PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA – As if the plaudits for Jon Rahm were not loud enough when he arrived to compete in his first Players Championship in his first season as a professional, they have now increased by many decibels. “Jon Rahm, Jon Rahm,” the spectators cried as the 22-year-old Spaniard walked from green to tee. “Rahm, Rahm, please sign here.” It wasn’t McIlroy-level mania but it wasn’t far off.
When you watch Rahm’s play it makes you marvel at how he has become so good so quickly. He is hugely powerful on a tee yet has the softest, most delicate hands around a green. He might resemble Dustin Johnson in the power of his hitting but when it comes to short shots around a green, he’s all Seve Ballesteros.
You’re not supposed to win tournaments early in your debut season. You’re not supposed to climb to 12th in the world ranking before your debut season is half over. And when it comes to the Players, you’re not supposed to play your first competitive round without dropping a stroke. Almost everyone is baffled by the demands and requirements of the Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass the first time they play it – except Rahm, who shot 68.
But then normal does not apply to Rahm. If ever a player was anointed a future world No 1, it is Rahm. “It’s not if, it’s when,” David Duval said.
So there he was after his second round, a 72, nearing the top of the leaderboard at 4-under par. There were a handful of players ahead of him, but more significant were the players in Rahm’s wake – McIlroy, Johnson, Justin Thomas and Sergio Garcia who were all on level par, Justin Rose on 1 over, and Adam Scott on 2 under. In fact, of the 11 men ahead of Rahm in the world ranking who had completed their second rounds by dinner time Friday, not one was in a better position with two rounds gone and two to go than Rahm.
Go Jon Rahm. Go.