Struggling behind the green in 16th by 3, with Ryan Palmer facing a 12-foot putt birdie from the fringe, Rahm hit a deep grass flop shot that came out perfectly. He landed on the bangs, ran for the hole and fell for birdie as the spirited Spaniard let loose a ferocious fist pump.
Palmer took bogey on the 17th and the coronation took place.
The only problem was the score. Replaying Rahm’s chip seemed to show the ball moving very slightly when he put his lob corner behind. PGA TOUR officials examined him and imposed a two-stroke penalty. It did not affect the result.
Rahm was surprised when this was mentioned to him after he was done and said he didn’t realize that something was wrong.
“It doesn’t take anything from shooting,” he said. “It won’t take anything away from today. ”
Rahm finished with a 3 of 75 for a three-stroke victory over Palmer, the highest final round by a Memorial winner since Roger Maltbie shot 76 on the freshman in 1976.
The victory was Rahm’s 10th in his career, his fourth on the PGA TOUR and propels him to 8th place in the FedExCup rankings. He overtook Rory McIlroy in the world rankings by winning against the strongest peloton of the year.
It was also the strongest test, with the raw uncut and the greens allowed to cook because they are being replaced. The fifth green was already stripped because the leaders were on the last nine.
Only five players beat the par, the least for a final round since the Memorial began in 1976. The average score of 75,932 was the highest for the final round since it was 75,972 in 1978.
Rahm seemed to be playing a different course. He played without a bogey on the top nine with birdies on both par 5. That put him eight shots clear on his way to No.1.
And then he made bogey on the 10th. No problem.
He fired his tee shot in a stream on par 5-11, and that was a bigger problem based on how hard he slammed the club into the ground in a snap of anger. He did a double bogey. Palmer birded on the 12th, then Rahm made another bunker bogey on the 14th.
Just like that, the lead was three strokes.
Just a week ago at Muirfield Village for the Workday Charity Open, Justin Thomas was three strokes ahead with three holes left and ended up losing in the playoffs to Collin Morikawa.
Rahm only wanted his tee shot on the 16th to stay dry, although the rough wasn’t a good option with the speed at which the greens were racing. The chip was similar – but from a different angle – to Tiger Woods who came from behind the 16th green when he won the Memorial for the fifth time in 2012.
Woods, in his first competition since February 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, shot 76 and tied for the 40th.
“Tough and difficult conditions to start my first week back, Thursday and Sunday,” said Woods. “But it was good to find the feeling and the rhythm of the competition. ”
Matthew Fitzpatrick had a 68 for the low score on the final day to finish third.
The consolation prize went to Palmer (74) and Mackenzie Hughes (72), who won places at the US Open at Winged Foot in September as two main players in the top 10 who were not already eligible.
Henrik Norlander could have taken last place with a par 18, but he missed the fairway to the right, couldn’t reach the green, and bogeyed. Norlander and Hughes drew at 3 under 285, but the place went to Hughes because he had the best world ranking.
That ranking now begins with Rahm, who just five years ago was at the Memorial to receive the Jack Nicklaus Award as the country’s best college player.
On Sunday, Nicklaus was there to welcome him behind the 18th green.
Nicklaus revealed earlier on Sunday that he and his wife Barbara tested positive for the coronavirus in March, and they have since tested positive for the antibodies.
As for the shot behind the 16th? Nicklaus was impressed. Rahm too.
“I still can’t believe it, I’m not going to lie,” Rahm said.