Closing birdie after stolen ball lifts Rahm at US Open

·3-min read

Despite having his ball stolen on the final hole, defending champion Jon Rahm managed a closing birdie to salvage an under-par score from Thursday's first round at the US Open.

World number two Rahm sank a 21-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole to fire a one-under par 69 at The Country Club, delivering a fist-pumping celebration that revived memories of last year's US Open victory, although this time he was just happy to make a putt.

The emotional finish wasn't as thrilling for Rahm, whose closing US Open birdie last year at Torrey Pines gave him a one-stroke victory and his first major title.

But it was meaningful, Rahm said.

"It's not really comparable. It's just more of a 'Thank God I made a putt' type deal," Rahm said. "I feel like I played pretty good golf all day. I just saw a lot of them get close and not go in.

"It's more the fact of making a putt to break par on the first round of the US Open. It's quite a big deal."

Rahm had made three birdies and three bogeys earlier in a roller coaster round.

But the 18th was also unique because it's where Rahm's ball was stolen after his tee shot went left.

"I'm pretty sure I know who it was," Rahm said. "I recognized the two kids that were running the opposite way with a smile on their face. I am 100% sure I saw the two kids that stole it."

Rahm got a free drop, other fans having seen where his ball came to rest.

"I'm just really happy somebody spotted the ball first. We knew exactly where it was," he said.

"Off the tee I was comfortable. I was past all the trees. It was downwind. I wasn't trying to go that far left, but I was trying to take it over the trees and over the bunkers.

"After the free relief, I had 135 yards to the pin, in an area where the rough wasn't that thick. I don't think they expected anybody to hit it there or be around there."

It was a rare souvenir-swiping chance after Rahm had been accurate off the tee until the closing two holes.

"You have to really strike the ball well to put it in those fairways, which I was able to do," Rahm said. "I was never out of position off the tee except the last two holes, but for 16 holes I enjoyed the fairway."

At the dogleg left 17th, Rahm was way left off the tee but put his approach 12 feet from the cup and rescued par.

"I didn't really realize how close I came," Rahm said. "I fully know how lucky I got on that hole and I tried to take advantage to make a birdie, but I'll take the four and run any day of the week."

He expects the set-up will keep him running through the weekend.

"It's not the longest US Open we've played. It's not the trickiest US Open we've played," Rahm said. "But with this wind and those greens, with pin positions, they can make it as hard or easy as they want."

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