Jon Rahm wins U.S. Open at Torrey Pines for first major title
It turns out Jon Rahm has the temperament to win a major championship.
SAN DIEGO – It turns out Jon Rahm has the temperament to win a major championship.
The fiery Spaniard canned a 25-foot birdie at 17 and an 18-foot birdie at the last to claim the lead and close in 4-under 67 to edge Louis Oosthuizen by one stroke at the 121st U.S. Open. Rahm punctuated the moment with an uppercut fist pump.
At one point, on the front nine, there were five players tied for the lead and five players one stroke behind. Among the star-studded leaderboard were Rory McIlroy, who was chasing his fifth major and first since 2014, Bryson DeChambeau trying to defend his title, Brooks Koepka attempting to win his third U.S. Open in a five-year span, and Collin Morikawa, who was trying to become the fifth American player since World War II to capture multiple major champions before age 28.
Rahm, the World No. 3, delivered his first major title just 15 days after he tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament ahead of the final round despite a commanding six-stroke lead. He took the news hard initially, but accepted the decision with grace and was cleared to play in the major after spending time in self-quarantine. But it didn’t come without consequences: Rahm missed being present when his parents arrived from Spain and met his son, Kepa, born in April, for the first time.
“That was truly, truly a hard thing,” Rahm said.
U.S. Open: Leaderboard | Photos
Rahm, 26, reached World No. 1 in 2019, and the question long has been when, not if, he would win a major. All that has seemingly held him back is a temper that always seems on the verge of self-combustion. When asked on Friday how he managed to keep his composure at the most mentally-taxing championship, he snapped: “Am I ever going to escape that question?”
“He is a gentle giant,” said Phil Mickelson, who has served as a mentor to Rahm. “He’s got the kindest heart, and yet he has a great fire and passion to the game.”
Rahm opened with rounds of 69-70-72 and trailed the three 54-hole co-leaders – Russell Henley, Mackenzie Hughes and Oosthuizen – by three strokes heading into the final round. Needing to make a Sunday charge, Rahm came out of the gate like a raging bull, making birdies at the first two holes and survived a couple of loose tee shots at the third and fourth, which led to his lone bogey of the day, and the ninth, which thanks to a free drop he converted into a birdie to join the trophy hunt.
An absolutely LEGENDARY finish!@JonRahmPGA closes birdie-birdie on 17 and 18 to become the 121st #USOpen champion! pic.twitter.com/pfKmYlIAYe
— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) June 21, 2021
As others faltered, including DeChambeau who held a one-stroke lead with nine holes to go only to shoot 77 and finish nine strokes off the pace, Rahm played steady golf. He kept his composure and reeled off seven straight pars before his dramatic birdie-birdie finish to match the low round of the week and finish at 6-under-par 278.
Oosthuizen, who won the 2010 British Open, finished second for the sixth time at a major and the second consecutive major in a row, having finished second to Phil Mickelson at the PGA Championship last month. A bogey at the 17th hole after pulling his drive into a penalty area meant Oosthuizen needed to make eagle on the 72nd hole and he managed only a birdie. But it was Rahm’s week in the city that always has been good to him, including when he dropped to one knee and asked his wife, Kelley, to marry him during a hike at nearby Torrey Pines Reserve Park.
Rahm, who became the first Spaniard to win a U.S. Open, walked off the 72nd green and hugged his wife and held his son. It capped off a first Father’s Day he’ll never forget.
“You have no idea what this means right now,” he said to Kepa. “You will soon enough.”