Jon Rahm appeared on the first tee donning his habitual battle garb, his pinkish-red shirt reminiscent of the unmistakable outfit worn by Tiger Woods on tournament Sundays.
He needed to dig deep to put pressure on the players in his wake, but the Spaniard’s first two holes were plagued by the same problem he had struggled with since Friday. On the first his pitch lacked control and on the second his drive did not fade and found a fairway bunker, from where he would make his first bogey of the day. Any hopes of a comeback had vanished almost as soon as he had started. It is never a good sign when your first bogey comes before your first birdie.
Following the group of the Barrika native quickly provided a glimpse of the difficulty of his task this week. He was escorted by four security guards, shouts of “silence please” seemed to be constant on every hole, as well as “stand still please, there are golfers still to play”. Playing in such an atmosphere for 72 holes surely makes it difficult to produce your best golf.
Or perhaps he was unaffected by his surroundings and his performance was influenced by a packed schedule. Since the start of golf following the pandemic, Jon has played a lot of golf and very well, his run had to come to an end at some point. Or maybe it was a combination of the two factors. If one thing is clear though, it is that since he turned professional he has never had three consecutive days of such poor golf. We will not have to wait long to put the theory to the test, Valderrama awaits him on Thursday.
If to all this we add the fact that luck was not on his side on the greens, we have a pretty good idea of why Jon was unable to claim another ACCIONA Open de España. The hole spat his ball out on the 3rd and he missed by a question of millimetres on the 5th and 6th. His putt on the 10th was hugely significant. An out of sorts Rahm hit a shot that was extremely unusual for him. He looked unfocused and the putt was far too weak, the Basque knew immediately and marched after his ball to mark it. The problems he endured this week on the greens of the Club de Campo Villa de Madrid are similar to the putting issues he had at the PGA Championship, after which he changed his putter. He frequently reminds himself of the words his father often repeats to him, “a bad workman always blames his tools”, however, do not write off seeing another flat stick in his bag in a few weeks. By the time his eagle putt on 14 kissed the hole he must have lost count of how many lip-outs he had suffered. The Spaniard appeared baffled and looked to the sky in despair. When he finally found the bottom of the cup on the 16th, a wry smile appeared on his face. It was more than understandable.
He finished with a round of 69 for a -13 total that may haunt him because when he looks back on this week, he has a lot to be proud of. What Jon Rahm has done over the last four days is immense. 42,371 people have paid to watch golf in Madrid. Not since the times of Seve Ballesteros has anyone done so much for this sport in Spain. He could not be a better ambassador and we are hugely fortunate that he is Spanish. The next stop for the world number one is Valderrama, where his journey began, where his family went to watch the ’97 Ryder Cup and were immediately hooked on a sport that is practically impossible to give up once it has you in its grip.