BROOKLINE, Mass. – From one ahead to one behind, Jon Rahm showed how quickly things can change at The Country Club.
The defending champion appeared poised to grab the 54-hole lead at the U.S. Open before he made a mess of the closing hole. His double-bogey 6 put him in solo third, a shot behind Will Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick, as he tries to become the eighth player to go back-to-back at golf’s toughest test.
Known for his fiery demeanor, Rahm was composed by the time he spoke with the media about 15 minutes after his round.
“I’m very content, I’m not going to lie,” Rahm said. “It’s infuriating in a sense to finish that way with how good I played those holes, but I kept telling myself: If on the 14th hole you tell me I can post 1 over par and not play the last five holes, I would have run to the clubhouse because of how difficult it was playing. I would have taken it, no questions asked.
“I have to consider that. I have 18 holes, and I’m only one shot back. That’s the important thing.”
On a cool, blustery day at Brookline, Rahm slid down the leaderboard and was 2 over par for the day when he came to the par-5 14th. He made birdie there, added another on 15, then wedged it close on 17 – his third birdie in four holes – to move into the solo lead at 5 under.
But much of his work was squandered on the finishing hole. His tee shot found the left fairway bunker, and Rahm said he tried to get “too cute” with his 9-iron approach from the sand. His ball slammed into the lip of the bunker and nearly rolled back to his feet.
“Quite frankly, it was a little dark, and it was hard to see,” said Rahm, who was finishing up his round just before 8 p.m. local time. “After I hit the shot, I realized the ball was a little bit deeper in the sand than I could really truly see.”
From there, Rahm went bunker-to-bunker, drawing a buried lie in the greenside sand. He slashed out to 20 feet and then missed the putt for bogey, giving him a 1-over 71.
“The truth is, 18, it was six good shots,” he said. “Unfortunately, it added up to 6, but it was all good swings. So I’m happy about that in that sense.”
Rahm will play in the penultimate group, only one shot back – a better position than he found himself last year at Torrey Pines, when he erased a three-shot deficit on the final day to capture his first major.
“I can’t worry about what’s going on,” said Rahm, one of nine players separated by just three shots. “I know somebody behind is going to come out hot and is going to post a score, and I know I’m going to have to play good and probably shoot in the red numbers. That’s my job.”