In the case of powerful checks, nobody has excelled this yr like Jon Rahm
MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Handicapping this week’s discipline on the U.S. Open is sort of a Goggle search that spirals into an countless variety of rabbit holes.
Dustin Johnson is the world No. 1. He’s the newly minted 2019-20 PGA Tour Participant of the 12 months award winner. He’s the reigning FedExCup champion and he’s a former U.S. Open champion. That he’s the prototype of the fashionable athlete on 7,477 yards of Winged Foot wickedness can be unimaginable to disregard.
However when you focus an excessive amount of on Johnson, you’ll overlook Justin Thomas, who completed runner-up to Johnson on the Tour Championship – and presumably the Participant of the 12 months voting – in addition to Collin Morikawa, who received the yr’s solely different main, and Rory McIlroy, who hasn’t been his greatest for the reason that Tour’s restart however is constructed for the sort of golf the West Course will demand this week.
And people apparent decisions overshadow sentimental favourite and “folks’s champion” Phil Mickelson – whose profession narrative cannot be advised with out the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot – and Tiger Woods, who has not precisely performed just like the reigning Masters champion however remains to be Tiger Woods.
The smart guys are leaning in direction of Johnson, who’s listed as the favourite by quite a few bookmakers.
However all of this ignores the obvious and the almost certainly selection for this week’s champion – Jon Rahm.
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Rahm’s by no means received a serious. In actual fact, a Spaniard has by no means received the U.S. Open. However an examination of the strangest of seasons permits for only a single selection on the recreation’s most demanding check. It’s apparent as a result of nobody has carried out higher at this season’s hardest venues than the 25-year-old.
Muirfield Village for the Memorial and Olympia Fields for the BMW Championship ranked because the Tour’s hardest layouts since June’s restart, with a 74 (2 over) and 71.87 (.87 over) discipline common, respectively. Rahm received each of these slugfests.
On a baked-out course at Jack’s Place, he overcame a weird final-round penalty to lap the sphere by three photographs. At Olympia Fields, a former U.S. Open venue, he ran down Johnson to power extra time, whichh he received with a dramatic putt on the primary further gap.
“I might say Olympia was taking part in tougher than Muirfield, so if something, I might say this week would in all probability play tougher than Olympia Fields, so that will be my one, two and three,” Rahm stated on Tuesday, when requested to check venues. “Based mostly on what I’ve heard, this must be the toughest one.”
That fits Rahm simply effective. The thicker the tough, the slicker the greens, the tougher the check, the higher as a result of if this truncated season has taught us something it’s that Rahm’s recreation travels nicely.
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Which may not have all the time been the case. His earlier victories at Torrey Pines (2017) and Palm Springs (2019) all the time had a birdie-fest really feel to them. Nonetheless, his play this yr has confirmed that there’s a more durable facet to Rahm.
His recreation has actually developed to permit for a better diploma of confidence when the diploma of problem is turned up, but when we’re trying to find benchmarks to extra simply justify his standing as this week’s favourite it’s in his strategy to the grueling calls for of main championship golf.
“I might say up to now possibly any such golf wasn’t my bread and butter, however once more, primarily based on the 2 occasions I’ve received this yr, I am just about prepared. I have been in a position to dial it again once I wanted to, and I have been in a position to play it correctly once I wanted to,” he stated. “I’ve all the time thought the U.S. Open is the kind of golf course I can win on. I do know my recreation can win on any golf course, however whenever you’re taking part in good, once more, it turns into a psychological problem, proper, so I welcome these.”
With a nod to Oakmont and Carnoustie, this week’s venue could stand as essentially the most mentally difficult in main championship golf. Simply ask Mickelson. Or Colin Montgomerie. Or Jim Furyk. All three might have received the ’06 U.S. Open on the West Course with a par on the ultimate gap, however solely Geoff Ogilvy was in a position to pull it off.
All stress is particular person and it’s clear Rahm hasn’t been worn down by the inevitably incessant questions on when he’ll break by means of the Grand Slam ceiling. It additionally has develop into more and more clear that Rahm has no real interest in shying away from the elephant within the room.
“I am not going to mislead say this; there’s all the time one thing further particular to be presumably the primary Spanish participant to win a U.S. Open. That will be superb,” he admitted. “It is a bit of an additional motivation there to play good this week and do what I’ve to do.”
Johnson has earned his standing because the betting favourite, and Woods and Mickelson will pull their share of nostalgia nods, however Rahm is the one participant to show on this season’s most demanding programs that he’s the person to beat this week.