On the cusp of his fourth win in five starts, perfectionist Jon Rahm still sees room for improvement | Golf news and tour information
Since bogeying the first hole of the final round at Kapalua two weeks ago, Jon Rahm has played 71 holes on the PGA Tour. In that span, he has made two eagles, 32 birdies and just two bogeys. All told, he is 34-under in that stretch, including 23-under in three rounds this week on The American Express.
Of course, he came back to win the Sentry Tournament of Champions and is now tied for the lead through three rounds in La Quinta, California. If he continues to win in the desert, he will have four wins in his last five starts at official PGA Tour and DP World Tour events.
However, after each of the first two rounds this week, the world No. 4 claimed he had not shown his “A” game. After a 7-under 65 on Saturday at PGA West’s Stadium Course, a round in which he hit 8-under 12 holes, the Spaniard was asked how much room for improvement there is.
“A lot,” Rahm told the Golf Channel bluntly. “I missed a putt at 1, a short putt at 1. No. 11 could have been done so much better. [Missed a] short putt at 13, 14, 16 and 17, so six shots right there. I know I’m being picky, but it’s six shots that don’t drive me crazy.”
perfectionism? Maybe. But what could be read as vehement disappointment at missed opportunities, Rahm sees as reason for optimism.
“Again, it’s still amazing golf,” the 2018 champion said at this event. “The fact that I can say it can still be better gives me a lot of hope for the rest of the year, and I look forward to having that Sunday tomorrow where everything feels like it’s going full steam ahead and I post a special round.”
It remains to be seen if Rahm will need a special round on Sunday to capture his ninth PGA Tour victory or if a modest score of a few will suffice. Rahm is tied for the lead with tour rookie Davis Thompson at 23-under, and the duo have a four-shot cushion over two-time tour winner JT Poston and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who shot 62 in the third round at the Nicklaus. Tournament Course.
Thompson, 23, holds a piece of his first 54-hole tour lead in the 20th start of his career. Thompson, a former All-American at Georgia, had a two-stroke lead entering the third round, largely buoyed by a tour-record-tying five eagles over the first two days.
Although he was unable to add to his eagle total on Saturday on the Stadium Course, he scored six birdies against a bogey to post a five-under-par 67 to keep pace with a rising Rahm.
“I felt like I was patient all day and made a few putts,” Thompson said. “I had a great start, which always helps. I was very proud of how I stayed patient. He didn’t really force anything. He bogeyed badly on 14 but came back and birdied 16. So it was a good way to finish.”
Although Thompson hasn’t been in this position on the PGA Tour, he has experience playing with a leader, as you’d expect from a former college star. Last year at the Rex Hospital Open, the former member of the USA Walker Cup team converted a 54-hole lead for his only victory on the Korn Ferry Tour. Thompson built on a 36-hole lead in the 2020 Jones Cup, winning by nine strokes at the prestigious amateur event played near his home on St. Simons Island, Georgia.
Still, despite his success playing the lead, Thompson understands that he will present a bigger challenge on Sunday, along with the 2021 US Open champion.
“I mean, sure,” Thompson said when asked if he feels he’s the underdog. “I’m playing against Jon Rahm. I feel like everyone would pick me as the loser. But yeah, I like that label. I just try to go out there and do my thing and try not to let anything bother me.”
Rahm wouldn’t go as far as saying that he is the favourite. “I have the experience of being there, if he goes all the way,” he said when asked if he has an advantage over the rookie. “But he’s not far behind, obviously. He has done what he has done. At the end of the day it’s you against you. You can only control what you are doing.”
With Rahm and Thompson four strokes from the field, Sunday could well produce a two-man battle. After all, since 2013, no player has come back from more than three strokes in the final round to win The American Express. That said, with a light breeze in the forecast and a Stadium Course that averaged more than 3 under par on Saturday, the Chasers have hope.
That includes the 18-under package, five shots back. Among them are world No. 13 Sam Burns, fan favorite Harry Higgs and Taylor Montgomery, who already has seven top-15 finishes in eight starts this season.
Tom Kim, the 20-year-old phenom who has already won twice on tour, is also 18 years old. The charismatic South Korean is likely in need of some Sunday magic reminiscent of the 61 final-round shots he fired to capture his first Wyndham Championship title last August.
However, if Kim mounts the five-shot comeback in the Coachella Valley, he would be the youngest player in 100 years to win three PGA Tour titles. Kim, who turns 21 in June, would be only a few months older than Gene Sarazen when he captured the 1922 PGA Championship.
He would join Sarazen and Horton Smith as the only players since 1900 to win three times before the age of 21.