Jon Rahm is destined to win a lot of tournaments on the PGA Tour, and he’s already thinking big as a 22-year-old in his first full year on tour – major big.
With good reason.
One good reason, in addition to a win already this season in the Farmer’s Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, is a 6 and 4 drubbing during the Dell Technologies Match Play Championship of the most recent major champion, Sergio Garcia.
“If I was about to beat Sergio 6 and 4 in Austin then I feel I can also beat the same guy in a major,” Rahm said.
At the same time, he’s also happy for his fellow Spaniard.
“I can’t wait to talk to Sergio next week as I was terribly excited for him winning the Masters,” Rahm said. “Since I turned pro we have got to play a couple of practice rounds together so I have got to know him pretty well, I feel.
“It is inspirational how he fought back over that back nine and win in a true champion style with a birdie at the playoff hole. Also, the fact is that Spain has not seen a major champion since 1999 when Jose Maria [Olazabal] won so it is going to be great for Spanish golf in general.”
Rahm, a strapping, burly golfer at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds who attended Arizona State, is vying for his second title of the season this week in the $7.5 million Wells Fargo Championship at Eagle Point Golf Club.
With play suspended in the second round because of darkness, he is just a shot out of the lead and tied for fifth at 4 under with rounds of 69 and 71. Rahm began on the 10th hole Friday and made two bogeys in his first three holes before making three consecutive birdies around the turn and two in his final six holes in trying, windy conditions.
“The first realistic birdie chance that I had was 17. I made it and it kind of got my aggressive mindset back,” Rahm said. “I hit a couple of good shots in a row and those three birdies in a row got me going to the back nine. I made a few mistakes just because of the wind. The wind conditions are hard, but to be able to finish the last six holes 2 under par, it was a great job.”
Rahm has finished in the top 16 in eight of his 11 starts this season, including a loss to Dustin Johnson in the championship match of the Dell Match Play and third in the WGC-Mexico Championship.
He is fourth in PGA Tour FedExCup points this season and is also third in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings based on his two WGC finishes and tie for 27th in the Masters. Rahm joined the European Tour prior to the Mexico Championship in part because he wants to be on the European Ryder Cup Team and has to be a member of the European Tour to qualify.
Mickelson stumbles late
Phil Mickelson battled the wind successfully for 17 holes Friday, avoiding a blemish on the card and adding a pair of bogeys to reach 3 under for the tournament, which was just a couple shots off the lead.
But he double bogeyed his final hole, the par-4 ninth, where he found left rough off the tee, left his second shot short in the left rough, hit his third shot into a greenside bunker and two-putted from 12 feet to drop to 1-under 143.
“To play a really good, solid round without a bogey for 17 holes and finish with a double is disappointing,” Mickelson said. “I also didn’t take advantage of the par-5s, I didn’t birdie any of them, and that’s a difficult thing in this wind because those are the holes you have to take advantage of to have a good round. I played well and I’ll try to come out this weekend and get it going.”
Mickelson has been a fan favorite in Charlotte and has played frustratingly well to not have a Wells Fargo victory. In 13 previous appearances he has nine top-10s and seven top-fives, including a runner-up in 2010 and ties for fourth in each of the past two years.
He’s enjoying similarly partial support in Wilmington.
“It’s pretty impressive how many people have shown up for this week,” Mickelson said. “There are a lot of people here and it’s a great golf course and we really got lucky to have such a great place to host this tournament for this week.”
Johnson dropping shots.
Dustin Johnson didn’t show much sign of rust Thursday following a five-week break from the PGA Tour necessitated by a back injury, but it may have surfaced Friday.
The Coastal Carolina alumnus and world No. 1 began the second round tied for 15th at 2-under par but played his 13 holes Friday 2 over to drop back to even par for the tournament – just five shots off the lead but within a couple more dropped strokes of likely missing the cut.
Because the start of the third round was delayed three hours by heavy thunderstorms Friday morning, Johnson’s tee time with Bill Haas and Davis Love III was pushed back to 4:06 p.m. so the trio will complete the final five holes of their second round Saturday morning.
Johnson birdied the 378-yard par-4 third hole with a chip to 6 feet after a big drive, but he bogeyed the par-3 fifth after a poor chip, the par-3 10th after lipping out a 5-foot par putt for a three-putt bogey, and the par-4 13th after finding a deep fairway bunker and failing to get up and down just before play was suspended.
After hitting 16 greens in regulation Thursday, Johnson hit eight of 13 greens Friday in heavy wind.
An early exit
Though the second round is being completed Saturday morning, not everyone in the field had to stick around Wilmington on Friday night.
The cut to the low 70 players and ties looks like it will be at or near 1-over par, and players who are likely to miss it include Kevin Kisner at 3-over 147, reigning RBC Heritage champion Wesley Bryan at 150, Vijay Singh at 151, Harris English at 152 and Kevin Streelman at 155. Ernie Els will also miss the cut.
There are two Eagle Point members in the field. Carl Pettersson will miss the cut with a 148, and Webb Simpson is in danger of also missing the cut at 2 over with three holes remaining in his second round.
Those who may want to hang around until Saturday morning at 2-over 146 include Kevin Na and Stewart Cink, though 80 players were 1 over or better when play was suspended, including 23 who were tied for 58th at 1 over.