Jon Rahm eagles his way to first PGA Tour title at Torrey Pines
The 22-year-old Spaniard another young winner on tour at Farmers Insurance Open
Jon Rahm of Spain celebrates his eagle putt on the 18th hole during the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines South in San Diego, California. Photo: Donald Miralle/Getty Images
After signing his scorecard on Sunday, Jon Rahm was hustled to a television interview before he had time to retrieve his Rolex wristwatch from his golf bag. He had arrived in the winner’s circle ahead of schedule, and his management team was scrambling to make sure he represented his sponsors well.
One of his handlers gave Rahm the Rolex off his wrist, which Rahm returned as soon as the interview was over.
With a closing seven-under-par 65 on the South course at Torrey Pines, Rahm, 22, became the youngest winner of the Farmers Insurance Open. He finished at 13-under 275 for a three-stroke victory over Charles Howell III and Cheng Tsung Pan.
Rahm, who tied for third at the Quicken Loans National last summer, won in his fifth start of the 2016-17 wraparound season and in his 17th PGA Tour appearance. He was the first player to make this tournament his first victory on the PGA Tour since Jay Don Blake in 1991.
For much of the final round, the players jockeyed for position like thoroughbreds at the nearby Del Mar racetrack. Nine players held at least a share of the Sunday lead before Rahm, a 2016 graduate of Arizona State, seized control of the tournament with two eagles on the final six holes, both on par 5s.
On the 529-yard 13th, Rahm hit his second shot out of a fairway bunker to 19 feet and made the putt. On the 536-yard 18th, he drained a 61-footer after reaching the green in two, for one of four 3s recorded on the hole in the round.
“It was important to keep composure, keep it going, and I’m just so glad I was able to keep my mind on the game and I was able to think clearly,” said Rahm, who is six months younger than Phil Mickelson was when he won the first of his three titles in this tournament in 1993. “And I’m just so happy it finally happened.”
Like Rahm, Mickelson starred at Arizona State. He said he had played enough practice rounds with Rahm to get a full measure of his talent.
“I think he’s one of the best players in the world,” Mickelson said, adding, “There’s an intangible that some guys have where they want to have the pressure, they want to be in that tough position, they want to have everything fall on their shoulders. And he has that.”
Rahm, a native of Spain, started the day three strokes off the lead, which was held jointly by another youngster, the 24-year-old Patrick Rodgers, and the defending champion, Brandt Snedeker, a veteran trying to join Mickelson and Tiger Woods as one of the event’s three-time winners.
Snedeker, an eight-time tour winner, closed with a 73. He said after the third round that he believed his experience would give him an edge on Sunday — “knowing what it takes to get it done here and realizing what this golf course can do to you.”
By valuing experience, Snedeker, 36, showed his age. Inspired by Woods, who won the first of his 79 PGA Tour titles in his fifth start as a pro, the young generation has developed a group mind-set that there is no time like the present to start collecting victories.
The self-confidence can be contagious. Justin Thomas watched a 21-year-old Jordan Spieth win the Masters in his second trip to Augusta National, and it inspired him to win four tour events before his 24th birthday. Rahm, who tied for third in his first PGA Tour start as a pro, at Congressional Country Club last summer, watched Thomas win three times in this wraparound season and was motivated to produce a victory, lest he fall behind the title train.
“I wanted to win this season, especially after getting a little taste of it at Congressional,” he said.
Pan, 25, who played at the University of Washington, said the round had had the feel of a Pacific-12 Conference tournament and added, “My anxiety got me a little bit, but I still played great, got a lot of solid up-and-downs for par, so a lot to take to the next tournament.”
Great things were expected of Howell after he turned pro in 2000. He won the first of his two tour titles in his 68th start.
“These young guys seem to come out not only ready to win, but they do win,” Howell said, adding, “It pushes players like me to keep working hard at it because obviously the generation coming and the guys behind me are better.”
(New York Times service)