HomeSportsJon Rahm loses it, but gets it back together at the PGA...

Jon Rahm loses it, but gets it back together at the PGA Championship

LOUISVILLE — For about half a second, there’s no better feeling in the world than throwing a bat. All your emotion, all your frustration is concentrated into a single, glorious tomahawk, and it feels like you’re hurling your misery into the stratosphere.

Then the club lands – or bounces, if you’ve swung it hard enough – and you realize that you’re still having the same old problems, and that you’re now deeply ashamed of them.

Jon Rahm spent much of his early career with a volcanic temper that turned him into a swearing, bat-throwing whirlwind. It probably cost him a few tournaments; it certainly cost him some self-respect. He got himself under control and his game flourished as a result. Two major championships followed, along with hundreds of millions of dollars.

But every now and then, annoying old habits bubble to the surface. On Thursday afternoon, Rahm – enraged by yet another wayward shot in a round full of them – tomahawked a club straight into the pristine Valhalla grass. A total meltdown seemed imminent.

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Only… the meltdown didn’t happen. Rahm not only made par on the 16th, where he had thrown the club, he then birdied the 17th and 18th holes. That put him in the red for the day and finished at -1 and “only” eight strokes behind leader Xander Schauffele.

The ubiquitous sports books advertising all over the tournament probably didn’t post a single line about Rahm getting his act together. But a smart gambler could have made a lot of money by betting on that line after Rahm’s first six holes, when he was at +4 and looking completely lost.

It’s been a tough few months for Rahm, who jumped from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf in a shock decision in December. He was unable to win the LIV tour. At the Masters he seemed miserable, struggling to an unremarkable T45 finish. Before the PGA Championship, he tried to cross the line between LIV and the Tour, even saying he still considers himself a member of the PGA Tour… despite the fact that his defection alone has seriously injured the Tour.

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“I’m still a member of the PGA Tour, whether I’m suspended or not. I still want to support the PGA Tour. And I think that’s an important distinction to make,” he said earlier this week. “I don’t feel like I’m on the other side. I just don’t play there.”

So it wasn’t much of a surprise to see him stumble so badly in the opening holes of his round on Thursday, and it certainly wasn’t a shock to see him boil over on the 16th hole. But the fact that he managed to pull himself together for those final three holes speaks volumes about the game he still possesses, beneath all the natural drama.

Sports psychologists probably wouldn’t recommend bat throwing as a means of personal motivation, and neither would the PGA or any other grow-the-game organization. But it worked for Rahm on Thursday: He may or may not be out of this tournament, but at least he gave himself a chance. And as anyone who has watched Rahm in a Ryder Cup knows, he can turn even the smallest opportunity into victory.

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