Rozner: Rahm wins BMW in spectacular fashion

  • Jon Rahm reacts after making his putt on the first playoff hole during the final round of the BMW Championship golf tournament at the Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Ill., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020.

    Jon Rahm reacts after making his putt on the first playoff hole during the final round of the BMW Championship golf tournament at the Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Ill., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 8/30/2020 8:24 PM

When PGA Tour officials had dreams of the FedExCup Playoffs, not in their wildest imagination could they have had this kind of fantasy.

What they got Sunday was a major championship finish on a U.S. Open course in the toughest conditions the players have faced in two years, with the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world batting to a nearly indescribable finish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In the end, it was Jon Rahm, who came in No. 2 in the Official World Golf Rankings, taking down the world heavyweight champ, Dustin Johnson, in the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields, concluding with one of the wackiest playoff holes you will ever see.

"I process things so far after the fact that I can't really explain it yet. I think I'm still in playoff hole mentally," Rahm said minutes after winning. "I still can't believe what just happened, what happened the last hour of play."

Rahm shot a 66 on Saturday -- tied for best round of the day -- when scoring conditions were impossible, giving him a slight chance to make a run at the leaders Sunday, starting the day 3 shots behind Johnson, who won by 11 in Boston a week ago.

But Rahm would need something very low on a course that was giving up nothing.

After missing a 9-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole, Rahm's chances didn't look good, at that point 4 shots behind Johnson, but on the 10th he curled in a 15-footer and Rahm was moving in the right direction.

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He stuffed it on 12 and that 5-foot birdie putt got him to 2-under par and 4-under for the day, as Johnson began to stumble.

With only a few scoring chances remaining, Rahm had to get one on the par-5 15th. His tee shot veered right and into the rough, nearly out of bounds, which would have ended his day. But he pitched out and then hit a brilliant iron from 218 yards to 9 feet and under the hole. Rahm made the putt and suddenly he was in the lead at 3-under.

With Johnson still having the 15th to play, it looked like 3-under would be the score to beat, or perhaps enough for a playoff. But then Rahm drained a 36-footer for an unlikely bird on the par-3 16th, and at 4-under par and with a 2-shot lead, it was all there for Rahm.

He hit a pair of fairways and greens and made easy pars on the 17th and 18th, but Johnson indeed made birdie on 15, and got up and down out of a greenside bunker on 17.

Still a shot back, Johnson needed bird on 18 after hitting his tee shot into the right rough. No chance he makes birdie from there. His 195-yard iron stopped 43 feet above the hole, a lightning fast putt with a double break.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Not gonna happen.

But Johnson somehow drained the putt and Rahm was in a playoff after posting an absurd 64, a 10-under par weekend when it appeared on Friday as if he was completely out of the tournament.

As if the final hour wasn't ridiculous enough, Rahm's tee shot on the first playoff hole (18) went into the right rough, not far from where Johnson hit his tee shot in regulation. Johnson, meanwhile, adjusted from his last tee shot and -- predictably -- hit it far left. But that strike hit a tree and caromed into the fairway.

Big break and a big advantage for Johnson.

Unable to spin his iron from the rough, Rahm landed his approach in the middle of the green and it rolled all the way to the back, an impossible putt, fast and with a triple break from 66 feet, a daunting 2-putt from there.

"My hope was to get myself somewhat of a doable uphill putt, somewhere hopefully within 3 feet, but that was extremely difficult," Rahm said. "I was just kind of hoping to give myself a chance to make par."

Johnson wisely hit his shot left on the pin to the middle of the green, where he could easily make par. But as improbable as was Johnson's putt on 18 that sent it to a playoff, Rahm's was much more so. As it left the putter and slid down the hill and toward the hole, Rahm was calling for it to settle.

Instead, it dropped in, bringing a wild reaction from Rahm and a huge roar from the volunteers on course, and forcing Johnson to make his putt from 32 feet to stay alive. It barely missed on the right edge and Rahm had won the BMW Championship with as good a weekend of golf as has been seen on Tour since the major championships of 2019.

"I grew up on golf courses with a lot of slope, so putts with slope are something I enjoy," said the 25-year-old Spaniard. "When I first stood behind the ball I could see the first two-thirds or three-fourths were pretty much steady left to right, and then you get to the big slope, to the top of that hill, and it's going to start quick right and then at the end it's going to start turning left toward the pin.

"For people that have seen the movie, 'The Legend of Bagger Vance,' you can kind of see the light of how the putt is supposed to go. I kind of visualize the ball rolling like that."

An extraordinary weekend for Rahm could have gone off the rails when he lost a stroke Saturday to a penalty when he spaced out and forgot to mark his ball on the fifth green, following back-to-back birdies.

But he kept it together and had a spectacular weekend, leading to one of the great playoff birdies of all time and his fifth PGA Tour win in four years as a professional, to go along with six more on the European Tour.

"The last couple hours were crazy," Rahm said. "That stretch of waiting for D.J. to finish, him making the putt (in regulation), going to the playoff, me making the putt, then trying to stay mentally in it just in case he made the last putt, it's been a roller coaster, but so much fun."

And some kind of show.

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