How can it be that for three days Rahm’s putter has kept him out of contention, and today the hole looked bigger than a bucket? Golf is a capricious animal. On Friday the gods of the game rejected twelve of Rahm’s birdie attempts and on Sunday he started his round by pouring in four of them on the trot. All the putts that refused to drop throughout the tournament were going in today. The Barrika native put on an exhibition with an astonishing front nine this morning. He drained six birdies to go out in 30 and had the Spanish fans dreaming of what would have been a historic comeback. The world number three could not have hit the driver better, he left himself gimmes with his long irons, and the putts were dropping from all over the shop. It was absurd golf.
On his second shot on the 6th, Rahm missed the green with his wedge, leaving the ball in the rough after trying to get too cute. His temper boiled over and a fan cried out “Don’t get angry Jon!”. The Spaniard, still bristling, gestured to him and pleaded “you have to let me get angry!”. He was 4 under par at the time, anyone would have thought he was 4 over. His permanent dissatisfaction is a symptom of a truly elite player. Yesterday, asked what his goal was for his final round, he said “to win”. It may sound like he was joking, but the incredible thing is that he genuinely believes it. He is a tireless winner, an extreme competitor, and part of his advantage over the rest is that he simply has more belief than them. But then his results back him up.
As Rahm strode down the 11th hole in his bubble, an astonished onlooker declared “he looks like he’s in a trance”. With his size, his gaze, and his mannerisms, the Basque player always cuts an imposing figure. When he is firing on all cylinders and ‘in the zone’, he can be even more intimidating at close quarters. Today, his body language was reminiscent of that US Masters Sunday when he saw off Brooks Koepka.
It is a great shame that his putter went cold on 9, 10 and 11. He had chances on all three holes, but, of course, they cannot all drop. On the 12th, his chances of breaking the course record and going under 60 for the first time in his career all but vanished. And perhaps through no fault of his own. A seemingly-eternal ruling (over fifteen minutes) for his playing partner Van Tonder was enough to evaporate the magic. It is no coincidence that he made his only bogey of the day on the next hole.
Rahm said goodbye in style, delighting the grandstands around the eighteenth with a drive that finished on the green, before leaving his eagle putt tantalisingly hanging on the edge of the hole. He eventually signed for a 64 and his quest to grow the game in Spain continues to bear fruit. The country could not have a better ambassador. Rahm is capable of single-handedly changing the fate of Spanish golf. He knows it, and that is why he comes back here year after year. Let’s hope we see him in 2024. You can rest assured that he is intent on one day surpassing Seve by winning his fourth ACCIONA Open de España presented by Madrid.