The Punter's De-Brief: Rahm wins one for the ages

Golfer Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm with the BMW Championship trophy

Jon Rahm came from miles back to win the BMW Championship and Rasmus Højgaard did the same at the Belfry to win his second European Tour event. Steve Rawlings looks back at the two events here...

"I’m in absolute awe of Rahm’s performance, but as a pre-tournament DJ backer, it’s fair to say I also feel a little aggrieved."

When pre-event 10.09/1 favourite, Dustin Johnson, birdied three of his first four holes of the final round of the BMW Championship he was matched at a low of 1.412/5 and it looked highly likely that the world number one would saunter to back-to-back FedEx Cup titles but it wasn't to be. We were about to witness all sorts of drama...

Having been in-contention for so long, in three different tournaments (he'd finished second at the US PGA Championship before winning the Northern Trust), it was perhaps understandable that DJ's levels dropped fractionally after his super start and he lost his lead at the 10th when he recorded his second bogey in three holes.

Chile's Joaquin Niemann took up the running and the pre-tournament 270.0269/1 chance was matched at a low of 3.02/1 before he ran out of steam - playing the back-nine in a birdie-free one-over-par. And having been on the premises throughout, and having been matched at a low of 3.55/2, Japan's Hideki Matsuyama never really threatened to take the title yesterday so DJ still looked the most likely winner, despite his wobble around the turn, but that all changed when this happened to Rahm on the par five 15th.

Following his big break on 15, the Spaniard rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt on 16 and when DJ found the rough off the tee on 18 when still trailing by a stroke, Rahm was matched for thousands at just 1.021/50, but his log odds-on backers were certainly made to sweat when DJ did this from 44 feet to take the tournament into extra time.

DJ's stupendous putt meant we were about to witness the first playoff contested by the first and second in the world rankings in 25 years and it certainly didn't disappoint.

Rahm found the right rough off the tee and DJ's ball bounced back off a tree, left of the fairway, to leave him a lengthy approach from the short grass. The Spaniard hit his second shot to a tricky spot at the back of the green, 66 feet from the hole, and DJ's safe second sat 32 feet from the pin. A three-putt from Rahm looked a distinct possibility, a birdie three that DJ couldn't match certainly didn't, but here it is...

Rahm's victory was fairly miraculous. The last player to win a non-major having opened up with a 75 on day one was Mark Calcavecchia in 2007, the last player to win a non-major having opened up with a 146 36-hole total was Greg Norman way back in 1990, and the last player to win any event having opened up with 146 or worse was Paul Lawrie at the Open in 1999.

The Spaniard, who was a pre-event 12.011/1 chance, was matched in-running for plenty at in excess of 300.0299/1 and for pennies at a high of 700.0699/1. He had trailed by seven at the halfway stage and his 66-foot putt on 18 in extra time was his longest made all season.

I'm in absolute awe of Rahm's performance, but as a pre-tournament DJ backer, it's fair to say I also feel a little aggrieved.

And more drama at The Belfry

Prior to Rahm's ridiculous success, we were treated to an intriguing enough finale to the UK Championship on the European Tour where Denmark's Rasmus Højgaard won his second title in just 12 European Tour starts but not before a number of twists and turns.

Having generally traded between 500.0499/1 and 600.0599/1 before the off, Justin Walters led by a couple before round four, having led after rounds one and two, but the nerves kicked in immediately. He holed a lengthy par save at the first and bogeyed the second but he went on a run after that, birdying the next three in-a-row. The 39-year-old South African, who was in search of his first European Tour title, was matched at a low of 2.01/1 as he appeared to be in control but a triple-bogey at the eighth, after he drove out of bounds off the tee stopped him in his tracks and Martin Kaymer looked the most likely winner for much of the back-nine.

The popular German, who was generally a 28.027/1 shot before the off, was matched at just 1.341/3 and he may have traded even lower if this eagle attempt had dropped at the par five 15th.

Having tapped in the birdie putt at 15, Kaymer started to wobble. He needed to hole an 18-footer for par on 16 and he made a mess of the par five 17th where he recorded his only bogey of the day.

With Kaymer floundering, Højgaard finished with a wet sail, birdying 14 and 16 and eagling 17 but that still wasn't enough for the pre-event 16.015/1 chance to take the title in regulation. To his credit, Walters battled back when his cause had looked lost and having birdied 14, 16 and 17, he parred the last to take the tournament in to extra time.

Walters always looked second best in extra time, holing a lengthy par save to stay in it at the first extra hole before recording a bogey at the second. Højgaard took the title with a par but just like Rahm, he too had started the week slowly.

The impressive young Dane was matched at a high of 200.0199/1 in-running after an opening 73 had seen him trail by nine and he was still seven back at halfway and five adrift through 54 holes. His seven-under-par 65 in round four was his best of the week and the joint-best of the day.

My Bets

As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, I backed Højgaard before the final round at 18.5 and I was on DJ from the start in the States. I layed both before their subsequent playoffs so it was a decent enough week and all things considered, I have to consider myself slightly fortunate.

I do feel that Rahm had the rub of the green over DJ (in addition to everything already mentioned, the Spaniard also saved par from off the green and 25 feet away at the fifth yesterday) but despite him going long odds-on early in round four, I hadn't layed any of my DJ bet back until he holed that monster on 18 to get into the playoff so getting that opportunity to make the tournament a profitable one was a big plus.

More Tough Tests Required

As a DJ backer, and as a fan of gruelling conditions, I was a little disappointed to see the course more scorable yesterday. I'd written in the In-Play Blog yesterday morning that I doubted whether Rahm's 66 on Saturday would be beaten on Sunday but he beat it by two, Tony Finau beat it by one and as many as 33 players were able to shoot an under-par score. It wasn't anywhere near as demanding as I'd thought it would be and it's hard to quantify why.

There was no wind at all yesterday and conditions were cooler than they'd been all week and I suspect they must have also watered the greens as there had been no rain between rounds. Olympia Fields produced an event for the ages and it would be ridiculous to moan about it being slightly easier in round four but it did result in it playing differently to how I'd suspected it would so that was personally frustrating. To some degree that's my pocket talking though as I doubt DJ would have been caught had it been a bit firmer and faster.

Having said all that, it was still a tough enough and it was still a fantastic event and I suspect the feedback all round will lead to a few more harder tests going forward. I ran a very basic straw poll on Saturday night that suggested that most people were in favour of a more gruelling test and a Sky Sports survey suggested much the same.

I wouldn't want to see the best players in the world grinding for par week after a week but there's clearly room for a few more events like last week's cracker.

The European Tour moves to Spain this week for the Andalucía Masters, starting on Thursday, and the Tour Championship starts on Friday on the PGA Tour. I'll be back later today or tomorrow with the previews.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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