Ole! Jon Rahm breaks through with thrilling back 9 at TorreyWritten by Doug Ferguson/ Associated Press
SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm of Spain added his name to the burgeoning list of young stars Sunday with his big game and a big finish at Torrey Pines.
Rahm made two eagles over the final six holes, the last one a 60-foot putt from the back fringe on the par-5 18th hole for a 5-under 67 to win the Farmers Insurance Open by three shots for his first PGA Tour victory.
Rahm, who turned 22 in November, beat Phil Mickelson’s mark as the youngest champion at this tournament. He also became the first player in 26 years to capture his first PGA Tour title at Torrey Pines.
Starting the final round three shots out of the lead, Rahm made up ground in a hurry.
He hit 4-iron into 18 feet on the par-5 13th and holed the eagle putt to tie for the lead. He stuffed a wedge into 5 feet on the 17th to take the lead, and he finished with his long eagle putt that broke hard to the right and peeled back to the left and dropped in on the side of the cup.
Rahm, leaning forward during its 60-foot journey to the hole, unleashed a double fist pump as he hugged his caddie. He watched a replay of the last eagle putt, along with his celebration, and said, “I don’t even remember doing it.”
On a day in which nine players had at least a share of the lead, the final 20 minutes only mattered for positions.
Rahm finished at 13-under 275, three shots ahead of Charles Howell III (68) and C.T. Pan of Taiwan, who had a 70. Brandt Snedeker and Patrick Rodgers, tied for the lead going into the final round, fell back with too many mistakes on the back nine.
The way Rahm finished, it might not have mattered.
All four PGA Tour events to start the new year now have been won by players in their 20s – Justin Thomas (23) won both event in Hawaii, and Hudson Swafford (29) won last week in the California desert.
Rahm might have won for the first time, though this was hardly a surprise.
He won the Ben Hogan Award his final two years at Arizona State as the top college player, along with the Jack Nicklaus Award his senior year as the best golfer. He spent 60 weeks at the No. 1 amateur in the world. Two years ago in the Phoenix Open, he tied for fifth while still at Arizona State.
And when he turned pro last summer, he earned his PGA Tour in four starts, tying for third in the Quicken Loans National at Congressional and finishing runner-up by one shot at the RBC Canadian Open.
Mickelson knew it was coming. His brother, Tim Mickelson, was Rahm’s coach at Arizona State and now is his agent.
“I think he’s more than just a good young player,” Mickelson said. “I think he’s one of the top players in the world. I think there’s an intangible that some guys have where they want to have the pressure, they want to be in that tough position, they want to have everything fall on their shoulders. And he has that.”
The victory gets Rahm into the Masters for the first time, along with other big events. He moves into top 50 in the world, and if he can stay there for three weeks he will get into two WorldGolf Championships in March.
Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., had another disappointing day, shooting 76 to finish in a tie for 49th place. He placed second at the CareerBuilder Challenge last week after a 13-under 59 in the third round.
Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., (74) and Nick Taylor, also of Abbotsford (72) were tied for 54th while Ottawa’s Brad Fritsch (76) finished in a tie for 67th.
Snedeker was trying to become only the fourth back-to-back winner at Torrey Pines, but he was slowed by a pair of bogeys in a five-hole stretch around the turn and closed with a 73. Rodgers was tied for the lead until he made bogey from the bunker on the tough par-4 12th, and then fell back when his approach from the rough on the 14th hole came out too high and struck a tree, leading to bogey. He closed with a 72 and tied for fourth.
Howell closed with a 68. It was his third time to finish runner-up at Torrey Pines. He made a long eagle putt on the 13th and finished with a birdie. By then, however, Rahm was one shot ahead and waiting in the middle of the 18th fairway.
Pan ran off three straight birdies around the turn to tie for the lead, but he had to settle for pars the rest of the way, including a three-putt par on the 13th.
That set the stage for Rahm, and he burst through.
He became only the fourth international player to win this tournament, but it’s an impressive list – Jason Day two years ago, Gary Player in 1963 and his fellow Spaniard, Jose Maria Olazabal, in 2002.