CHAM­PI­ONSHIP CHOPS

65-foot birdie putt on first play­off hole gives Rahm vic­tory

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY DOUG FERGUSON

Even with a pair of sil­ver tro­phies in his posses­sion after­ward, Jon Rahm still couldn’t be­lieve what hap­pened Sun­day in the BMW Cham­pi­onship at Olympia Fields. And he only saw half of it.

Rahm was on the range on the other side of the club­house, pre­par­ing for a play­off no one re­ally ex­pected, when Dustin John­son rolled in a 45-foot putt down the ridge for a birdie on the 18th green to force a play­off.

Mo­ments later, Rahm faced a putt even longer and more dif­fi­cult on the 18th. He was just out­side 65 feet and had to send the ball at nearly a 90-de­gree an­gle to the top of the ridge. From there, it was a re­play of John­son’s putt as it headed down the slope, kissed off the pin and dis­ap­peared into the cup.

‘‘I still can’t be­lieve what just hap­pened,’’ Rahm said.

Nei­ther could John­son, who was go­ing for his sec­ond con­sec­u­tive vic­tory in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup play­offs.

‘‘I played an un­be­liev­able putt to get in the play­off, and then Jon made an even more ridicu­lous putt on top of me,’’ said John­son, who at least kept his No. 1 rank­ing in the world and in the play­offs.

The putts over­shad­owed a com­mand per­for­mance by Rahm, who closed with a spec­tac­u­lar week­end — 4-un­der-par 66 on Satur­day and 6-un­der 64 on Sun­day — on a course that played like the tough­est test in golf. His only bo­gey on the week­end came on the fifth hole Satur­day, when he spaced out and picked up his ball from the green with­out mark­ing it.

There was the 6-iron from 218 yards for his third shot on the par-5 15th after his tee shot went into the trees and barely came out, set­ting up a key birdie. There was his 30-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th for a two-shot lead that John­son erased with two birdies of his own. Then, of course, there was the win­ning putt.

‘‘That stretch of wait­ing for DJ, him mak­ing the putt, go­ing in the play­off, me mak­ing the putt, then try­ing to stay men­tally in it just in case he made the last putt, it’s been a roller coaster,’’ Rahm said. ‘‘But it’s so much fun.’’

Rahm said all he could think about on the 18th green in the play­off was find­ing a way to get to the next hole, know­ing he had a putt from one end of the green to the other and John­son had a 30-footer.

And then it was over. Rahm won for the sec­ond time this year and for the 11th time world­wide in his four years as a pro.

‘‘I think we all want the flashy fin­ish, but maybe not the stress that comes with it,’’ Rahm said. ‘‘But I set out with my­self to en­joy even the un­com­fort­able mo­ments we had out there to­day. And, man, it was fun.’’

Rahm and third-round co-leader John­son, who shot a 3-un­der 67, com­pleted 72 holes of reg­u­la­tion at 4-un­der 276. That was two strokes bet­ter than 21-year-old Joaquin Nie­mann and Hideki Mat­suyama.

John­son will go into the Tour Cham­pi­onship in At­lanta as the

No. 1 seed, mean­ing he will start the chase for the $15 mil­lion prize at 10 un­der, two shots ahead of Rahm, who moved up seven spots to the No. 2 seed.

Tiger Woods missed all the ac­tion. He closed with a 1-over 71, mak­ing this the first time he was over par in all four rounds of a tour­na­ment since the Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional in 2010. He fin­ished tied for 51st at 11 over.

AP

Jon Rahm re­acts after mak­ing a 65-foot birdie putt on the first ex­tra hole to de­feat Dustin John­son in the BMW Cham­pi­onship at Olympia Fields Coun­try Club.

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