Jon Rahm at 26 grasped the major title many golf intellectuals had pegged for him for a few years running, becoming the first U.S. Open winner from Spain while hailing from that northern coast that also honed Severiano Ballesteros and José María Olazábal. He stayed afloat on a leader board from which a slew of virtuosos sank, and then he curled in left-to-right birdie putts of 24 feet on No. 17 and 18 feet on No. 18. Once that last one slid in on the right side, got him to 6 under par and coaxed the kind of roar the game has missed, Rahm had ended on a tidy seven pars and then two birdies as the only player in the six closing groups to play the back nine in bogey-freedom.
“I don’t know. At some point it will hit me,” Rahm said a while later. “I’m still thinking there might be a playoff. I’ve been scarred before.”
He long since had signed the gleaming 67 of his scorecard and waited for one last guy to go awry. Way back at No. 15 just then as Rahm’s ink dried, that would be Louis Oosthuizen, the brilliant 38-year-old South African and 2010 British Open dominator whose bouquet of runner-up finishes in majors would reach six strong since 2012, not to mention two in a row this spring. Once Oosthuizen went into the wild and woolly bushes near No. 17 — but not that near — and wound up with a bogey to fall two behind with one to play, he looked destined to lose by one and to say, “You know, the errant tee shot on 17 just cost me,” while Rahm’s path from recent misery looked golden.
Boswell: Jon Rahm triumphed as his rivals suffered, and major championship golf delivered again
It had been some path.
Rahm would be the same guy who led Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial in Ohio by six shots on June 5 when the officials came to get him at No. 18 to tell him he had tested positive for the coronavirus and would have to exit. A week of isolation and desolation followed. A U.S. Open followed that. “I feel like coming in here without having practiced much relaxed me a little bit,” the driven man said. “I thought, you know what, in case I play bad, I have an excuse. I have a bailout in case. I can convince myself, ‘Hey, I had covid.’ ”
He also said, “Very hard to believe the story can round out and end up so good,” after his sixth PGA Tour win and his second at the absurd beauty of Torrey Pines, which handles a regular winter tour stop as well. It became a simple finish to what seemed one complicated Sunday.
The hurly-burly went in two distinctive phases, exhilaration and regurgitation. In the first, a batch of the world’s most accomplished players gathered in a blob of wonder atop the leader board, the bright lights so teeming it could challenge one brain to follow them all. In the second, that same batch plunged with a dispatch near-unanimous, until the same brain might banish some of them from thought and say, Oh yeah, him just moments later.
There they were — defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, 2020 PGA champion Collin Morikawa, four-time major champion Brooks Koepka — and then there they were not. Their careen reached its quintessence when DeChambeau, a full-on threat to repeat after his first 10 holes stretched a bogey-free streak to 30 holes, finally finished No. 17.
He finished that in a quadruple-bogey 8.
He finished it eight shots worse off than not long before.
By then, the leader board looked sparse, well after it had looked like some haughty club with a couple of stragglers. Early on, the 10 players bunched within 5 under par and 3 under par boasted five major winners with 11 major titles.
The less-famous mingled among them only here and there. Third-round co-leader Russell Henley suffered bogeys on Nos. 6 through 8 and faded with a 76. Third-round co-leader Mackenzie Hughes faded, then reemerged, then hit a shot on No. 11 that struck a cart path, bounced up into a tree and stayed there between twigs.
Nearby witnesses raised their cameras to record the novelty, one of the less-traveled ways toward a 77.
Then, as if by some decree of some diabolical committee, all those extraordinary golfers began to sputter like lavish jalopies. The leader board began to look like somebody opened some trap door and left everybody tumbling downward.
DeChambeau reached No. 11 and started making visits into the scruffier vegetation and other places until he had splattered two bogeys and a double across three holes and plunged from a brief lead at 5 under par to a dungeon four shots worse, all of it even before No. 17. “I didn’t get off the rails at all,” he insisted. “It’s just golf.” Morikawa, whose golf doesn’t trade in wretched messes, made a wretched mess of No. 13 in a nightmare of shots rolling back from the front of the green and howling as they flew over said green, a double-bogey 7 the result. “Sometimes,” the wise young man said, “you just hit some bad shots, and it all happened all at the wrong time.”
