Jon Rahm won his first professional tour title at Torrey Pines, at the Farmers Insurance Open in 2017. On Sunday evening it was also the venue at which the 26-year-old won his first major championship, very much down to the making of mid-range left-to-right breaking birdie putts on both the 17th and 18th greens. That got him home in this year’s US Open by one shot from South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, for whom this was a sixth runners-up finish in a major since he claimed his one and only at the 2010 Open Championship at St Andrews. (The defending champion, BTW, Bryson DeChambeau, had led briefly early on Sunday but he became utterly undone on the back nine, making consecutive bogeys on 11 and 12, taking a double-bogey on 13 and a quadruple on 17. Back to the drawing board, I guess?)
Rahm shot a final round of 67, four under par, to close with a total of 278. A fortnight previously, a failed covid test forced his withdrawal from the Memorial Tournament after 54 holes. He had held a six-shot lead at the time. “I’m a big believer in karma,” said Rahm. “I stayed really positive knowing good things were coming.” They didn’t take long to come. His parents, wife and two-month-old son were there to see him make a piece of history.
“I am the first Spaniard to win the US Open,” he said, correctly. “This was definitely for Seve.” Ballesteros, an idol for Rahm, passed away 10 years ago. I think it’s fair to say that most golf-followers would expect this to be the first major for Rahm but not the last. Then again, I guess many felt that way when Oosthuizen, now 38, romped home by seven shots over the Old Course 11 years ago.
There had been an extraordinary story at the halfway stage of this championship. Tied for the 36-hole lead after rounds of 70-67 was 48-year-old Englishman, Richard Bland, who just over a month before had won his maiden victory on the European Tour, at the Betfred Masters at The Belfry. He had achieved this feat at the 478th time of asking. A subsequent third-place finish in Denmark put him at the top of the European qualifying system for this year’s US Open that was introduced to replace the covid-ruined final qualifying event. Some stats-smart person at the Golf Channel pointed out that Bland was ranked 115th in the world, the exact same ranking Phil Mickelson had held before he had won the season’s previous major, the USPGA Championship.
It did not prove to be a snappy stat. From five under par on Saturday morning, Bland finished with rounds of 77-78 and a tie for 50th. By a remarkable coincidence, his final-round playing partner was Guido Migliozzi, the guy he had beaten in a playoff to earn that win at The Belfry. The Italian was 10 shots better than Bland on Sunday, which elevated him all the way up to a tie for fourth, four shots behind Rahm. Mickelson, meanwhile, aiming to complete the career Grand Slam, finished the championship with a total of 295, tied 62nd.
So ultimately a disappointing ending for both Bland and Mickelson – well, at least until one considers the fate of Monty Scowsill in the final of the Amateur Championship at Nairn on Saturday. He was 8 up after 17 holes on Laird Shepherd, and later 4 up with four to play, but he still lost in extra holes. To Shepherd went the title and places in the field for the Open next month, the Masters next April and the US Open next summer. To Scowsill, a setback which one imagines will take some getting over.
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