Every major tournament has the power to humble golf’s stars. From Rory McIlroy at the Masters to Justin Thomas at the P.G.A Championship, and Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Open, the British Open is no exception. This year’s British Open has been particularly vengeful and hostile towards the sport’s top players, but Jon Rahm’s impressive performance on Saturday has brought him closer to contention and the record books.
Rahm, currently ranked third in the world, had a rough start with a three-over-par 74 on Thursday, placing him 89th in the tournament. However, he made a strong comeback with a 70 on Friday, moving up 50 places on the leaderboard. As Rahm finished his Saturday round with a birdie, narrowing the gap between him and Brian Harman, the two-time major winner, to just four shots.
Despite Harman extending his lead to six strokes by the end of Saturday, Rahm’s performance was remarkable. His score of 63 set a new Open record at Royal Liverpool, where the tournament is being held for the 13th time. It was a powerful response to the lackluster play by many of the world’s top golfers in the previous two days.
Rahm attributed his improvement to giving up costly shots in major championships. He felt that his game and swing were better than the scores he had been shooting. On Saturday, everything seemed to click for him. He described it as seeing “everything the way it’s supposed to happen unfold” and felt invincible. He made a series of birdies on the 5th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 15th, 16th, and 18th holes, with the crowd erupting in applause.
Before Rahm’s surge on Saturday, disappointment loomed over the top players in the tournament. Many star players had failed to even come close to contention. The first five pairings on Saturday included Scottie Scheffler, the current world No. 1, Brooks Koepka, a five-time major champion, and Rickie Fowler, one of the game’s most popular figures. In contrast, the last five pairings featured players with lower world rankings and fewer major titles.
The top of the leaderboard finally included familiar names like Cameron Young, who finished second in last year’s Open, Jason Day, a former world No. 1, Tommy Fleetwood, Viktor Hovland, and McIlroy. However, it has still been a strange week with many recent major champions missing the cut, including Mickelson, Thomas, Dustin Johnson, and Collin Morikawa. Other top-tier players like Scheffler, Koepka, Fowler, and Patrick Cantlay barely made it to the weekend.
Cameron Smith, the winner of last year’s Open, speculated that the difficulty of the course and aggressive playing strategies could be to blame for the underperformance of top players. Regardless, many players were just hoping to get through Sunday. Scheffler acknowledged that it would take a miracle for him to win, while Robert MacIntyre’s mind had already shifted towards the post-tournament relaxation.
Meanwhile, Rahm was in a completely different mindset. He believed that he had done what he needed to do to give himself an opportunity to win. With his strong performance on Saturday, he had reinvigorated his chances and positioned himself as a serious contender for the title.
The British Open has been a challenging and unpredictable tournament for golf’s top players. However, Jon Rahm‘s record-setting performance on Saturday has brought excitement and anticipation back to the competition. With Rahm’s resurgence and the mix of talented players at the top of the leaderboard, the final round promises to be thrilling for both players and fans alike.