Despite strong week, Jon Rahm falls short of elusive WM Phoenix Open win

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jon Rahm thought his 227-yard approach into the island green at the 15th hole was pure. Felt good off the face. Should have been good longer than that.

“Arguably one of the better swings of the week,” he said later.

So Rahm watched, for 236 yards, expecting the ball to come back on him. To plop down on the green, giving him a shot at an eagle that would trim Scottie Scheffler’s four-stroke lead. Entering 15, Rahm’s odds were slim, needing to overcome not just Scheffler but the insurgent Nick Taylor, who sat three strokes ahead at 17 under. But here was his opportunity.

The ball, though, never abided. It kept slipping right, all the way to the greenside hill, where it bounced, rolled and trickled into the water.

Back on the right fringe, Rahm stood in disbelief. Right hand on right hip, left hand gripping that fatal clubhead, using the iron to prop himself up. Right ankle crossed over the other. Eyes trained on the spot where his ball had once sat, wondering how, just how, it all went so wrong.

“Still pissed at 15, to be honest,” Rahm said in a concise post-round news conference an hour later. Standing in a makeshift media tent, eyes set dead forward, his mind still raced. Every unwanted detail lingered.

“With that wind right-to-left,” Rahm continued, “that ball squirted to the right of the semi and ended up in the water.”

For Rahm, that was the story of the week.

“I’m not sure I could have done much better the last two days, honestly,” Rahm said. “I didn’t feel like I made bad swings, but I put myself in bad spots. If I hadn’t gotten some of those par saves I wouldn’t even have been close to being up there, let alone being in the final group. So a lot to be proud of.”

In the end, consecutive weekend 68s were good, but not good enough. Entering Saturday, Rahm and Scheffler had distanced themselves from the rest of the tournament’s biggest names. The stage, it seemed, was set for a one-on-one battle between two of the best players in the sport.

Instead, the weekend was Scheffler’s. Rahm lingered over his shoulder, serving as a bothersome challenger, but never quite conjuring the anticipated duel.

The closest he came was the front stretch Sunday, when he birdied three of the day’s first six holes. That dropped Rahm to 14 under, one back of Scheffler and prompted the eventual champion to later say, “It was a good fight out there. Jon played pretty good on the front nine.”

The fight didn’t last long. Rahm couldn’t get up and down on 8 and Scheffler stuck his approach to six feet for a birdie on 9. Taylor, not Rahm, became the primary challenger.

So here Rahm is, owner of yet another strong but trophyless week in the desert.

On its face, that designation seems relatively meaningless. Rahm is a major champion, a nine-time tour winner, indisputably a top three player in the world, if not better.

But for him, this one stings. As a Sun Devil, chants of “A-S-U” follow him everywhere he goes on this course. They’re a reminder of his college days, when he won the ASU Thunderbird Invitational in three straight years. Winning at TPC Scottsdale, he says, would bring that story full circle, just as his 2014 and 2015 Spanish amateur championships added meaning to his first Spanish Open win back in 2018.

“I would love to be able to win here again in what’s now home to me and my family,” Rahm said Saturday. “I don’t know if it would be added or not. I think because of the crowd and being home it will feel obviously extremely nice.”

Instead, his ledger at TPC Scottsdale now includes eight top 20s in eight tries. Five of those are top 10s, including the high water mark of this week’s third place finish. But still, none of them are wins.