Ole! Jon Rahm breaks through with thrilling back 9 at Torrey
(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
SAN DIEGO (AP) His heart was beating so fast that Jon Rahm couldn't think as he studied the 60 feet from his golf ball on the back fringe to the cup at the bottom of the slope on the 18th hole at Torrey Pines.
The 22-year-old from Spain had enough wits to seek advice from his caddie, Adam Hayes, who had seen this putt before.
The idea was to get to the slope. Rahm did better than that.
He sent it off to the left and made sure it reached the crest, then watched it peel off to the right and start tracking back to the left until it disappeared into the hole on the final turn for an eagle , the winning shot Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open and one he won't forget.
"I never thought it was going to be for eagle from 60 feet, especially at Torrey Pines, but the fact that it went in is just incredible," Rahm said after his three-shot victory. "The emotion just overwhelmed me. But man, that was a satisfying feeling."
Rahm delivered on his potential, adding his name to the burgeoning list of young stars.
The tournament began by celebrating the return of 41-year-old Tiger Woods. It ended with a 22-year-old who left Spain for Arizona State, was the top college player his final two years and wasted no time showing off his knack for big moments.
He earned a PGA Tour card in just four tournaments after leaving college. He won in his 12th start as a pro.
Rahm made two eagles over his final six holes and shot 30 on the back nine, breaking loose from a leaderboard that was more crowded than the California freeways. Nine players had at least a share of the lead at some point during the sunny final round along the Pacific bluffs.
And then it became a one-man show.
"Through 13, I was right there in the mix. I was tied for the lead," Patrick Rodgers said. "I thought if I could get two more (birdies) coming in, I probably would have the trophy outright. And by the time I stepped up on 16 tee, I was four behind. I was out of the tournament by then."
Rahm closed with a 7-under 65 for a three-shot victory over Charles Howell III (68) and C.T. Pan of Taiwan, who closed with a 70. Brandt Snedeker and Rodgers, tied for the lead going into the final round, fell back with bogeys they couldn't afford.
Rahm might have won for the first time, though this was hardly a surprise.
He showed up at Arizona State in 2012 from a small town in Spain, speaking hardly any English in a university so large that when he attended his first class in an auditorium, Rahm thought he had taken a wrong turn and wound up in a movie theater.
He learned English by reading and listening to rap.
Rahm won the Ben Hogan Award his final two years at Arizona State as the top college player, along with the Jack Nicklaus Award his senior year. He spent 60 weeks at the No. 1 amateur in the world. Two years ago in the Phoenix Open, he tied for fifth while still in school. And when he turned pro last summer, he earned his PGA Tour in four starts, tying for third in the Quicken Loans National at Congressional and finishing runner-up by one shot at the Canadian Open.
Mickelson knew it was coming. His brother, Tim Mickelson, was Rahm's coach at Arizona State and now is his agent.
"I think he's more than just a good young player," Mickelson said. "I think he's one of the top players in the world. I think 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."
Snedeker was trying to become only the fourth back-to-back winner at Torrey Pines, but he was slowed by a pair of bogeys in a five-hole stretch around the turn and closed with a 73. Rodgers was tied for the lead until he made bogey from the bunker on the tough par-4 12th, and then fell back when his approach from the rough on the 14th hole came out too high and struck a tree, leading to bogey. He closed with a 72 and tied for fourth.
Howell closed with a 68. It was his third time to finish runner-up at Torrey Pines. He made a long eagle putt on the 13th and finished with a birdie. By then, however, Rahm was one shot ahead and waiting in the middle of the 18th fairway.
The victory gets Rahm into the Masters for the first time, along with other big events. He moves into top 50 in the world, and if he can stay there for three weeks he will get into two World Golf Championships in March.
Updated January 29, 2017