McIlroy had looked like a wizened owl among the bunch at 32, with nine pars and a birdie on the first 10 holes U.S. Open-style, then three-putted to bogey No. 11 and visited a green-side bunker on his double-bogey tour of No. 12. “I put up a good fight,” he said. Speaking of green-side bunkers, Koepka found them on Nos. 16 and 18, turning 4-under-par contention into 2-under-par sighing. “All in all, I didn’t really have my stuff,” he said.
In all the free-fall, a name suddenly materialized: Harris English. Hello, Mr. English, and nice to see you again after a fourth-place finish last U.S. Open at Winged Foot. When he concluded a week as an afterthought and birdied three of the last five holes, including the final two, from 26 feet and from two on the par-5 No. 18, he stood alone in third at 3 under par, and lucky for him, he could keep that score without having to play any more golf.
Rahm still had golf to play, but he reckoned out loud that 4-3-3-4 across the last four holes would win it, and that did win it. So a putt on No. 17 that went out yonder left and then bent back beautifully right and plunked down, plus a putt on No. 18 Rahm knew was true from its halfway point, did win it.
All the way from his birdie on No. 1, “I knew there was something special in the air,” he said. “I could just feel it. I just knew it,” and that’s even when that air got messy all around.
— Chuck Culpepper
By Des Bieler12:44 a.m.Link copiedlink
It took birdies at the 17th and 18th holes, then an agonizing wait to see if Louis Oosthuizen could catch him, but Jon Rahm finally has a major title. The 26-year-old Spaniard showed tremendous mettle down the stretch at Torrey Pines to win the U.S. Open.
Starting Sunday three shots behind Oosthuizen and two other co-leaders, Rahm made just one bogey, at the fourth hole. Unlike almost every other contender in the field, he played a nearly mistake-free back nine and ended a rousing day by draining lengthy, downhill putts on each of the final two holes.
That moved Rahm to 6 under, one shot ahead of Oosthuizen at the time, and the 38-year-old South African fell behind by two after a bogey at the 17th that all but handed the championship to Rahm. At 5 under for the tournament, after birdieing the 18th, Oosthuizen ended up alone in second — his sixth runner-up finish at a major — and is still seeking his second major title after a win at the 2010 British Open.
Harris English finished third at 3 under, and Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa and Italy’s Guido Migliozzi were next at 2 under.
“I have a hard time explaining what happened, because I can’t believe I made those last two putts,” Rahm said. He dedicated his win to Seve Ballesteros, the Spanish legend who win five majors but never the U.S. Open, and who died in 2011 at age 54.
AdvertisementUpdates continue below advertisementBy Des Bieler12:08 a.m.Link copiedlink
Unless Louis Oosthuizen makes an eagle at the 18th hole, Jon Rahm will be the 2021 U.S. Open champion. Oosthuizen fell two shots back of the leader after making a bogey at 17.
Oosthuizen drove his tee shot left into an out-of-bounds area on the 17th hole, but gave himself a decent chance at par by landing his third shot on the front of the green. His par putt just slunk by the hole, though, as Rahm was shown pacing nervously at clubhouse.
The par-5 18th has been playing as the easiest hole at Torrey Pines this week, but there has been just one eagle there thus far on Sunday. If Oosthuizen manages to make it two, he and Rahm will go to a two-hole playoff.
AdvertisementUpdates continue below advertisementBy Des Bieler11:56 p.m.Link copiedlink
It has been the kind of back-nine collapse that causes wags to snicker, “More like Bryson DeShambles.”
Defending U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau has gone from holding a lead at 5 under midway through Sunday’s final round to bumbling his way to the finish line, long out of contention. He made a quadruple-bogey eight at the 17th hole, higher than any score previously recorded there during the tournament.
