LA JOLLA, Calif. — Professional golf’s learning curve has been obliterated in the post-Tiger age, the gap between winning at the college and tour levels apparently now less a giant leap than a small step.
Jon Rahm, a Spaniard who played collegiately at Arizona State, is the latest in a line that includes Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Emiliano Grillo, the latter the only one among them to have reached the age of 24.
Rahm, who turned 22 in November, birdied the 17th hole of the South Course at Torrey Pines, then holed a 61-foot eagle putt from the back fringe at 18 to separate himself from the field and win the Farmers Insurance Open by three on Sunday, in only his 13th PGA Tour start as a professional.
Lest anyone has the notion that it was an early-career fluke, consider this from Phil Mickelson, whose brother Tim was Rahm’s college coach and is now his agent:
“Jon doesn't have weaknesses. Every part of his game is a strength. I think he's more than just a good young player. I think he's one of the top players in the world. 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 was No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking for 60 weeks before leaving Arizona State. He played his way onto the PGA Tour last summer with a tie for second in the RBC Canadian Open and a tie for third in the Quicken Loans National.
He began the final round trailing by three and shot a seven-under par 65, the low round of the day, and defeated Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan of Taiwan by one.
At various points on a sunny, 70-degree day on the San Diego coast, seven players had at least a share of the lead, including defending champion Brandt Snedeker and major champions Justin Rose and Keegan Bradley.
To break from the pack down the stretch and to win going away supports Mickelson’s contention that he wants the ball in the clutch.
"My heart was beating so fast that I just couldn't think," Rahm said. "[My caddie] gave me a couple pointers. I was really conscious about the speed. He just told me, 'Make sure you get it to the slope, the slope will do the rest.'
"Once we got a good aiming spot, I just aimed and hit it. And once it went in, I truly don't know what happened, honestly. I saw on TV what I did, but I can't believe it went in. It was one of those putts, one of those ;what if it goes in? What if this is to win the golf tournament?' I never thought it was going to be for eagle from 60 feet, especially at Torrey Pines 18th, but the fact that it went in is just incredible. The emotion just overwhelmed and I just expressed it out. But man, that was a satisfying feeling."