weeks prior to the U.S. Open and he was forced to withdraw after three rounds of play after testing positive for COVID-19. The Spaniard’s play in Ohio was stellar, -18 and a six-shot lead going for naught.

“I’m a big believer in karma,” said Rahm, “And after what happened a couple weeks ago, I stayed really positive knowing good things were coming. I didn’t know what it was going to be, but I knew we were coming to a special place, I just felt like the stars were aligning, and I knew my best golf was to come.”

Rahm further explained — “I have a hard time explaining what just happened because I can’t even believe I made the last two putts, and I’m the first Spaniard ever to win a U.S. Open. This was definitely for Seve [Ballesteros]. I know he tried a lot, and usually we think a lot about him at the Masters, but I know he wanted to win this one most of all. I just don’t know how to explain it.”

Oosthuizen valiantly held his own on the inward half — calmly sinking demanding par putts throughout the back nine as he reached the par-4 17th. Needing to finish with at least one birdie and par to secure a tie with Rahm, Oosthuizen inexplicably pulled his tee shot left at the 17th into the adjoining penalty area. After a one-shot penalty in dropping his ball Oosthuizen played a solid wedge shot from 131 yards to eight feet. The par putt never broke enough left and the resulting bogey meant the 38-year-old would need to eagle the last to force a playoff. It was not to be as Oosthuizen’s tee shot found the left rough and after laying up short of the pond his pitch from 69 yards to tie missed. Oosthuizen would hole the anti-climactic birdie putt from eight feet and duplicate his finish at the May PGA Championship with another runner-up position.

The final nine holes of any major championship are always replete with key shots — successful ones and those less so. As the seven players proceeded through the inward half the ongoing misplays resembled car crashes more attuned to NASCAR than golf.

One-by-one the key players in contention gave ground with only Rahm and Oosthuizen able to maintain their respective positions till the exciting conclusion.

Odds and Ends from Sunday’s Final Round

  • Rahm’s win now catapults him to the top of the men’s world rankings — supplanting Dustin Johnson. The U.S. Open victory marks his 6th win on the PGA Tour and comes after a forced withdrawal because of a positive COVID-19 test at The Memorial where he led after three rounds by six shots. His comments were telling — “I know what happened a couple of weeks ago. Some people might say it wasn’t fair, but it was what had to be done. We still have to be aware of what’s going on in this world. Take care of yourself and everybody around you so we can get over this as quick as possible.”
  • Rahm becomes the most recent foreign winner of the U.S. Open — the last coming in 2014 when German Martin Kaymer won at Pinehurst.
  • Oosthuizen’s runner-up finish is the 6th in his career. While he claimed the ’10 Open Championship as his only victory among the four major events he has been a runner-up in all four including the last two. Among active players — only Phil Mickelson (11) and Tiger Woods (7) have more runner-up finishes.
  • DeChambeau had gone 34 holes without a bogey and held the joint lead with Oosthuizen as late as the par-3 11th before imploding and concluding play on the final eight holes in 8-over-par including a quintuple bogey eight on the 17th hole.
  • Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka started the final round five shots out of the lead and made a run for his 3rd U.S. Open title but late bogeys at the par-3 16th and par-5 18th respectively squashed any opportunities and he ultimately finished T4. Nonetheless, Koepka emphatically reinforces his position as the most consistent performer when major championships are played. In the last 15 majors going back to his triumph in the 2017 U.S. Open — Koepka has finished in the top 5 nine times.
  • Richard Bland who at 48 became the oldest leader of a major championship, finished weekend play with rounds of 77-78. The Englishman finished T50.
  • 3 — the most Italians to complete four rounds in major championship took place at Torrey Pines. The brothers — Francesco and Eduardo Molinari — matched the feat of Japanese brothers — Joe and Masahi “Jumbo” Ozaki who did similarly at Baltusrol in 1993. Joining the Molinaris in completing four rounds was Guido Migliozzi who finsihed T4.
  • Rory McIlroy’s streak of having won no major since the 2014 PGA Championship continues. At one point in the final round the Ulsterman closed to within one shot of the lead — but a missed par putt at the 11th followed by a double-bogey at the 12th was enough to derail his desire to snare a second U.S. Open title. McIlroy shot 73 on Sunday and a T7.
  • San Diego native and world ranked top ten player Xander Schauffele was rated among the pre-championship favorites and while he positioned himself after opening with rounds of 69 and 71 — his weekend play was unable to better those scores with totals of 72 and 71 resulting in a T7 final position.
  • Mackenzie Hughes had an unusual happening — his tee shot at the par-3 11th bounced off a cart path and landed within the branches of a tree near to the green. He was forced to take a penalty stroke and his double-bogey five effectively ended his run to become the first Canadian to win the U.S. Open.
  • Twenty of the 71 players who completed 72 holes survived final qualifying to advance to Torrey Pines, with Air Force Academy alum Kyle Westmoreland the lone golfer to advance through both stages of qualifying and play the weekend. By playing 72 holes, Westmoreland is exempt from local qualifying next year. Branden Grace (T-7) was the low qualifier, three strokes ahead of 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.
  • In 2008, a total of 53 sub-par rounds were recorded over the four days of the U.S. Open. In 2021, that number increased by 25 to 78. On Sunday, 14 players bettered par.
  • Torrey Pines’ par-5 18th hole played as the easiest finishing hole in U.S. Open history, yielding 183 birdies and 13 eagles for a stroke average of 4.64. The par-3 11th the was the toughest hole for the week, playing to an average of 3.39.
  • The USGA, in concert with the superintendent and grounds crew, provided a stern yet fair test of golf on the South Course at Torrey Pines. In years past, the USGA has caused self-inflicted snafus to happen causing consternation from the players that those involved with the association are not up to the task in creating.
  • The final round of the U.S. Open happens traditionally on Father’s Day and winner Jon Rahm celebrated his first Father’s Day celebration with his wife Kelley and recently born son — Kepa Cahill — born April 4 just prior to the start of the Masters tournament. Rahm’s parents were also at Torrey Pines.
  • Mike Davis, CEO since 2016 and a USGA employee for 32 years worked his final U.S. Open with the championship at Torrey Pines. Davis will join Tom Fazio II in a new golf architecture firm called Fazio & Davis Golf Design. He became the 7th executive director in 2011 before ascending to become the first CEO of the association during an internal organizational shakeup five years later
  • The 122nd U.S. Open will be played June 16-19 at The Country Club in Brookline, MA. This will mark the first return of the U.S. Open to the immediate Boston area since the 1988 championship.

