Jon Rahm on his two-stroke penalty: ‘The ball did move’
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Written by Mike McAllister @PGATOUR_MikeMc
Jon Rahm’s interview after Round 4 of the Memorial
Jon Rahm had no issue being assessed a two-stroke penalty on his chip-in for an apparent birdie at the 16th hole Sunday en route to winning the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide. While it reduced his margin of victory over good friend Ryan Palmer from five strokes to three, Rahm was still elated with the shot … and that his integrity remained intact.
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The shot in question was his second from the rough just off the green at the par-3 16th. As Rahm was at address, the ball moved slightly. Rahm then holed the shot, but slow-motion replays showed the label on the ball moving slightly.
“I didn’t see it,” Rahm said. “You know, I promised open honestly and I’m a loyal person and I don’t want to win by cheating. … The ball did move. It’s as simple as that.”
Rahm was first asked about the potential of a penalty during his post-round interview with CBS prior to reaching the scoring area. Slugger White, PGA TOUR Vice President of Rules & Competition, then showed the replay to Rahm and the penalty was assessed prior to signing his scorecard. Instead of birdie, he suffered a bogey at the hole, with the two-stroke penalty giving Rahm a 3-over 75 in the final round, leaving him at 9 under for the week.
“The rule is 9.4,” White said. “It was a ball at rest by the player, moved, and since he didn't put it back, he was assessed a general penalty, which is two strokes. That's pretty much the bottom line. …
“When he put the club down behind the ball, it moved ever so slightly to the left, so it changed positions. He accepted it like a gentleman and the man that he is, and we just went on with it.”
Rahm, who moved to world No. 1 with the win and inside the top 10 (No. 8) in the FedExCup standings, said he was surprised when he was first informed about the potential for a penalty, and also a little confused. But after seeing the replay, he agreed with the ruling.
“Had I seen it, I would have said something or maybe questioned -- not questioned, asked for a rules official and explained what happened and would have gone from there. But I mean, he had to zoom it in the iPad so much to see what was a very minimal oscillation that could have basically just been me putting the club down and all the grass just simply going down,” Rahm explained.
“It barely moves at all. Everything goes down with it. But the rules of golf are clear, and the ball did move. Unfortunately, it's going to have a bittersweet feeling to what was possibly one of the greatest shots of my career, the shot that this Sunday gave me the victory, but … I accept the penalty. That goes to show that you have to fight until the end.
“I could have very easily maybe just given up on the up-and-down on 17 and 18 and finished with two bogeys, and possibly after the penalty strokes given myself a scare and possibly gone to a playoff and still fought hard. Every shot counts, and I tried every shot and got those two last up-and-downs, as a true Spaniard would, and it is what it is.”
The bottom line is that it didn’t change what Rahm accomplished this week. With the pressure on, he hit a great shot … and now he’s the world’s top-ranked golfer. He’s just the second Spanish golfer to be No. 1, following in the footsteps of the legendary Seve Ballesteros.
“If it doesn't change the outcome of the tournament, does it really matter? Maybe. Again, I accept what it is; it did move. It doesn't take anything from the day, though. It's still probably one of the greatest days of my life,” Rahm said.
“I know it doesn't sound like it because I'm still processing things and maybe in a week I'll be completely ecstatic about everything, but proud that I did what I did, proud that I chipped that in, and proud that I finished the way I did.”