SAN DIEGO – Uncorking a drive on the sixth hole Thursday, Jon Rahm thrust his arms into the air in mock celebration.
After missing seven of his last eight fairways on Torrey Pines’ North Course – and growing increasingly frustrated – Rahm finally had enough.
“Believe it or not, I just said, Screw it – if you hit the fairway, you might as well have 80 yards in,” Rahm said. “I went to hit it as hard as I could, and it turned out perfect.”
Rahm hammered the tee shot past his two playing competitors and stuffed a wedge in tight. He birdied the sixth (his 15th of the day), piped another one up the gut on the drivable seventh, tacked on another one and walked away with a 7-under 65 that put him in a share of the lead at the Farmers Insurance Open.
“It feels good,” said Rahm, who is at 13-under 131, “because if you told me before the round that I’m going to hit four fairways and shoot 7 under, I’d tell you something out there must have been really good, which today was.”
Driving was the part of Justin Thomas’ game that let him down last year. Ranked 52nd on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee – down from 22nd the previous season – Thomas won only once (The Players) and felt as though the entire year was a disappointment. As a result, improved driving was a point of emphasis during his offseason work. He and his father/swing coach worked to move left through impact, where the ball will start down the left side and fade back toward the target.
“It’s really just reps, just hitting more,” Thomas said. “I think it’s easy to just go hit a couple drives on the range. It’s not like distance control, where you’re trying to hit a certain number. It’s just trying to create a little bit of muscle memory ... and getting used to seeing a ball flight to where the misses are not as bad.”
Thomas has been pleased with his driving through two rounds, even if he’s hitting fewer than half of the fairways (13 of 28). He shot 63 in the second round – his second score of 63 or better in just six Tour rounds this year – and shares the lead with Rahm, as well as Adam Schenk.
“For the most part I was hitting it a lot more solid,” Thomas said, “and the ball was starting in the window I wanted.”