Jon Rahm solves the Bermudagrass conundrum, vaults into contention at Sentry Tournament of Champions

January 06, 2018
Sentry Tournament of Champions - Round Three

Sam Greenwood

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Jon Rahm’s last win, at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, came on Bermudagrass, which was one more significant accomplishment for the talented Spaniard in his first professional season.

That event, at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in the United Arab Emirates, was the last event of the 2016-'17 European Tour season. After a late-blooming seven-under 66 Saturday in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, Rahm has a chance to win the first PGA Tour event of 2018. Also on Bermuda.

“Yeah, one of the first things I told my caddie [Ben Shur] was that I’m no good on Bermuda, so I needed a lot of help,” Rahm admitted. “But, hey, my last win was on Bermuda. I changed my chipping, I changed my putting, to play on Bermuda.”

What hasn’t changed is his ability to crush the golf ball. And he did that splendidly Saturday, especially late in the round, while sprinkling in the necessary short-game efficiency necessary on the Plantation Course. He covered his final 10 holes in six under par to complete 54 holes in 12-under 207, third behind world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and second-round co-leader Brian Harman. He trails Johnson by four

Rahm, 22, toured the Plantation Course without a bogey on Saturday, a pleasant surprise. “I didn’t think this was going to be a bogey-free week,” he said, grinning, feeling more pleased about that than his scoring on the “gettable” final holes.

The key stretch came on holes 14-16 when he posted 3-3-3, which translates to birdie-eagle-birdie, to leapfrog into the mix of contenders. As well as he struck the ball, Rahm credited his short game and a putting adjustment thanks to a chat with his mental coach prior to the round.

Rahm’s score was six strokes better than that of his playing partner, 2016 TOC winner Jordan Spieth, who struggled again on the greens. Rahm loves the pairing. “I don't think there's two guys that speak to the ball more than we do. It's true,” Rahm noted. “It's fun because we both react similarly when we hit a shot. It's great. To be honest, I feel like we reversed the roles a little bit today. I made all the putts I had to make, I played really good golf. And last time I played with Jordan it was quite the opposite.”

Now Rahm would like to flip the script in chasing Johnson. He tried to reel him in at the WGC-Mexico Championship, but came up two strokes shy. He also lost to him in the final match at the WGC-Dell Match Play.

“I do enjoy it [going against the World No. 1], but the outcome hasn't been great for me,” he said.

True. But, hey, Bermuda.