‘What a disaster!’ Jon Rahm’s backward putt perfectly demonstrates the torture of Portrush

July 19, 2019

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — Links golf giveth, and links golf taketh away. Jon Rahm is one of the world’s best golfers, a masters of the linksland at the Irish Open two weeks ago, and he was lurking near the lead Friday morning at the Open Championship, in proper position at three under par. At Royal Portrush’s par-5 2nd hole, Rahm found himself greenside in two shots, putter in hand.

What happened next was a perfect demonstration of the power and allure of links golf. How? Let’s break it down. Here’s where Rahm played his third shot.

Where Portrush is different from other courses in the Open rota is that its greenside areas are particularly slopey, running away from the green center. In this case, the left pin position is precariously close to the edge of the green, which slopes down to a collection area well below the level of the green. From there, Rahm could play any type of shot. He could try a touchy flop off a tight lie. Or he could play some sort of pitch along the ground with quite literally any club.

He chose putter, like Tiger Woods had done from a similar spot in the group before him. Like Woods, Rahm didn’t give his effort enough mustard. But unlike Woods, Rahm’s ball caught the slope and rolled all the way back, leaving him much further away than he’d started.

But that wasn’t all. Rahm’s next shot was even more difficult.

Rahm's fourth shot at No. 2.

Check out that position. No rough, or bunker, or water, or tree, or wind, or rain between him and the hole — just slope and short grass. Rahm opted for a pitch shot. This had about the exact level of success as his initial putt, and once again he found himself muttering to his caddie as the ball rolled back to his feet.

Jon Rahm's fifth shot at No. 2.

Understandably fed up with the up-and-back, Rahm gave this one even more oomph — and sent the ball skittering along the ground, up the slope, off the edge of the cup and past it, only to roll off the front of the green. He two-putted from the front fringe to round out his double-bogey 7. Nick Faldo didn’t mince words on the broadcast.

“What a disaster!” he observed.

To recap: After his first two shots had easily gotten him 550 yards and greenside, Rahm required four more attempts to actually find the green from there. What a torturous game — and what fantastic theater put on display by a simple, devilish setup.

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