Jon Rahm had to beat the darkness, Andrew Landry and his own missed opportunities Sunday, but in the end the world's No. 3 player had a championship in the desert.
With the sun already behind the Santa Rosa Mountains and a Monday finish looming as a real possibility, Rahm rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on the fourth playoff hole, then watched as Landry missed from the same distance from the other side of the hole on the 18th green at the Stadium Course at PGA West.
“Darkness was never on my mind. It was not until after I made (the winning putt) where I realized how dark it got quick,” Rahm said. “And I know in Palm Springs it gets dark. In a matter of 10, 20 minutes you can't see. So that's when I first realized it, but I really, it really didn't play a part of making me any more nervous or tense than what I was.”
Rahm said if needed he would have wanted to play a fifth hole Sunday at dusk rather than come back to the course Monday.
The victory is Rahm’s second on the tour, coming one week before he defends his title at the Farmer Insurance Open in San Diego.
“I love California. I get a good vibe. What can I say,” Rahm said.
Rahm, who turned 23 in November, is the second-youngest winner of the tournament behind Jack Nicklaus, who won the tournament in 1963 just 13 days after his 23rd birthday. Sunday was Nicklaus’ 78th birthday.
The victory also guarantees the Spanish star will move to the No. 2 spot in the Official World Golf Rankings on Monday, vaulting ahead of Jordan Spieth. That’s a spot Rahm cherishes.
“To think of being No. 2 in the world, it's hard to believe. You dream of doing those things, you want to do them, you believe in yourself, but to get to where only Seve (Ballesteros), Ollie (Jose Maria Olzabal) and Sergio (Garcia) have gotten, coming out of Spain, and now me, at the age of 23 it's, to me it's beyond belief,” Rahm said. “It's a huge accomplishment not only for me but for Spain.”
Rahm and Landry finished regulation at 22-under par, with Landry shooting 70 on the day and Rahm firing a 67. Two shots back were Adam Hadwin, John Huh and Martin Piller. Hadwin shot 68 on Sunday, Huh fired a 66 and Piller shot 70.
Both players wasted plenty of chances in the closing holes and in the playoff to win the event. Rahm managed a round without a bogey, but he also only parred all five par-5s on the Stadium Course after playing the 12 par-5s in the first three rounds with 11 birdies and one eagle.
Rahm’s shots seemed to touch the holes several times during the day, including a chip on the 11th hole and an 11-foot birdie putt that lipped out on the 16th hole. He missed another 11-footer on the 18th hole that could have won the tournament in regulation.
Landry had five birdies and just one bogey on the day, but could have passed Rahm late in regulation. The 30-year-old Landry, looking for his first win on the tour, missed a 9-foot birdie on the 16th hole that could have tied him for the lead, and then missed a 14-footer in the 17th hole.
But on the 18th hole, after a drive into the right rough, Landry coaxed an 11-foot putt into the hole for a birdie to force the 21st playoff in the tournament’s 59-year history.
“You’ve got to give props and congrats to Andrew,” Rahm said. ”That was outstanding to play the way he did. To birdie 18 out of the rough, having to birdie to tie and go in a playoff. And then on the playoff hitting right after me every single time and hit the fairway and the green right after me, it's really hard to do, it's not easy. The pressure was on him 80 percent of the time in that playoff. So props to him and congrats, and I hope he wins soon this year.”
The playoff saw more missed opportunities, with Rahm missing a 12-footer to win on the first playoff hole and Landry missing from 10 feet on the second playoff hole.
“After Andrew missed (on the first playoff hole), I was really confident I was going to make that putt. I knew the break, I knew the speed,” Rahm said. “Maybe the nerves got the best of me and I pulled it a little.”
After relatively routine pars on the third playoff hole, the duo returned to the par-4 18th. After two solid drives and approach shots, Rahm finally made a putt from 12 feet for a birdie. Landry, one inch closer, couldn’t get his putt to fall, and Rahm had his second PGA Tour win just one week before defending his title at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego.
“This was a weird pin location. I felt like it was hard for those balls to break and I read it perfectly the first time and the next two times we had the exact same yardage, exact same putt right there,” Landry said of the 18th hole. “So just hit it a little too firm and tried to take some of the break out and it actually just kind of stayed high. So it was a good week and we'll go next week.”
Rahm and Landry were two of the only players to stay near the top of the leaderboard throughout the day. Third-round leader Austin Cook double bogeyed the fifth hole and made bogey on the sixth hole to fall out of contention. Piller bogeyed three of his first 10 holes before rallying to tie for third, Scott Piercy’s four bogeys in his first 13 holes killed his chances at a win.
Jason Kokrak, in contention late, found water on the par-3 17th for a bogey and then double bogeyed the 18th.
That left it to Rahm and Landry to decide a winner, a winner that didn’t seem to want to step up in the playoff.
“I was really aware that it was going to be probably the last hole that we were going to play today, and I did not want to come back the next day and play it,” Rahm said of the last playoff hole.
“I was really glad I had the opportunity to putt first,” Rahm added. “I wanted to putt first because I felt something in me, I saw the break, I knew it was outside the left edge, I just trusted myself, trusted my stroke and hit a perfect -- actually a little bit below perfect speed and caught the lip and went in.”
Written by Larry Bohannan posted by The Desert Sun: https://www.desertsun.com/story/sports/golf/careerbuilder/2018/01/21/jon-rahm-beats-field-and-darkness-win-careerbuilder-challenge-title/1051921001/