BMW Championship: Jon Rahm Nail huge Putt to Deny Dustin Johnson in Chicago
Jon Rahm holed a sensational 66-foot putt for birdie at the first play-off hole to snatch victory over Dustin Johnson in an engrossing conclusion to the BMW Championship.
Rahm stormed into the clubhouse lead with a stunning, closing 64 at Olympia Fields, comfortably the low round of the week, and he looked certain to claim his fifth PGA Tour title in regulation with Johnson lining up a testing 45-foot birdie putt on the 72nd green.
But Johnson read the slick, double-breaking putt to perfection to cap a 67 and force extra holes, and luck was smiling on the American when the world’s top two players returned to the 18th hole for the play-off – Johnson’s pulled drive cannoning off a tree and back into the middle of the fairway.
Johnson knocked a safe second to the heart of the green, while Rahm’s approach from the rough on the right bounded past pin high and settled at the back of the putting surface, leaving him with a huge task just to get down in two putts for par.
However, in scenes similar to Rahm’s maiden win at Torrey Pines in 2017, the world No 2 got the pace and line right and celebrated wildly as his ball dropped into the centre of the cup before Johnson’s attempt to extend the contest came up short.
Johnson did at least cling onto his world No 1 ranking by virtue of his solo runner-up finish, and it was fitting a tournament on the toughest course seen on the PGA Tour for many years should be decided by a play-off between the two top-ranked players in the world.
Rahm defied the difficulty of the 2003 US Open venue and dropped only one shot over the weekend, his amazing lapse in concentration on Saturday when he picked his ball up on the fifth green having forgotten to mark it first, and error which incurred a one-shot penalty.
He spoke afterwards of his concern at finishing one shot behind the champion, and there is little doubt Rahm would have been thinking about his mistake when he heard the cheers that greeted Johnson’s unlikely birdie putt on the final hole.
Rahm, winner of The Memorial over a testing Muirfield Village track last month, was three strokes off the lead overnight and made a bright start with birdies at two of the first four holes, but that looked to be a fruitless effort when Johnson birdied three of the first five to race to four-under par.
But last week’s runaway Northern Trust winner showed his first signs of frailty when he bogeyed the eight and 10th as Joaquin Niemann suddenly found himself in the lead on three under after his fourth birdie of the day at the eighth.
However, Rahm rattled home a 15-footer for birdie at the 10th and picked up further shots at 12 and 15 before holing a thrilling putt from 30 feet for a bonus birdie at the 16th, while Johnson got back to within a shot of the leader when he safely two-putted for a welcome four at the long 15th.
Niemann struggled to create makeable chances after the turn and a dropped shot at the 14th left him two behind Rahm, who closed out his 64 with two cast-iron pars before he retired to the practice range to await the final pairings.
Overnight co-leader Hideki Matsuyama birdied 15 to get to two under, but he could not better par over the last three holes as he returned a 69 which saw him finish in a share of third with Niemann, who fired a 67 despite not carding a single birdie on the back nine.
Tony Finau reeled off four straight birdies after the turn and added another at the last as an inward 30 added up to a 65, the big-hitting American becoming the fifth and final player to complete 72 holes in red numbers.
Matt Fitzpatrick just missed out on a place at next week’s Tour Championship after a valiant closing 70 lifted him into the top 10 on level par, while his playing-partner, Rory McIlroy, mixed five bogeys with four birdies in a 71 that left him in a share of 12th on three over.