Rahm made news last week at the U.S. Open by being the only amateur in the field to make the cut. He rebounded from a first-round 76 at Oakmont to finish in tie for 23rd. The talented Spaniard, who also has the honor of being the only two-time Ben Hogan Award winner, then declared his intentions to go pro.
His debut was much hyped, and unlike many putative “next big things” before him, it lived up to the hype and then some. He couldn’t miss off the tees, hitting an astonishing 11 of 13 fairways. Rahm credited this driving as the main reason he went so low.
“I was just hot off the tee.” said Rahm. “I was really comfortable on the tee. I was hitting fairways, and I was hitting long. So it was letting me be a little more aggressive on the fairway.”
Being able to be aggressive on the fairways led to many birdie opportunities, and Rahm was just as dialed-in on the greens as he was off the tees, as he had an amazing 11 one-putts on the round. One putt in particular, a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-5 fifth hole (Rahm’s 14th hole of the day) was one that, according to Rahm, had him believing this was a special round.
“I would say when I made a 30-ft on five, downhiller, quite a bit of break, and I made it. It was a good putt, probably the best putt I hit all day. I had two par-5s coming in and a short par-4, so I knew if I finished strongly, it could be a good round” said Rahm.
It was more than just a good round. A barely-missed birdie putt on his last hole of the day would have put him at -8, which was Tiger Woods’ winning score at the 2012 Quicken Loans National at Congressional.
Rahm was not the only golfer to go low today, especially among those in the morning wave, who as a whole, did much better than the afternoon wave. The start of play was delayed over two hours this morning as rain soaked and softened up the historic Bethesda, MD course, leading to a plethora of low scores. In addition to the 65 posted by Vegas, Ernie Els, Camilo Villegas, and Bill Haas were part of a group of seven who shot a 5-under 66.
Rahm’s incredible round overshadowed the dream pairing of close friends Smylie Kaufman (67), Justin Thomas (69), and world #6 Rickie Fowler (68), who blew up social media with their April escapades in the Bahamas. The trip earned the hashtag #sb2k16. At Congressional however, it was all business, and shirts stayed on as all three shot under par rounds.
Despite all the great rounds posted, it wasn’t all red numbers today. Pre-tournament favorite Jim Furyk, fresh off a T2 at the U.S. Open, struggled on and around the greens, leading to a two-over 73. Defending champion (although at a different course) Troy Merritt was unable to get much going, finishing at E (71). Jordan Niebrugge, another celebrated former amateur who finished T6 at last year’s Open Championship, also made his professional debut today, but did not find things anywhere near as easy as Rahm did, finishing over a half dozen strokes behind Rahm.
As if being low-amateur at the U.S. Open wasn’t enough, Rahm was also had the honor of meeting and speaking with the legendary Jack Nicklaus after his impressive finish at Oakmont.
“It was special.” Rahm said of his conversation with Nicklaus. “Jack knows a lot about golf and a lot about life. He’s got so much experience, and he never said anything too complicated. He told me to just be myself, and not try to do more than I can do. I certainly proved that on today, and I played probably some of the best golf I can play.”
After today’s round, there are 119 golfers who hope that Rahm will try to be someone else tomorrow.