It’s hard to blame losing a 72-hole tournament on a single shot, but there’s no doubt that coming down the stretch on a Sunday that mistakes are amplified on the back nine.
For Jon Rahm and his caddie, Adam Hayes, a pivotal moment came at the par-5 11th hole, which ultimately led to a back-nine fade that dropped the 54-hole leader down to a tie for 12th place.
After a shaky start, Rahm righted the ship on the back half of the front nine to make the turn at 14-under par. With scoring opportunities at the reachable 11th and drivable par-4 12th, Rahm was right in the thick of things even despite pulling his tee shot on the par-5 into the left fairway bunker.
Facing a shot that required Rahm to hook his shot from 220 yards around some overhanging trees with water right of the green, Hayes implored Rahm to take the conservative strategy and try to make birdie by laying up, but Rahm refused his looper’s advice.
Jon Rahm's caddie told him to lay up. Rahm went for it and paid the price. You can hear Rahm say just after he hit it "I was so f****** sure the first time." pic.twitter.com/bRkmose5EO
— By The Flagstick (@ByTheFlagstick) March 17, 2019
“I’m gonna get you flat over here,” Hayes pleaded, attempting to explain why he thought the layup was the best play “You’ll have a flat lie, you’ll have 100 (yards).”
“The problem is I’m not confident hitting that shot,” Rahm rebuffed. “If you hit it too far down there you’ll have a very tough angle.”
Hayes relented and Rahm played the shot he chose quickly, ultimately finding the water right of the green, leading to a costly bogey. Rahm was unable to take advantage of the short 12th hole, and despite a birdie on the par-3 13th, a bogey on the par-4 15th and a double bogey at the par-3 17th doomed his chances for the biggest win of his career.
“If I hit the green, great — I was going anywhere left that was grass or sand,” Rahm said after the round. “So there was a big amount of land to hit there.
“Adam was trying to convince me to go right, and when I first got to the ball I was really sure I could do it. I mean if you give me 10 balls besides that one I’ll hit the other one on land. But unfortunately, I got a little bit of doubt in me.
“I didn’t hit my best shot but it wasn’t that far off, so I knew I could pull it off. I guess it’s easy to think of that as the point that I lost the tournament.”
Rahm would shoot a 4-over par 76 and finish at 11-under par, five shots behind eventual champion Rory McIlroy.