The star of this show known as the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was not featured on the marquee, but imminently, it seems, Spanish upstart Jon Rahm will become a leading man in golf.
Rahm, 22, played what he called “a perfect round” in defeating Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark, 7 and 5, in their quarterfinal match at Austin (Texas) Country Club Saturday afternoon.
“I can’t describe when the last time I played a round—the back nine at Torrey Pines was pretty darn good, too—but since then I haven’t played 13 holes the way I played today maybe ever,” Rahm said.
“I missed one single shot, the second shot on nine. I missed it right of the green. Every other single shot was pretty much exactly the way I saw it. So to play golf like that and make a couple putts it was just a perfect round.”
Rahm, who ended 2016 ranked 137th in the world, is now 25th after winning the Farmers Insurance Open and finishing T-5 in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and T-3 in the WGC-Mexico Championship. Already this week Rahm has concluded two matches on 14th hole and this one on the 13th.
Rahm, who Phil Mickelson called “one of the top players in the world” in January, seemed to on a collision course with Mickelson, destined to meet in a semifinal match on Sunday morning, until Mickelson was upset by Bill Haas, 3 and 1.
“Bill played some great golf,” Mickelson said. “From my standpoint, I had opportunities to match him on a number of holes and didn’t do it.”
Haas and Rahm will meet in one semifinal match on Sunday morning. “I’d like to find 30 more yards tonight when I’m sleeping because he hits it a long way,” Haas said of Rahm. “If I’m going to be shorter than him I definitely need to be in the fairways and then put the pressure on him and make him attack as opposed to giving him holes. He’s certainly going to be very difficult, but you never know what can happen in this match play.”
Dustin Johnson and Hideto Tanihara of Japan will meet in the other semifinal match. Johnson, No. 1 in the World Ranking and seeking a third straight victory, had been coasting throughout this competition until the back nine began on Saturday afternoon.
Johnson was 3-up on Alex Noren of Sweden through nine holes, then lost the next three holes, which squared the match. He counter by winning holes 13 and 15 en route to a 3-and-2 victory. Tanihara defeated England's Ross Fisher, 4 and 2, in the other quarterfinal match.