Jon Rahm reacts to his putt to win on the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff during the final round of the 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
By Christopher Powers
Even after falling back with a two-under 70 on Saturday at PGA West’s Stadium Course, Jon Rahm was still very much a factor trailing by just two strokes heading into the final round of the CareerBuilder Challenge. On Sunday, he played like he did over his first two rounds, carding a five-under 67 to get to 22-under 266, which was eventually enough to earn a spot in a sudden-death playoff with Andrew Landry, who made birdie on the 72nd hole to force extra holes.
Landry went toe-to-toe with Rahm in the playoff, matching him with pars on the first three holes, but the Spaniard finally rolled in a birdie putt after taking dead aim at the flag on the fourth extra hole, the par-4 18th, for his second career PGA Tour victory.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Rahm said. “I had a good feeling going into today, and to play the way I did and give myself a chance. Props to Andrew, to birdie 18 from the right rough, having to birdie it, it’s a heck of an accomplishment.”
Landry’s clutch putt at the 18th gave him a final-round four-under 68, which featured five birdies and his only bogey of the week. He continued to impress in sudden death, going shot for shot with Rahm before just missing a 10-foot birdie try of his own as he was gunning for his first PGA Tour title.
“To follow all the shots that I hit, I didn’t miss one fairway, had a make-able birdie putt every single time, it’s amazing that he kept up,” Rahm said. “One of us had to do it, and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion. Congrats to him, hard to explain what this means right now.”
The victory jumps Rahm over Jordan Spieth to the No. 2 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking. Rahm now heads to Torrey Pines next week where he’ll look to defend his title.
“It’s hard to believe, to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth, three-time major champion, I only have two wins, he’s got 10-plus, right?” Rahm said. “It’s, again, I said it many times, I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now, especially the way I won both victories. It couldn’t be anymore different than the other. Incredibly proud of myself, my whole team, my caddie Adam, he does an outstanding job of keeping me calm.”
As for Landry, the solo second finish is the best of his career on the PGA Tour, and his third in the top 10 during the 2017-’18 season.
“Just fun. This is a good atmosphere, obviously, to be in and I made a lot of good putts today and especially the one on the last hole and it’s a tricky pin right here, there’s a lot of putts that just kind of didn’t want to break and just kind of held and it was just a good week,” Landry said.
Finishing two back at 20-under 268 was John Huh, who didn’t appear to be a factor through 36 holes, sitting at seven under after rounds of 68 and 69. But he vaulted up the leader board on the weekend with rounds of 65 and Sunday’s six-under 66 to earn a T-3 finish, his first in the top-five since the 2013 Barracuda Championship, where he also tied for third.
Also finishing at 20 under were Adam Hadwin and Martin Piller. For Hadwin, it’s his second straight top-three finish at the CareerBuilder. It’s Piller’s second top-five in his last four starts.
Kevin Chappell and Scott Piercy finished in a tie for sixth at 19-under 269.
Sam Saunders posted the round of the day, an eight-under 64 to finish T-8 at 18-under 270. It’s his first top-10 finish in six starts this season, and it’s the best result of his career in this event, where he never made the cut prior to this week in his previous six tries.
Austin Cook, the 54-hole leader, struggled on Sunday, carding a three-over 75 to finish in a tie for 14th at 16-under 272.