SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm knows exactly what it takes to chase down a leader at Torrey Pines.
This was the site of his breakthrough victory two years ago, when the Spaniard fired a back-nine 30 to erase a three-shot deficit and earn his first career PGA Tour title. It’s a place that harbors special memories for Rahm, who now faces another unenviable task heading into the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open.
A 4-under 68 barely put a dent into the lead of world No. 1 Justin Rose, who sits three shots clear of Adam Scott and four ahead of Rahm. A closing birdie gave him a spot in Sunday’s final group with the two men ahead of him, but it also marked his first birdie of the week on the South Course’s back nine. It means that Rahm is tempering any expectations that he might have a 2017 repeat in store as he looks to chase down Rose.
“The back nine at Torrey Pines is no joke. The fact that I shot 6 under a couple years ago, it was a borderline miracle,” Rahm said. “It’s very hard to do that again. I’ve just got to keep hitting good shots and put it in the fairway and be patient.”
Rahm’s frustrations stem from the fact that his positioning off the tee has been everything he could have desired. The two fairways he missed Saturday were barely off-line, and he has afforded himself plenty of opportunities. But the iron game that has propelled him to four straight worldwide top-10s, including a sixth-place showing at last week’s Desert Classic, hasn’t produced results.
“Yesterday my iron play was really bad,” he said. “Today it was bad, but still had a couple of good shots in there, though. I’m feeling good and my body’s feeling really good. I just hope that the iron shots get a little bit better tomorrow.”
Rahm doesn’t expect Rose to do him any favors in the final round, and he hopes to emulate the start to his third round that included five birdies over his first nine holes. Should that come to pass, there’s still a glimmer of hope that the 24-year-old can produce a little more back-nine magic at Torrey Pines.
“I think a lot of the work may be early on. If I can go 4 under on the front nine and close the gap, that’ll be very important tomorrow,” Rahm said. “Because a couple shots back going into that back nine, with how difficult it is, you don’t need anything special. I just need to be around.”