Jon Rahm shot one of the great rounds of his already-impressive career on Thursday at the 2019 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. He leads one of the most impressive fields of the season after 18 holes of play in sunny Memphis, Tennessee. Let’s take a deep dive into Round 1 of the last WGC event of the season.
First place — Jon Rahm (-8): It sounds good in a vacuum, but it sounds unbelievable with some context. Rahm gained a hilariously outsized 7.5 strokes on an elite field and leads a crew that includes Patrick Cantlay, Bubba Watson, Cam Smith, Hideki Matsuyama and Shug Imahira by three strokes. The only concern for Rahm is how he went about doing it. He gained the majority of his strokes with his putter which, as we’ve seen, is unsustainable. However, he’s such an elite ball-striker that he may be able to make up for it and run away with this thing come the weekend.
Last place — Kevin Kisner (+7): It was a tough scene for Kisner, who somehow made three birdies and still shot a 77. He lost … 15 shots to Rahm in Round 1, and given that there’s not a cut this week, there’s no telling how wide that gap could get.
Other contenders — Patrick Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama, Bubba Watson (-5): The group just beyond Rahm is good, but not great. Most of the higher-ranked players trailing him (which is all of them) are at 1 or 2 under. That mix includes Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. As long as Rahm comes back to the field (and he might not!), then the heaviest hitters will be in it come Saturday and Sunday.
Stat of the day: It’s fun to return from a tough Sunday at the Open Championship to some fireworks from the field. Although I don’t know that we’re going to see 62s throughout given that Rahm’s on Thursday was the round of the day by three strokes.
Stat of the day I: This from Rahm was a joke. It’s indicative of how great his Thursday was. His average proximity to the hole was 23 feet in Round 1, which is the perfect average if you’re trying to give yourself an opportunity at having the putting round of your life (which he did).
Stat of the day II: This seems impossible, and yet it happened.
What to watch on Day 2: Rahm wins everywhere. Ireland, Dubai, San Diego, Spain and New Orleans. To say that taking down TPC Southwind would fit into his list of bagged courses is to say that winning anywhere would fit into his list of bagged courses. After a hard-fought Open in Northern Ireland, I expect him to be at the very top until Sunday afternoon. The only question I have is which of the -1 and -2 golfers will rise up to meet him.