Teammates turn competitors at Farmers Insurance Open
January 25, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Jon Rahm holds 54-hole lead at Farmers
SAN DIEGO – Ryan Palmer owes plenty to Jon Rahm but he has no problem trying to take something from him on Sunday at Torrey Pines.
It was the fiery Spaniard who helped Palmer claim his fourth PGA TOUR win, nine years after getting his third, at last season’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The pair came together to take out the team event, which also gave Rahm his third PGA TOUR win.
But come Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open the duo make up two of the final threesome looking to take home another title. Rahm leads after a sublime Sunday 65 left him 12 under for the week. Palmer is just one back in second place. As friendly as they are this time it’s for personal glory.
“Of course you're rooting for him at Zurich and trying to say, "hit it here" and "hit it there," so maybe tomorrow I'll say, "hit over there" instead,” Palmer joked.
“It's going to be a lot of fun. It's fun when you get to play with guys you know well and you have a good time. Getting to watch him and play with Rory, that's the position you want to be in. You want to be with the best come Sunday late in the day, so I'm excited about that chance.”
Just how they came together goes back to before the first team iteration of the Zurich Classic in 2017. Jordan Spieth, Palmer and their caddies Michael Greller and James Edmondson were having a friendly round at Trinity Forest in Dallas late in 2016 when an interesting wager was thrown up by Edmondson.
The former college golfer and four-time club champion from Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth issued a challenge to the 2015 FedExCup champion Spieth: If I beat you, you have to partner up with Palmer at Zurich.
Edmondson won and a partnership with some 17 years of age difference was formed. They were fourth in 2017 in New Orleans before missing the cut in 2018 when they were paired with Rahm and Wesley Bryan. Despite both teams going out early they had a fun time. So when 2019 rolled around and Spieth decided to give the tournament a miss and Bryan was struggling with injuries a new option was available.
“I've known Adam Hayes (Rahm’s caddie) a long time and I've played a lot of rounds with Jon in the last two, three years, had him at my charity event and became pretty good friends,” Palmer said. “It was a matter of James and I saying who do we really look at playing with. I didn't want to just play to go play, I felt like I wanted to find a partner that I got along with, but also I knew I could really contend with.
“I texted Adam and mentioned it and he said to text Jon, see what he says. We hit it off and I knew our games related so well … the way we both drive it … his short game and my iron play was a perfect match. We're looking forward to doing it again.”
Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer win at Zurich Classic
Before that title defense in April comes Sunday’s round in San Diego. Rahm already won the Farmers Insurance Open in 2017, his first win on TOUR that came in incredible fashion. On that Sunday Rahm played the final nine holes in six under with two eagles and two birdies to blow away what previously was a bunched leaderboard.
“Hopefully, I don't need to shoot 6 under. Hopefully, I do shoot 6 under honestly and I don't have to stress down the stretch,” Rahm said.
“The only thing it's going to do is keep me focused, no matter how good I'm playing, knowing that somebody can come and do the same thing.”
Rahm’s Saturday 65 included a chip-in birdie on the first and a hole-out eagle from 111 yards on the second. He then birdied three of the four par-5s and produced a laser from 203 yards on the par-3 16th to set up a three-foot birdie.
Along with his win at Zurich in 2019 Rahm also won three times on the European Tour and sits at third in the world rankings. He has an outside chance to move to second with a victory but at the very least would get within striking distance of top spot should he prevail at Torrey.
“We all try to show up to a golf tournament thinking we're the better player that week and we can do it and it's just a matter of showing it,” he said. “So hopefully I can keep playing good, do it tomorrow and I can be back here and tell you I was the better player that week.”
While the duo are the front runners, they won’t have it all their own way. With them in the final group is FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy. He will start three back of Rahm. A win for McIlroy will take him to the top of the world.
“It was nice to shoot a good third round here and get myself a little bit closer,” McIlroy said after a 67. “The way it's set up this week, I think it's built for me, especially with how I'm driving the ball. It's playing long, we're not getting much roll out there. The rough's up, fairways are pretty narrow. I would love bent greens instead of poa, but I guess you take what you're given.”
TOUR winners Sung Kang and Cameron Champ, plus rookie Harry Higgs join McIlroy at 9 under. Among the throng at 8 under, just four back, are more TOUR winners in Tony Finau, Marc Leishman, Patrick Reed, J.B. Holmes and Brandt Snedeker.
And then of course lurking, perhaps a little far back but a chance none the less, is 82-time PGA TOUR winner Tiger Woods. He searches for a ninth professional win at Torrey Pines from five shots off the pace.
“I still got to go out there and post a low one tomorrow, still got to make a bunch of birdies tomorrow and move up that board,” Woods said of the challenge ahead of him.
Should he find a way to the top Woods would stand alone at the top of the all-time win list on the PGA TOUR, jumping out of a tie with Sam Snead.