That alone would be bad enough, but the snowman cameth after bogeys at 11 and 12, then a double-bogey at the 13th. The quad dropped DeChambeau to 6 over on the day and 3 over for the tournament, tied at 26th place with one hole to go.
That raucous laughter you hear is likely coming from Brooks Koepka, who bogeyed the 16th and 17th holes but still finished tied for fourth at 2 under.
AdvertisementUpdates continue below advertisementBy Des Bieler11:40 p.m.Link copiedlink
Jon Rahm made a difficult, downhill putt at the 18th hole to finish his round at 6 under for the tournament and give himself a one-shot lead over Louis Oosthuizen.
At what NBC’s telecast described as the easiest finishing hole in U.S. Open history, Rahm made things difficult by pushing his approach shot right and into a tricky lie in a greenside bunker. He elected to come out above the hole, rather than take a more aggressive line and risk his ball continuing past the hole and into major trouble.
Rahm then made that decision pay off with a putt that could give him his first major title.
Oosthuizen was at 5 under through 15 holes. The only other player within three shots of Rahm was Harris English, who finished at 3 under.
AdvertisementUpdates continue below advertisementBy Des Bieler11:25 p.m.Link copiedlink
A man who ran onto the course at the 13th hole at Torrey Pines dropped a couple of balls and hit a shot, then evaded security before he was tackled.
Bryson DeChambeau was playing the hole at the time and ended up with a double-bogey, leaving him at 1 under for the tournament.
AdvertisementUpdates continue below advertisementBy Des Bieler11:24 p.m.Link copiedlink
Jon Rahm kept knocking on the door by playing steady, effective golf down the back nine even as others fell away. His efforts were finally rewarded when he sunk a long, bending putt at the 17th, moving him to 5 under and share of the lead.
Rahm joined Louis Oosthuizen at two shots clear of anyone else. The Spaniard is seeking his first major title, while Oosthuizen got one at the 2010 British Open.
Oosthuizen was playing three groups behind at the 14th. He did very well at the par-5 13th to get out of thick rough and near the green with his third shot, allowing him to two-putt for the par save.
AdvertisementUpdates continue below advertisementBy Des Bieler10:57 p.m.Link copiedlink
It wasn’t all that long ago that we had 10 players either tied for the lead or one shot back, with several more lurking nearby on the leader board. As final groups have rounded the turn and started playing the back nine, however, several miscues have thinned the pack.
Fortunately for everyone else, U.S. Open leader Louis Oosthuizen has also slipped up, parlaying an errant tee shot at the 11th into a bogey. That still left him clear at 5 under, with only Jon Rahm holding steady at 4 under.
Among those starting to falter was Bryson DeChambeau, who made bogeys at 11 and 12 to fall to 3 under. Things didn’t get much better for him at the 13th, where his ball found itself near a package of beer.
Then there was Rory McIlroy, at 1 under after a bogey at 11 and a double at 12, and Collin Morikawa, who made a double at 13 to fall to 2 under.
Playing a few groups ahead, two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka had a chance to put some pressure on the field by finishing at 4 under, but he made bogeys at 16 and 18. Then there was Mackenzie Hughes, who tumbled from 4 under to 2 under after hitting his tee shot into a tree at the par-3 11th.
One player who finished strong was Harris English, who birdied the 14th, 17th and 18th holes to card a 68 and end his tournament at 3 under. Ends, that is, unless English winds up in a playoff, a possibility that can hardly be discounted at the moment.
AdvertisementUpdates continue below advertisementBy Des Bieler10:33 p.m.Link copiedlink
It only seemed like this U.S. Open final round had everything. What we’d not seen was a ball hit into a tree — until Mackenzie Hughes teed off at the 11th hole. His shot veered to the left, bounced off a cart path and got stuck in some branches.
Hughes was in second place at 4 under when he stepped to the 11th tee, having steadied the ship nicely after a shaky start that saw him fall out of a share of the lead with three bogeys over the first six holes. He birdied the seventh and ninth holes, but he was forced to take a drop from an unplayable lie at the 11th and eventually made a double-bogey.
