Jon Rahm opens PGA Championship in 6-over 76
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World No. 1 stands 10 shots off the early pace at Oak Hill
Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – One of the golf world’s recent inevitabilities is Jon Rahm’s spot on the first page of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon.
To that end, the world No. 1 has some work ahead of him.
Rahm opened the PGA Championship in 6-over 76, falling well off the early pace at venerable Oak Hill CC in western New York. He’s 10 back of morning-wave leader Bryson DeChambeau.
The reigning Masters champion started fast in his bid to maintain hopes of a Grand Slam, opening with a birdie on No. 10 after tee times were pushed back 1 hour, 50 minutes due to frost. But he made five bogeys in a six-hole stretch around the turn, then went bogey-double bogey on the par-4 sixth and seventh holes before a bounce-back birdie on 8.
Rahm hit just five of 14 fairways, along with just seven of 18 greens in regulation. His struggles to find the fairway put him behind the proverbial eight-ball, in addition to some untimely misses on the greens.
“The main thing on this course is hitting the fairway,” Rahm said. “If you put the ball in the fairway, you can actually give yourself a lot of good chances … The first six holes of the day, I played really good. Put myself in a good spot, and after that I found myself battling.
“Couldn’t find the fairway, and the fairways that I missed cost me bogeys,” he continued. “The only thing I can look back on myself is the three short putts I missed on the back nine (holes 3, 4 and 7) … I'm between 3 to 5 feet; if I make those putts, I shoot 3-over, which is not the worst-case scenario.”
The Spaniard was not the only major champion to struggle Thursday; reigning U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick also shot 76, as did 2015 PGA winner Jason Day, who won last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson.
Rahm holds four TOUR titles this season: Sentry Tournament of Champions, The American Express, The Genesis Invitational and the Masters. He possesses plenty of firepower to move back up the board – think back to his third-round 61 at the Mexico Open at Vidanta last month.
Jon Rahm | Swing Theory | Driver, iron, wedge
Oak Hill, with its gnarly rough and slick greens, offers a contrasting test to the typical TOUR track. Rahm knows this. But he doesn’t intend to go down without a fight, and it will be tough for the leaders to make enough birdies to pull far ahead.
“It wasn’t my best swings on the last two holes, and I made a birdie and a par,” Rahm said. “So there are many ways to do this. You don’t need to play perfect.
“If I can somehow manage to put a low one tomorrow,” he added, “and find myself close to even par going into Sunday, I think I’ll have a decent chance.”
Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.