Rahm went on a heater in the final round at at Kapalua to overtake Collin Morikawa
The 2023 Tournament of Champions looked to be Collin Morikawa’s to lose for the first 67 holes. In complete control of his game and holding a six-stroke lead heading into Sunday, the rest of the field was simply playing for second place. Everyone except for Jon Rahm, that is. Seeing his name drop as many as nine strokes behind Morikawa’s, the Spaniard kept his head down and went to work. The result? He totaled 27 under and was rewarded with a two-stroke victory at the Plantation Course at Kapalua.
Beginning his final round with a bogey, the former world No. 1 fell to 16 under and appeared to be on the cusp of nice finish, but certainly not a memorable one. A birdie on his second hole immediately put Rahm back to even par on the day, and four additional par breakers on his outward half saw him reach 21 under for the tournament.
“If you told me at the beginning of the round after that bogey that I was going to do what I did and have a three-shot lead after finishing, I don’t know if I would’ve believed you,” said Rahm.” But at that point, it’s not like winning is really in mind. You just have to get to work and start making birdies and that’s what I did. That stretch of four through six, making those three birdies, birdieing nine allowed me to get into a rhythm and the stretch of 12 through 15 was very important as well.”
A birdie on the 12th put Rahm within five of Morikawa and in with a chance to pull off a stunner. Two more birdies on 13 and 14 put him within three. With Morikawa still needing to play the more accessible holes on the back nine, on paper, this Herculean effort from Rahm was another performance at Kapalua which would come up short.
Coming into the week with five top-10 finishes in as many starts at the Tournament of Champions, Rahm has experienced his fair share of close calls at this event. Shooting 33 under at this tournament a year ago, a record-setting performance from Cameron Smith was the only thing that stood in between Rahm and his first victory at Kapalua.
There would be none of that this season as an emphatic eagle on the par-5 15th propelled Rahm to 26 under. At that same time, Morikawa began to show cracks with his newly revamped chipping and putting reverting back to their troubled selves. A bladed bunker shot on the drivable par-4 14th led to his first bogey of the championship before more short-game woes occurred on 15 and 16 with bogeys following.
“So 15 is when it truly became a reality when I had that putt to get within one shot and knowing how good I was playing 16 and 18 are good birdie options,” said Rahm. “When that putt went in and then on 17 I couldn’t believe it when I missed the green right we had a one-shot lead and everything changed. It took quite an effort to settle myself down and change my mindset … it was a bit of a rollercoaster five minutes there.”
A birdie on the closing hole put the finishing touches on a stellar 10-under 63 in which Rahm played his final 17 holes in 11 under. Going 27 under on the week and now 60 under at the Plantation Course over his last eight rounds, the consistent greatness from the former world No. 1 was finally enough to bag him a much deserved, and perhaps overdue, trophy in Hawaii.