Jon Rahm arrived on the 1st tee with his game face on, as usual, and surrounded by hordes of fans, as will probably be the norm for the rest of his career. “On Monday, as soon as I arrived in Madrid I had a plate full of ham and a tortilla”, he explained live on TV in a mid-round interview with the European Tour. Is it any wonder he is so well loved? If Jon thought Thursday was incredible, he will surely struggle to find a word to describe today at the Club de Campo Villa de Madrid. And we haven’t reached the weekend yet…
After a promising start, his round took an unexpected turn. On the course’s first par five, a cameraman got trigger happy at the wrong moment. Rahm’s second shot ended up in the trees and his ball was lying in a hole. He asked for a free drop, which the referee refused. How he stopped the ball from such a lie is worthy of an article in itself, it is hard to believe any other player would have struck the ball well enough to do so. Rahm made it look straight forward. He almost put the finishing touches on his work of magic, but the putt came up just short.
The incident with the camera proved the prelude to a day on which Rahm struggled to find any momentum. His problems started in the sequence of holes from 5 to 7. The Spaniard missed three birdies by a matter of inches and was starting to look aggravated. The greens were much faster than on Thursday and Jon was clearly not feeling so comfortable on them. Perhaps playing in front of so many spectators and dealing with the pressure of trying to please them all with every shot also played a part. On the 9th he finally found some breathing space. With the green brimming with fans, the world’s best player found the dance floor and used the contours of the green to guide the ball to the hole-side for an easy birdie.
On the back nine it was clear that Rahm was not at his best. He hit a poor wedge on 10, the wrong club from the tee on 11 and on 12 and 13 he failed to find the fairway. The Basque native was struggling to deliver his trademark fade; his ball simply seemed unwilling to drift to the right. Despite all these difficulties, Jon managed to play the four-hole stretch in level par. There is a reason he is the world number one, a bad day for Jon is a good day for most players on the European Tour.
His eagle on the 14th was the only ray of sunshine in one of Rahm’s most difficult rounds, which is exactly what makes him so special. His 67 (-4) was one better than his worst ever round at the Open de España (68) thanks to a birdie on the 18th that he produced out of nowhere. On a bleak day, he beat the course by four shots. Before he teed off today, his total for the three editions of the event he has competed in was -51. Enough said. He doesn’t shoot 71s or 72s, the golf he plays is on another planet to that of mere mortals. And don’t let anyone tell you this is because Spain’s national open is traditionally an easy setup. Last season on the PGA Tour his average round was 69.3, lower than any other player, and he produced the highest birdie average (4.51).
This is the main reason he is the best player in the world. He can still score when he is not playing his best golf. The Spaniard will tee off tomorrow with surprise leader Will Besseling, who may struggle to sleep tonight. Rahm never seems to have two bad rounds in a row. The rest of the field had better prepare themselves, because ‘Rahmbo’ is going to come out firing on all cylinders.