How Jon Rahm made a mistake and still won the BMW Championship

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. — What more could you ask for?

Two of the top-ranked players in the world. One player makes a 43-foot putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff. The other, who might not have been in this position if not for a one-stroke penalty in the third round, made a 66-foot putt and then pumped his fist in excitement to win the BMW Championship on Sunday.

All that was missing was a gallery full of fans to bask in Jon Rahm’s glory after he topped Dustin Johnson’s putt on the 18th hole to win in a playoff in the second event in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs.

“I would have rather not be in the playoff,” Rahm said. “If you’re going to tell me I’m going to make a 66-footer to win a tournament, I’ll take that any day. I think we all want the flashy finish, maybe not the stress that comes with it, but I set out with myself to enjoy even the uncomfortable moments we had out there. Man, it was fun.”

It took a putt by Johnson that started left, slowly broke to the right and then back to the left before finding the bottom of the cup at the 72nd hole to force the playoff.

“Obviously I knew I needed to make birdie to get into the playoff,” Johnson said. “But yeah, I played an unbelievable putt, got in the playoff and then Jon made an even more ridiculous putt on top of me.”

Rahm found himself at a disadvantage right from the start of the playoff hole. His tee shot landed in the rough about 150 yards from the hole, and Johnson’s was in the fairway after getting a lucky bounce off a tree. Rahm fought through the rough to get his second shot on the green.

He started his putt wide left and slowly started walking that way as he eyed it breaking toward the hole. Rahm stopped and pumped his fist at least five times after the ball dropped in the hole.

“I grew up on golf courses with a lot of slope, so putts with slope is something I enjoy,” Rahm said. “It fell right in my alley. It was at least 66 feet, so making it, it’s a whole different story. You can always break it into different parts.”

This might not be the end of Rahm and Johnson, who won the Northern Trust a week ago. Rahm will start two shots behind Johnson in next weekend’s Tour Championship, which pays $15 million to the winner.

Rahm didn’t look as if he had much of chance after the first two days of the BMW. He was 6-over par and tied for 39th place.

“Let’s just say for people that don’t know, Thursday and Friday played significantly more difficult than the weekend did,” Rahm said. “I mean, those greens were really firm, fast and the wind was blowing a lot harder than it did the last two days. I think that was the difference.”

Consider, though, that Rahm won despite the penalty Saturday, one he incurred when he picked up his ball on the green without a marker. Normally, Rahm, known for his temper, would have spiraled. But that wasn’t the case this time.

“I don’t know if I would have won had [the ball-marking incident] not happened,” Rahm said. “It kind of made me mad at myself, and I just went on with my focus after that and was able to play amazing golf and stayed aggressive. Maybe if I hadn’t, I would have two-putted and maybe stayed complacent. I don’t know because I had such a good start. I can tell you after that two-putt, making that 6-footer for bogey, I was like, OK, that’s it, no playing around, go. That’s kind of what mentally did it for me.”

Rahm kept his composure and shot a 66, which at the time tied for the low round of the weekend. The bogey on No. 5 was his last one of the tournament, and he had 10 birdies in that span.

“I still can’t believe what just happened, what happened the last hour of play,” Rahm said. “It’s been a roller coaster but so much fun. I think the best way I can explain it is it was just a lot of joy on the golf course for me.”

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