DUBLIN, Ohio – Jon Rahm was cruising to an authoritative victory in the Memorial on Sunday – and the world’s top ranking for the first time – when he ran into turbulence shortly after storms arrived and delayed play.
After a 50-minute stoppage, Rahm returned to the ninth hole at Muirfield Village Golf Club with an 8-shot lead. But a bogey on 10, a double-bogey on 11 and another bogey on 14, coupled with a birdie by Ryan Palmer on the 12, cut Rahm’s lead to three shots.
Then matters got dicey when Rahm chipped in from behind the 16th green for birdie to up his advantage to four. But as he soled his club right before the chip, the ball moved and didn’t return to its original spot before Rahm hit his shot.
Rahm was later penalized two shots for the infraction.
Rahm didn’t learn about the situation on the 16th until he had finished his round. He had upped his advantage to five shots on the 17th with a par and closed out his victory with another par on the final hole.
With rounds of 69-67-68-75, Rahm finished at 9-under 279 and three shots clear of Ryan Palmer (67-68-73-74). Matthew Fitzpatrick finished in third with rounds of 75-66-74-68.
“I didn’t see or feel anything,” Rahm said when he was told about the incident on 16. “If I would have seen it, I would have said something. If the ruling governors want to rule that it was a penalty, that’s fine. It doesn’t take anything away from this victory.”
And now Seve has company. Rahm joined his hero, Seve Ballesteros, as the only Spaniards to become the world’s No. 1 player with his victory.
At 25 years and 251 days old, Rahm became the fifth youngest player to become the No. 1 player in the world, trailing only Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas. Rahm is the 24th player to hold the top spot.
Ballesteros rose to No. 1 on five different occasions, the final time coming in 1989. Rahm supplanted Rory McIlroy as the world’s best.
It was Rahm’s fourth PGA Tour victory and 11th worldwide title.
“It’s an honor to win here,” Rahm told tournament host Jack Nicklaus on the 18th green. “I’m just trying to be like you.”
“Your play was fantastic,” Nicklaus told Rahm. “I’m really happy for you.”