One thing about Torrey Pines Golf Course: It does not produce boring U.S. Opens.
Thirteen years after Tiger Woods’ dramatic 91-hole victory in the first national championship held in San Diego, Jon Rahm earned his first major championship by winning another wild Open on Sunday at Torrey Pines South. (Final scoring.)
“You have no idea what this means right now,” said Rahm, celebrating his first Father’s Day with his infant son Kepa and his wife Kelley.
He did it in a way that was reminiscent of the victory by Woods, who forced a playoff in 2008 with a 12-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole.
Rahm, whose first PGA Tour victory came in 2017 when he made a 66-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole at Torrey Pines, rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt on the same hole to break a tie with South African Louis Oosthuizen, who was playing the 15th hole at the time. Oosthuizen’s chances all but evaporated on the 17th hole when his drive rolled into the canyon and he made bogey after missing a 10-foot putt.
“That’s just incredible to make that mistake,” NBC’s Gary Koch said on TV.
Rahm finished with a 4-under 67 on Sunday and a four-round total of 6-under 278. Oosthuizen finished second, one shot behind Rahm, after making a birdie at 18 for a final-round 71. It was the sixth runner-up finish in a major for Oosthuizen, who has a lone victory in the 2010 British Open.
It was the first major championship for Rahm, and the first U.S. Open win by a Spaniard. In his last tournament, the Memorial just two weeks ago, Rahm was disqualified after testing positive for COVID-19 while holding a six-shot lead before the fourth round.
While players around him were struggling with the difficult back nine — he was the only player in the final six pairings not to make a bogey on those holes — Rahm made seven straight pars before a 25-foot twisting, downhill birdie putt at 17 to tie for the lead.
At 18, Rahm had 222 yards to the front right pin on the easiest finishing hole in U.S. Open history, but his second shot went into the bunker to the right of the green. With a downhill lie in the bunker and a pond behind the pin, he played a safe shot well to the right of the hole.
No fewer than 10 golfers had legitimate chances to win throughout the cloudy afternoon. At one point there were four players tied for the lead with six more trailing by only a stroke.
One by one, however, the contenders dropped back, undone by the difficult course and stifling pressure.
Bryson DeChambeau, the defending champion, had the lead for much of the first part of the day, including a near ace at the eighth hole, but he played holes 11-13 at 4 over, with two bogeys followed by a double bogey at the par-5 13th. He then made a quadruple-bogey 8 at 17 and finished with a 77, including a 44 on the back nine.
Russell Henley and Mackenzie Hughes, who shared the lead with Oosthuizen after the third round, both fell short of securing their first major championship. Henley made an early birdie at the third hole but three straight bogeys starting at the sixth proved costly. He also bogeyed 18 to drop out of the top 10; his 76 left him tied for 13.
Hughes was only two behind Oosthuizen after 10 holes but made a double bogey at 11 when his tee shot bounced off a cart path and into a tree. He finished with a 77 and tied for 15th.
Collin Morikawa, last year’s PGA Championship winner, missed two birdie putts inside 7 feet on the front nine and was still only one shot behind when he made a double bogey at 13. He finished tied for fourth at 2 under after a 70 on Sunday.
Rory McIlroy, who won this tournament 10 years ago, was undone by a bogey at 11 and a double bogey at 12. He was in a large group tied for seventh at 1 under after a 73.
San Diegan Xander Schauffele, who began the day only one shot behind Rahm, made a birdie at the first hole but bogeys at 5, 6 and 8 put him over par for the tournament. He rallied a bit on the back nine but never threatened and finished in the group at 1 under.
Harris English played the final five holes in 3 under to finish third at 3-under 281.