This majors season started with Jon Rahm winning at Augusta National while playing in the worst part of the draw. He battled through horrid conditions that sent peers packing after two days. Rahm is a talent that rises above draws—he doesn’t need the boost of a good one to win.
He’s also a talent that can pounce when he does get an assist from the weather. In Saturday’s third round, Rahm snuck through in calm conditions and all he did was simply become the first player ever to shoot lower than 65 in an Open at Royal Liverpool. He cleared it by two with a major championship 63 that rocketed him into second place at the time and fully into contention with one day to go.
If you were up early enough, it was pretty clear from the first two holes Rahm was in total control, both off the tee and with his irons. Everything was incredibly smooth through the first hour of his round, but much like the first two days, there was little capitalizing on the scorecard—some burned edges and incredulous looks to the sky. It’s stupid to say a 63 could have been even better—Rahm got some long putts to go in later in the round, but there were plentttty of chances too in those opening eight holes where the Spaniard made just one birdie. I was thinking: man he looks good but it’s just not happening.
That dynamic abruptly changed at the ninth hole, where Rahm began his remarkable stretch of playing the final 10 holes in seven under. He led the field in Strokes Gained: Putting on the round, gaining 3.77 shots on the greens and 7.41 total. The back-nine run was a testament to Rahm’s skill, but was also the result of some favorable winds. By the time Rahm hit the first tee, the rains that nagged the earliest tee times had subsided and left a softer course. Then, when he hit some of the most difficult stretches on the course, a helping wind allowed him to turn it into overdrive. Rickie Fowler came in and promptly noted to NBC how much easier the back nine was compared to Friday, when the wind was often off the left, creating a problem for many of these modern faders.
“The back nine plays completely different,” Richie Ramsay, another player who had an early tee time, said. “Makes the driving a little bit easier.”
Rahm carved away, pushing it 360 yards and almost up to the green at 11 in the middle of his birdie streak. As Smylie Kaufman noted later in the broadcast while covering Rory, a wind shift for some of the later tee times inhibited such a strategy. McIlroy hit a 2-iron off that tee.
While Rahm played in a stretch when that helping wind kicked in on his back nine, the softer conditions from the rain and relatively light winds were out there for everyone and a slew of mid-60s numbers came into the clubhouse. But nobody approached a 63. That’s Rahm’s talent superseding any draw bias or his own 36-hole frustrations. And now he’s got a (small) chance to chase down Brian Harman and bookend the 2023 majors.
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.