US Open 2021 – Rahm

Pos.
Player
To Par
R1
R2
R3
R4
Total
1
Jon Rahm
-6
69
70
72
67
278
2
Louis Oosthuizen
-5
67
71
70
71
279
3
Harris English
-3
72
70
71
68
281
T4
Guido Migliozzi
-2
71
70
73
68
282
T4
Brooks Koepka
-2
69
73
71
69
282
T4
Collin Morikawa
-2
75
67
70
70
282
T7
Branden Grace
-1
72
70
74
67
283
T7
Daniel Berger
-1
71
72
72
68
283
T7
Paul Casey
-1
71
75
67
70
283
T7
Xander Schauffele
-1
69
71
72
71
283
T7
Scottie Scheffler
-1
72
69
70
72
283
T7
Rory McIlroy
-1
70
73
67
73
283
T13
Francesco Molinari
E
68
76
69
71
284
T13
Russell Henley
E
67
70
71
76
284
T15
Patrick Cantlay
+1
70
75
71
69
285
T15
Mackenzie Hughes
+1
73
67
68
77
285
T15
Kevin Streelman
+1
71
69
72
73
285
T15
Matthew Wolff
+1
70
68
73
74
285
T19
Sergio Garcia
+2
71
74
73
68
286
T19
Brian Harman
+2
72
71
71
72
286
T19
Dustin Johnson
+2
71
73
68
74
286
T19
Patrick Reed
+2
72
73
74
67
286
T19
Charl Schwartzel
+2
71
74
71
70
286
T19
Jordan Spieth
+2
77
69
68
72
286
T19
Justin Thomas
+2
73
69
71
73
286
T26
Chris Baker
+3
74
71
69
73
287
T26
Bryson DeChambeau
+3
73
69
68
77
287
T26
Rikuya Hoshino
+3
69
74
73
71
287
T26
Martin Kaymer
+3
77
68
69
73
287
T26
Hideki Matsuyama
+3
69
76
74
68
287
T31
Christiaan Bezuidenhout
+4
72
70
70
76
288
T31
Joaquin Niemann
+4
75
69
71
73
288
T31
Patrick Rodgers
+4
70
71
77
70
288
T31
Dylan Wu
+4
70
73
74
71
288
T35
Lanto Griffin
+5
76
69
69
75
289
T35
Sungjae Im
+5
72
72
69
76
289
T35
Robert MacIntyre
+5
71
73
72
73
289
T35
Edoardo Molinari
+5
70
76
72
71
289
T35
Adam Scott
+5
70
75
71
73
289
T40
Adam Hadwin
+6
70
72
75
73
290
T40
Si Woo Kim
+6
71
75
70
74
290
T40
Wade Ormsby
+6
72
74
73
71
290
T40
J.T. Poston
+6
72
73
71
74
290
T40
Ian Poulter
+6
74
71
68
77
290
T40
Chez Reavie
+6
76
68
72
74
290
T46
Dylan Frittelli
+7
73
72
72
74
291
T46
Tom Hoge
+7
72
71
76
72
291
T46
Rick Lamb
+7
71
75
74
71
291
T46
Lee Westwood
+7
71
72
71
77
291
T50
Richard Bland
+8
70
67
77
78
292
T50
Rafa Cabrera Bello
+8
68
76
74
74
292
T50
Tommy Fleetwood
+8
72
73
74
73
292
T50
Bubba Watson
+8
72
67
77
76
292
T50
Gary Woodland
+8
74
71
73
74
292
T55
Matt Fitzpatrick
+9
70
75
72
76
293
T55
Kevin Kisner
+9
73
73
72
75
293
T57
Akshay Bhatia
10
73
73
73
75
294
T57
Stewart Cink
10
73
72
74
75
294
T57
Charley Hoffman
10
72
71
75
76
294
T57
Taylor Montgomery
10
70
76
74
74
294
T57
Jhonattan Vegas
10
75
69
74
76
294
T62
Phil Mickelson
11
75
69
76
75
295
T62
Greyson Sigg
11
71
74
75
75
295
64
Marc Leishman
12
74
70
75
77
296
T65
Matt Jones
13
72
71
79
75
297
T65
Shane Lowry
13
72
74
72
79
297
T65
Troy Merritt
13
75
71
73
78
297
T68
Wilco Nienaber
14
72
74
80
72
298
T68
Kyle Westmoreland
14
71
73
78
76
298
T70
Fabián Gómez
19
70
76
78
79
303
T70
Jimmy Walker
19
74
72
77
80
303
CUT
Marcus Armitage
+5
71
76
147
CUT
Sam Burns
+5
73
74
147
CUT
Wyndham Clark
+5
75
72
147
CUT
Thomas Detry
+5
71
76
147
CUT
Andrew Kozan (a)
+5
71
76
147
CUT
Taylor Pendrith
+5
75