"I was fully aware that if I won it would give me a very good chance to qualify," said Jon Rahm after beating Keith Mitchell with confidence. A victory that, together with the defeat of Ricky Fowler against Billy Horschel, turned the options of the 'Lion of Barrika' in the World Match Play in Austin (Texas).
If Jon beat Horschel (22nd), winner in 2021, at least he would make sure to go to a tiebreaker to access the round of 16. As long as Fowler prevailed over Mitchell since any other result in that match together with Rahm's victory would mean the 28-year-old Spaniard's direct pass to the next round.
Jon Rahm, results
There was only Plan A for the runner-up in the tournament in 2017 and current number two in the world ranking... but things didn't start well. Par and equality on the initial hole, but the double bogey from Biscay at 2 put him below par after Horschel.
Equality in 3 and 4 fulfilling the field in both. Another birdie from the American made him win hole 5 and put everything very uphill. Two disadvantages for Jon that he had to start the comeback in a peremptory way. The light seemed to go through the tunnel at the 6 on an error by the 36-year-old Florida player.
His first green on the card served for Rahm's pair to lower the negative handicap to a single hole. But it was ephemeral. The next par 3 left everything the same before leading a dangerous 8 and 9 that allowed us to take risks in the search for a small bite to the course.
Horrible putt from Barrika in the first and horrible hit to the green in the second to face the last nine again two down... thanks to a mistake by Horschel in a rather simple putt of barely two meters that would have allowed him to extend even more the advantage, something that he did achieve in the 10th and even more in the 11th (+4) after another bad impact from Rahm with an iron in his hand that led him to the bogey.
It was not the Spaniard's day and his elimination and Horschel's pass were a matter of minutes. Something that was certified with a resounding 5 and 4. Relevant to history was the victory of the American Kuchar (44 years old and 59th), against Kim, to tie Tiger Woods' record for the most games won (36) in the tournament and, incidentally, advanced to the round (today the eighth and quarter) where he will face Australian Day (32nd).
Crosses that also reached Scheffler (great favorite and 1st in the ranking), McIlroy (3rd), Cantley (4th), Homa (5th), Schauffele (6th), Burns (13th), Young (15th), Poston (43rd), Hughes (50th), Putnam (56th) or Spaun (61st).