A week ago at Muirfield, Jon Rahm finished in only 27th place at the Workday Charity Open. He struggled most of the weekend but found his game for Sunday's final round when he had the low score of the day, an 8-under par 64. As it turned out, that was a precursor of things to come. Playing at Muirfield for a second week in a row--this time under much more difficult conditions with a much more difficult set-up, Rahm played consistent golf for four rounds, made the occasional spectacular shot and won the 45th Memorial Tournament by three shots.
"I'm incredibly proud to sit here and be the Memorial Tournament champion," the 24-year old Rahm said. "There's a lot of accomplishments that are hard to believe I've done so early in my career. This is one of the best performances in my life."
Officially, Rahm finished at 9-under par but when he walked off the green at 18 Sunday, he thought he had shot 11-under and won by five shots. Rahm ended up being penalized two shots by PGA Tour rules officials for a violation moments before he holed an amazing shot from off the green on the par three 16th hole. As he put his club behind the ball before making his swing, the ball moved ever so slightly. After viewing replays, Rahm was accessed a two shot penalty and the shot that appeared to be a miraculous birdie became a spectacular bogey.
"I'm still confused. I didn't see that ball move at all," Rahm said after the round. "It barely moves at all, but the rules of golf are clear and the ball did move. Unfortunately it's going to have a bitter-sweet feeling to possibly one of the greatest shots of my career."
In the end, the penalty is a footnote on Rahm's weekend. He took control of the tournament with a 4-under par 68 on Saturday, when he moved to 12-under par overall and opened up a 4-shot lead. The lead swelled to 8-shots at one point Sunday and despite some struggles on the back 9, Rahm was never in serious jeopardy. Ryan Palmer finished second at 6-under par, with Matthew Fitzpatrick winding up third at minus 5. Fitzpatrick shot a 4-under par 68 under the extremely difficult Sunday conditions. It was the low round of the day and the only round in the 60's. By contrast, nine players had rounds in the 80s. The average final round score Sunday was 75.96--essentially 4-over par, which is exactly what Tiger Woods shot. Woods finished 6-over for the weekend and was tied for 40th place.
Westerville's Jason Day had another nice weekend. Day tied for fourth at 4-under par. It's his best Memorial finish and Day, who was seventh at last week's Workday Charity Open, is the only player to finish in the top 10 in both of the back-to-back events at Muirfield.
As for Rahm, he not only takes home a $1.7 million winners check, but he also vaults to the top of the World Golf Rankings. He becomes the fourth youngest player in history to climb to No. 1 and joins the legendary Seve Ballesteros as the only Spaniards to accomplish the feat. Rahm spoke about the win, the penalty, the conditions at Muirfield, Jack Nicklaus and more following the championship trophy presentation. You can check out his press conference here.