Jon Rahm fired a stunning, record breaking round of 62 to take a three-shot lead after day one of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. The Spaniard has three Rolex Series victories but is looking for his first World Golf Championships title this week and made the ideal start as the event made its first appearance at TPC Southwind in Memphis.
His bogey free effort took him to eight under par and equalled the lowest ever opening round in a WGC event and his own lowest ever round on the European Tour, matching his closing 18 holes en route to victory earlier this month at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
Rahm is playing at this venue for the first time and revealed he had never stepped onto the front nine before Thursday as his practice schedule was affected by jetlag after three consecutive events on European soil at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucia Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and The Open Championship.
The 24 year old has made a pledge to donate $1,000 dollars per birdie and $5,000 per eagle over the week to the tournament charity St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and his eight birdies today got the total off to a flying start.
American duo Patrick Cantlay and Bubba Watson, Japanese pair Shugo Imahira and Hideki Matsuyama and two-time European Tour winner Cameron Smith of Australia are in a share of second place at five under par, a shot clear of Englishmen Tyrrell Hatton and Ian Poulter, Sweden’s Alex Noren, Dane Thorbjørn Olesen and Americans Nate Lashley and Andrew Putnam.
English pair Justin Rose and Mathew Fitzpatrick, Americans Bryson DeChambeau and Billy Horschel and Corey Conners of Canada are then at three under par, with England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who comes into the week on the back of a runner up finish at The Open, in a group of six players one shot further back.
“I can tell you getting to the first tee today was the first time I stepped on that nine. I didn’t see my back nine today at all before today. I didn’t do anything Monday or Tuesday, I just rested and stretched at the hotel.
“Yesterday I came with the plan of playing 18 holes. I putted and warmed up, and after four holes, I teed off on 10, I think that was when I got to 14 or 15, I was dead. I couldn’t swing properly. I was really tired, so I just decided to finish the round of nine holes, eat and just putt a little bit and go.
“The key to all those birdies, my position on the greens was really good. I was able to not really go at the pins every single time, but I was able to make myself putts that for the most part I felt with very little break, so at that point I really, if I could do that every day of the year, that would be amazing.
“It’s such a great cause (St. Judes). The fact that kids can come to this hospital and this community, and they won’t pay a bill. Anytime you play golf, when you play it for more than just yourself, you play for such a good cause. It’s just heartwarming and humbling. There’s a lot more to life than golf and like I said, anytime I can help, I will.”
“I had a nice week last week at The Open Championship. Just kind of rolled with the punches today, ball-striking was good and the putts were going in.The short stuff for me when it’s really good, it just allows my longer stuff to kind of free up a little bit. Maybe missed a few iron shots today, but all in all, pretty good stuff.
“It has been a bit of a frustrating year. I’ve had a long middle of the season there, couldn’t really get much rolling. I was working hard and nothing was kind of going my way. I think that’s just golf sometimes, you never really know what it’s going to throw at you. Keep grinding through it and the results will always be around the corner
“Everything’s good. The whole thing I would say the last five years, it’s all about the mental side. The physical is easy to me, I have that. So for me it’s all about mental, and I’ve been working hard. Gosh, we’ve seen other athletes come out with mental problems and different things, so this whole year I’ve been dealing with some stuff and just trying to get better at it.
“Today I was so calm and relaxed thinking how lucky I am to be here in Memphis and playing this tournament. So, it’s just one of those things that, I put in the old putter from last year and rolled the ball pretty good.”
“Very happy with that. The ball is going quite a long ways today so it’s a little bit different than the last few weeks that we’ve had. It’s quite difficult to adjust as well with playing links golf and coming here on bermudagrass. It’s hard to judge it, but yeah, very happy how I played today.
“I think probably the speed of the greens as well, that’s the hardest thing. They seem so quick compared to the experience of the last three weeks. I putted pretty well today, so I’m happy with that.”
“I didn’t really play great for the first four or five. I had a really good stretch in the middle, felt like I was going to continue. It’s actually not that easy. It’s a really good driving course and the greens are running pure.
“I think The Open itself last week was just absolutely spectacular, I think it’s so great for the game. It was Shane’s time. It was a really emotional moment for him and his family and everyone. But it was great. An amazing event for me. Best result of the year and it just gives you that taste again really.”