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Rahm’s wild day ends with Memorial win and No. 1 ranking

BY DOUG FERGUSON

AP GOLF WRITER

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — The drama was more than Jon Rahm wanted. The result was what he always imagined.

Rahm became the No. 1 player in the world Sunday with a victory in the Memorial in which he watched an eight-shot lead at the turn shrink to three shots with three holes to play, and then hit what he called the greatest shot of his life that turned into a bogey because of a penalty.

All that mattered was that fist-bump — not a handshake — with Jack Nicklaus, and taking his place along his idol Seve Ballesteros as the only Spaniards to reach No. 1 in the world.

With a two-shot penalty for his ball moving the length of a dimple on his chip-in behind the 16th green, Rahm closed with 3-over 75 for a three-shot victory over Ryan Palmer.

Rahm got up-and-down on the final four greens, which made it feel even sweeter.

“One of the best performances of my life,” Rahm said. “Yesterday was probably one of the best rounds of my life and finished today with some clutch up-and-downs. As a Spaniard, I’m kind of glad it happened that way.”

The fiery emotion is his hallmark. He showed it with a tee shot that sailed left into a creek on the 11th hole, Rahm slamming his club into the ground in a pique of anger. And it was evident with that ferocious fist-pump when his flop shot from deep rough behind the 16th green rolled into the cup.

Birdie or bogey, it was a winner, a shot that would have made Ballesteros proud.

“I still can’t believe it, I’m not going to lie,” he told Nicklaus off the 18th green.

With the penalty — Rahm had no idea it was an issue after his round, but accepted the penalty when he saw a video that zoomed in close on the ball — he finished at 9-under 279 for his 10th career victory, fourth on the PGA Tour.

Muirfield Village played its toughest in 42 years, with only five players under par, the fewest for the final round since this tournament began in 1976. Rahm’s 75 was the highest finish by a winner since Roger Maltbie shot 76 the inaugural year.

The rough wasn’t cut all week. The greens were allowed to go to the edge because they are being replaced. Crews already had stripped the entire fifth green as the leaders were on the back nine.

Rahm looked to be playing a different course. He played bogey-free on the front nine with birdies on the two par 5s. That put him eight shots clear on his way to No. 1.

And then he made bogey on the 10th. Not a problem.

He yanked his tee shot into a creek on the par-5 11th, and that was a bigger problem based on how hard he slammed the club into the ground in a pique of anger. He made double bogey. Palmer made birdie on the 12th, and then Rahm made another bogey from the bunker on the 14th.

Just like that, the lead was three shots.

Only a week ago at Muirfield Village for the Workday Charity Open, Justin Thomas had a three-shot lead with three holes to play and wound up losing in a playoff to Collin Morikawa.

Rahm was worried his tee shot might find the back bunker, though the rough was not a great option with how fast the greens were running. Rahm was thinking anything inside 10 feet would be good. This was perfect, the ball landing on the fringe and sliding down the slope into the cup.

As for the penalty?

“It doesn’t change the outcome of the tournament,” he said. “It just puts a little bit of an asterisk in it in the sense of I wish I could just keep that birdie because it was one of the greatest shots of my life, right?”

The chip was similar — but from a different angle — to Tiger Woods chipping in from behind the 16th green when he won the Memorial for the fifth time in 2012.

Woods, in his first competition since Feb. 16 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, shot 76 and tied for 40th.

“Tough, tough conditions to start out my first week back, Thursday and Sunday,” Woods said. “But it was good to get the feel and the flow of competing again.”

Matthew Fitzpatrick had a 68 for the low score of the final day to finish third.

The consolation prize went to Palmer (74) and Mackenzie Hughes (72), who earned spots in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September as the leading two players from the top 10 who were not already eligible.

Henrik Norlander could have taken the final spot with a par on the 18th, but he missed the fairway well to the right, couldn’t reach the green and made bogey. Norlander and Hughes tied at 3-under 285, but the spot went to Hughes because he had a better world ranking.

That ranking now starts with Rahm, who only four years ago was at the Memorial to receive the Jack Nicklaus Award as the nation’s best college player.

Now he’s the best in the world, a ranking that McIlroy had since Feb. 9.

“He deserves it,” McIlroy said after his tie for 32nd. “He’s been playing great for a long time. Even the display this week, it’s pretty impressive.”