Meanwhile, playing partner and tournament leader Louis Oosthuizen also hit a wayward tee shot and had to chip onto the green from deep rough on the right side. He missed his putt for a bogey, and fell to 5 under, which still left him with a one-shot lead over Jon Rahm.
AdvertisementUpdates continue below advertisementBy Des Bieler10:12 p.m.Link copiedlink
Louis Oosthuizen birdied the ninth and 10th holes Sunday to get to 6 under and retake the U.S. Open lead. Bryson DeChambeau, meanwhile, made a bogey to fall back to 4 under.
The 38-year-old South African began the tournament-altering sequence by getting a putt to fall from distance and tying for the lead, after he’d started the day with a three-way share of it. DeChambeau, playing two groups ahead, teed off moments later and left the ball right and below the 11th green. He did well to give himself a solid par look but missed the putt. Oosthuizen, seeking the second major title of his career and first since the 2010 British Open, then drained another long putt for birdie at the 10th.
The bogey was DeChambeau’s first in nearly two full rounds, having not exceeded par since hole No. 12 on Friday.
By Des Bieler9:46 p.m.Link copiedlink
The world’s No. 1 player almost certainly won’t finish on top at this year’s U.S. Open.
Dustin Johnson effectively played his way out of contention with a triple-bogey 7 at the 10th hole, following bogeys at 5 and 7. That left him at 3 over, eight shots behind leader Bryson DeChambeau.
Johnson won the 2016 U.S. Open and added another major title at the 2020 Masters. He came into Sunday at 1 under for the tournament, four shots off the lead.
By Des Bieler9:24 p.m.Link copiedlink
The U.S. Open has a new leader, and it’s the same person who won the tournament in 2020: Bryson DeChambeau.
Seeking to become the eighth man to win the U.S. Open in back-to-back years — the last do so was unfriendly rival Brooks Koepka in 2017 and 2018 — DeChambeau came awfully close to suddenly taking a two-shot lead over the field. His tee shot at the par-3 eighth rolled to within an inch or so the cup.
The easy tap-in improved DeChambeau to 5 under, one ahead of Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and Louis Oosthuizen. 10 other players were within four shots of the lead.
By Des Bieler9:16 p.m.Link copiedlink
When four players became tied for the lead after Russell Henley’s bogey at No. 6 and a total of 15 players within three shots of the lead, it became well worth asking the question: What is the playoff format for the U.S. Open?
Since 2018, the USGA has adopted for its championships a two-hole aggregate playoff in case of a tie after 72 holes. If there are still two or more players tied after the two playoff holes, the tournament goes to a sudden-death format, one hole at a time. The playoff holes at Torrey Pines, per reports, would initially be Nos. 7 and 18, with the eighth hole eventually joining the loop if needed.
By Des Bieler8:55 p.m.Link copiedlink
A bogey by Louis Oosthuizen at the fourth hole left Russell Henley alone in front at 5 under. While Henley, who has never finished in the top 10 at a major, is not exactly a household name, the field just below him is packed with PGA Tour stars.
Through five holes for Henley, he was one ahead of four players, two of whom — Bryson DeChambeau and Rory McIlroy — are major winners in the top 11 in the world rankings, along with another major winner in Louis Oosthuizen.
Within four shots of Henley were seven other players ranked in the top 20: Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Paul Casey, Daniel Berger, Scottie Scheffler and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
If Henley, a three-time Tour event winner, prevails, he will have defeated not just a tough course but quite a tough leader board.
By Des Bieler8:34 p.m.Link copiedlink
Another major, another Brooks Koepka sighting high atop the leader board. The two-time U.S. Open and PGA Championship winner was two back of the leaders after getting to 3 under through his first nine holes.
Koepka birdied the second, eighth and ninth holes, leaving him behind just four players: co-leaders Louis Oosthuizen and Russell Henley (5 under), plus Mackenzie Hughes and Rory McIlroy (4 under). At least as delicious for golf fans was that Koepka pulled into a tie with, among others, noted non-friend Bryson DeChambeau.
Since 2014, Koepka has 17 top-15 finishes at majors.