Jon Rahm learns lessons, lands in hunt at PGA Championship

Jon Rahm Round 1 2017 PGA Championship Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Rahm learns lessons, lands in hunt at PGA Championship

PGA Tour

Jon Rahm learns lessons, lands in hunt at PGA Championship

CHARLOTTE – Jon Rahm strutted up the 18th fairway at Quail Hollow on Thursday, chatting and laughing with Rickie Fowler, their golf balls almost perfectly aligned in the fairway and just feet apart after a pair of 315-yard drives.

One safe swing and two putts later, Rahm walked off the green with a 1-under 70 on the scorecard for Round 1 of the 99th PGA Championship.

The 2016 Arizona State graduate made his way to the locker room via two sets of stairs and an elevated walkway which takes players above the main entrance and into the practice green area lining the clubhouse.

His girlfriend, Kelley Cahill, was waiting to give him a hug and assurance that yes, she had walked with him the entire round. She picked a good day to do it.

“I’ve been looking forward to a day like this in a major championship for a long time,” Rahm said. “I don’t think I’ve had this much fun in a major, I don’t think ever. Tee-to-green, the first nine was absolutely perfect. … Overall, 1-under par on a major championship with the conditions that we had today, with the greens that we had today, I’m extremely satisfied.” 

When you’re 22 years old and have risen from No. 135 to No. 6 in the world in just eight months, every tournament is something to look forward to.

Rahm was 3 under through 15 before making bogey at 16 and 17, but he was not deterred. It was reminiscent of the first round of his Masters debut in April, a 1-over 73 in demanding conditions that provided excitement about the forthcoming possibilities.

“The last time I was mentally ready on the tee (at a major) was Augusta,” Rahm said. “That was probably because the wind was blowing so hard, we just hit it and hoped on every single shot. And I’ve learned from the U.S. Open and the British Open. I have gotten to the tee ready to play golf and have fun.” 

Rahm missed the cut at this year’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills and finished a disappointing T-44 at 3 over in the British Open despite an opening-round 69. It’s all still a learning process for Rahm at this point, but he continuously changes the curve with performances like his dominant, six-shot win at the Irish Open last month.

He’s a big name now, still well behind playing partners Fowler and Rory McIlroy in popularity and achievement but inching closer. He bested both of them in strokes gained: off-the-tee, ranking eighth in the field at 1.682. 

He showed great resilience at the par-4 first after missing the green well left, hitting a flop shot inside 5 feet to save par. 

In Round 1 of the season’s final major, he showed nothing but promise. There’s plenty more to look forward to.

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