Sunday
At Muirfield Village Golf Club
Dublin, Ohio
Purse: $9.3 million
Yardage: 7,456; Par: 72
Individual FedExCup Points in parentheses
Final Round

Jon Rahm (500), $1,674,000 69-67-68-75_279

Ryan Palmer (300), $1,013,700 67-68-73-74_282

Matthew Fitzpatrick (190), $641,700 75-66-74-68_283

Jason Day (123), $418,500 73-66-72-73_284

Matt Wallace (123), $418,500 72-70-70-72_284

Mackenzie Hughes (95), $325,500 74-66-73-72_285

Henrik Norlander (95), $325,500 74-66-71-74_285

Tony Finau (85), $290,625 66-69-73-78_286

Kevin Na (80), $272,025 74-69-71-73_287

Luke List (70), $234,825 70-68-79-71_288

Patrick Reed (70), $234,825 71-76-70-71_288

Xinjun Zhang (70), $234,825 72-73-70-73_288

Harris English (55), $171,585 70-73-74-72_289

Billy Horschel (55), $171,585 76-71-70-72_289

Xander Schauffele (55), $171,585 78-69-72-70_289

Jordan Spieth (55), $171,585 70-70-74-75_289

Brendan Steele (55), $171,585 68-75-71-75_289

Si Woo Kim (46), $127,875 73-73-70-74_290

Patrick Rodgers (46), $127,875 70-72-71-77_290

Steve Stricker (46), $127,875 73-67-77-73_290

Justin Thomas (46), $127,875 74-67-75-74_290

Christiaan Bezuidenhout, $78,120 72-69-78-72_291

Corey Conners (33), $78,120 73-74-72-72_291

Dylan Frittelli (33), $78,120 73-68-74-76_291

Keith Mitchell (33), $78,120 74-71-73-73_291

Chez Reavie (33), $78,120 71-67-74-79_291

Scottie Scheffler (33), $78,120 71-73-70-77_291

Brendon Todd (33), $78,120 75-72-68-76_291

Erik van Rooyen, $78,120 76-69-73-73_291

Matthew Wolff (33), $78,120 77-68-70-76_291

Gary Woodland (33), $78,120 68-70-76-77_291

Patrick Cantlay (22), $51,925 70-70-73-79_292

Sergio Garcia (22), $51,925 72-73-73-74_292

Matt Kuchar (22), $51,925 76-67-76-73_292

Rory McIlroy (22), $51,925 70-72-72-78_292

Bubba Watson (22), $51,925 78-68-70-76_292

Danny Willett (22), $51,925 74-66-70-82_292

Lucas Glover (18), $43,245 69-72-74-78_293

Carl Pettersson (18), $43,245 72-72-79-70_293

Scott Harrington (15), $37,665 74-69-76-75_294

Marc Leishman (15), $37,665 72-75-71-76_294

Ryan Moore (15), $37,665 70-75-75-74_294

Tiger Woods (15), $37,665 71-76-71-76_294

Bud Cauley (11), $30,225 75-71-73-76_295

Jason Dufner (11), $30,225 72-73-73-77_295

Lanto Griffin (11), $30,225 72-73-76-74_295

C.T. Pan (11), $30,225 72-74-75-74_295

Jim Furyk (8), $23,839 72-68-79-77_296

Viktor Hovland (8), $23,839 74-66-77-79_296

Charles Howell III (8), $23,839 69-77-73-77_296

Collin Morikawa (8), $23,839 76-70-73-77_296

Sebastián Muñoz (8), $23,839 75-70-72-79_296

Carlos Ortiz (8), $23,839 74-72-70-80_296

Adam Hadwin (6), $21,762 76-70-70-81_297

Phil Mickelson (6), $21,762 72-74-73-78_297

Louis Oosthuizen (6), $21,762 72-73-73-79_297

Kevin Streelman (6), $21,762 75-71-78-73_297

Abraham Ancer (5), $21,111 72-75-72-79_298

Zach Johnson (5), $21,111 76-70-75-77_298

Denny McCarthy (5), $21,111 75-71-76-76_298

Sepp Straka (5), $20,739 73-72-79-75_299

Stewart Cink (4), $20,088 73-74-74-79_300

Bo Hoag (4), $20,088 75-67-79-79_300

Brooks Koepka (4), $20,088 72-75-73-80_300

Scott Piercy (4), $20,088 72-73-77-78_300

Vijay Singh (4), $20,088 71-74-78-77_300

Jimmy Walker (4), $20,088 70-72-81-77_300

Keegan Bradley (3), $19,158 73-73-77-78_301

Tyler Duncan (3), $19,158 75-71-71-84_301

William McGirt (3), $19,158 76-69-73-83_301

Cameron Smith (3), $19,158 74-72-76-79_301

Mark Hubbard (3), $18,693 70-76-76-80_302

Sung Kang (3), $18,507 74-72-78-80_304

Joel Dahmen (3), $18,321 75-72-78-81_306