Ways to Win: How Jon Rahm Won the U.S. Open

June 22, 2021

Karma (and Ball Striking)

In “Ways to Win,” we track the PGA TOUR winner’s rounds using the Roundabout mobile app and then analyze how they got the job done using the same tools available to Roundabout users.

Jon Rahm outlasts the field at Torrey 

It took 4 days, but a US Open broke out on the back 9 Sunday at Torrey Pines. A stacked leaderboard turned into a bloodbath as a who’s who of golf crumbled under the weight of trying to win a US Open at the iconic Torrey Pines. 

  • Brooks Koepka had it -4 before bogeying two of the last three holes. 
  • Bryson DeChambeau took a share of the lead on 10 before a back nine 44!
  • Collin Morikawa saw his hopes dashed with a bad double on the par 5 13th.
  • Rory McIlroy looked like it might be his to win until going bogey-double early on the back 9.

In the end it was a two horse race between Jon Rahm and Louis Oosthuizen. Louis played it calm and collected throughout the entire back 9, holding a 2 stroke lead for much of it until Rahm did the unthinkable. It’s hard not to feel for Louis, constantly the bridesmaid and never the bride with so many 2nd place finishes in majors, but Louis did not lose the tournament as much as Jon Rahm stole it with two clutch putts in the biggest moment. This is not the first time we’ve seen Jon Rahm bury a long putt at Torrey. Rahm’s tournament will likely be largely remembered for those two putts, huge breaking left to righters that would have gone into a thimble they were so pure.

Putting Stats

Leveraging putting analysis from Roundabout, Jon Rahm is certainly not the best putter on tour. He does have a knack for rolling in the big ones. Rahm lost strokes to the field in 4 of the distance buckets, particularly closer to the hole where he only made 69% of his putts from 4-6ft. Easy to do on fast, bumpy poa annua greens. He excelled at the mid range putts where he gained a half a stroke per round on the field. For the week, he finished 21st in the field in putting. However, this was largely due to making 45 feet of putts in his last two holes! Had he failed to hole those putts he would have finished closer to 35th. 

While Rahm’s putting performance certainly closed the door for Rahm and forced Louis’ hand into making a mistake on 17, it wasn’t necessarily his putting that put Rahm in position to win. So how did Rahm get it done?

Let’s Look at Strokes Gained Stacked

Roundabout’s Strokes Gained stacked analysis shows how Jon Rahm performed round by round. Aggregating his performance for the primary strokes gained categories:

  • – Driving: +5.2 
  • – Approach: +4.6
  • – Short: +3.2
  • – Putting: +0.7
  • – Tee2Green: +13.0

Putting closed the deal, but Rahm separates himself from the field with ball striking. Jon Rahm is long off the tee and gained the most strokes with his driving where he finished 5th in Strokes Gained Driving. Now, you might think that means he was also accurate. US Open’s do put a premium on accuracy after all with long penal rough. However, a quick glance at the players that hit the most fairways would reveal that fairways were not necessarily the route to success at this US Open. The players that finished highest on the leaderboard did not excel in fairways. Like Jon Rahm, they tended to bomb it and make sure to miss in good places, whether that  be fairway bunkers or on the safe side of the fairway. In fact, Jon Rahm finished 28th for fairways hit. When the fairways are only 20 yards wide, everybody is going to struggle to hit them, so you might as well hit it far. Jon Rahm did that, finishing 12th for the week in driving distance. Pair that with accurate iron shots and a short game that rivals fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros and you have a dangerous combination.

What does Virtual Coach Say?

In the end, the US Open is about avoiding mistakes and big numbers. Jon Rahm did that making just a single double bogey for the week. Roundabout’s Virtual Coach shows just how close Jon Rahm was to maximizing his potential averaging just 1.1 mistakes per round, where mistakes are 3 putts, penalty / recovery shots, and two chips. Jon Rahm only 3 putted twice for the week and not at all on the final day. 

It sounds foolish to say after Jon made two bombs to win the tournament, but if Jon should work on anything, it would be putting. Had he eliminated the two 3 putts or been better from inside 7 feet, he would have never had to make the putts on the last to win the championship. Every shot counts.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Jon Rahm’s game is not even captured by the above analytics and strokes gained. It could be his mental side. After a topsy turvy couple weeks, which included being forced to withdraw with a 6 shot lead at the Memorial, Jon Rahm showed extreme poise and patience. The Twitter world was ablaze with opinions of unfairness in the face of COVID concerns. Instead of becoming bitter or angry, Jon Rahm accepted that it was for the best and turned it into motivation to win an even greater championship. Personally, I entered this week not being a big Jon Rahm fan and left the weekend truly admiring him. Not only is he a phenomenal golfer, but he seems like an even better human with amazing perspective for a young phenom. 

If you want to play like Jon Rahm, Roundabout can help you understand what you need to work on to get better at any age and any skill level. Keep in mind that golf can be a confusing game. Many would have left the weekend thinking Jon Rahm won the golf tournament because of his putting. However, analytics and tools like Roundabout show us otherwise. Knowing what to work on is the first step to playing to your potential. Win your own US Open with Roundabout. Congrats to Jon Rahm on an amazing performance and well deserved victory.


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