SAN DIEGO — Jon Rahm might consider buying some property alongside the majestic canyons and Pacific Ocean at Torrey Pines.
The place has proven to be pure heaven for him.
Before Rahm went on a scintillating late rampage to seize the U.S. Open on Sunday, capturing his first career major championship, he’d already bagged his first career PGA Tour victory on the course, winning the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open, and he asked his now-wife Kelly, to marry him while hiking along the trails that surround the place.
The win came just three weeks removed from Rahm being forced to withdraw from the Memorial after he’d built a six-shot lead through 54 holes because he tested positive for COVID-19. That cost him a chance to repeat as champion as well as $1.7 million.
“I’m a big believer in karma,’’ an emotional Rahm said. “After what happened a couple weeks ago, I stayed really positive knowing big things were going to happen. I didn’t know what, but we were coming to a place where I got my first win and it’s a very special place for me and my family. I just felt like the stars were aligning.’’
When he walked off the 18th green after his round, Rahm was embraced by Phil Mickelson’s brother Tim, who was his college golf coach at Arizona State. Rahm told Tim Mickelson: “I believed it.’’Jon Rahm plays a shot on the 18th hole.Getty Images
Rahm’s play on the final two holes of the daunting South Course — birdies on 17 and 18 that elicited raucous roars from the packed COVID-be-damned crowd — were as electrifying as they were stone-cold clutch.
He finished the tournament 6-under par for the week after shooting a 4-under-par 67 in the final round to overtake South African Louis Oosthuizen, who finished second in a major championship for a remarkable ninth time in his career.
Rahm became the first player from Spain to win a U.S. Open.
“This was definitely for Seve,’’ Rahm said, referring to his Spanish golfing idol, Seve Ballesteros. “I know we talk about Seve at the Masters a lot, but I know he wanted to win this one most of all.’’
Rahm also became only the fourth player in storied U.S. Open history to birdie the final two holes to win it — joining Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.
Rahm’s birdie on 17 came when he buried a curling putt with about 6 feet of break and it tied him for the lead with Oosthuizen at 5-under.
Then, on the par-5 finishing hole, Rahm piped a 300-plus-yard drive into the fairway, hit his second shot into the right greenside bunker, splashed out to above the hole and, when he made the slippery down putt, he unleashed an upper-cut fist pump with such violence it would make Tiger Woods blush.
After Oosthuizen had appeared so unflappable on the back nine while everyone else around him (except, of course, Rahm) faltered, he appeared to tighten up as soon as Rahm’s 6-under score was posted. He finally blinked.John Rahm is the first Spaniard to win the US Open.Getty Images
Oosthuizen’s chances to win were dashed when he hit his tee shot on 17 into the penalty-area gulch. It left him with a bogey, dropping him to 4-under par and two shots behind Rahm entering the final hole.
That had Oosthuizen needing eagle on the par-5 18th, which had yielded 13 eagles for the tournament, but only one on Sunday. Alas, Oosthuizen hit his tee shot into the left rough 247 yards away and had no chance to reach the green in two.
And it was over for him.
The day became dizzying with seismic shifts of the momentum and lead becoming difficult to keep up with.
Russell Henley and Mackenzie Hughes, two players with little experience playing in the cauldron of major-championship final-round pressure, began tied for the lead at 5-under par along with Oosthuizen.
Henley and Hughes, predictably, struggled under the white-hot lights, Henley shooting 75 and Hughes 77.Jon Rahm lets out a scream after his final putt.Getty Images
As they went backward, the cream of the game of golf rose to the top of the leaderboard, with Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa and Rahm making significant moves.
McIlroy, who’s been chasing his fifth career major for the past seven years since his last one (the 2014 British Open), started the day two shots back and vaulted himself into a tie for the lead on the front nine.
DeChambeau, the defending champion, seized the lead with a near hole-in-one on the par-3 eighth hole to get to 5-under after a tap-in birdie. Playing his bomb-and-gouge game off the tee, DeChambeau made the turn at 5-under with a one-shot lead over McIlroy, Morikawa, Rahm and Oosthuizen.
The biggest collapse came from DeChambeau, who went from leading by one shot entering the back nine to finishing 3-over for the tournament thanks to an unthinkable 44 on the back nine.
At one point, there were seven players tied at 4-under, one shot out of the lead held by Oosthuizen. And one by one, players started melting down.
Koepka bogeyed 16 to fall to 3-under, and then, trying to force a birdie to get into the clubhouse at 4-under, he bogeyed the par-5 18th to finish 2-under.
Morikawa took a double bogey on the par-5 13th hole to fall to 2-under and then he ended his chances with a bogey on 15 to fall to 1-under.
McIlroy bogeyed the par-3 11th to fall to 3-under and then double bogeyed 12 to end his chances, at 1-under par.
Hughes then hit a shot into a tree on the 11th hole, which forced him to take a drop and that ended in a double bogey to leave him at 2-under and effectively ruin his day and tournament.
Everyone else’s chaos became Rahm’s calm on his turf.