The ASU men’s golf team knew freshman Jon Rahm Rodriquez had all the skills necessary to win an invitational.
It was only a matter of time before Rahm Rodriquez pieced them together for all three rounds.
In the Bill Cullum Invitational Oct. 22-23, in Westlake Village, Calif., Rahm Rodriquez played three superb rounds, winning the invitational at 12-under-par, three strokes ahead of second place.
“I think getting your first win is very important,” ASU coach Tim Mickelson said. “I think it’s great that he is able to get his first one very early in his career. It’s going to give him a lot of confidence for the spring and certainly give him confidence for the rest of his time, while he plays college golf knowing that he can win.”
Mickelson and Rahm Rodriquez attributed the win in part due to his torrid play on the par-5s. Rahm Rodriquez birdied 18 of the 54 total holes, including eight birdies on the 12 par-5s.
“I don’t think much about five,” Rahm Rodriquez said. “I think about (shooting) fours. And even if I don’t shoot that great (off the tee) I can make it up.”
At the Pac-12 Preview two weeks ago in North Plains, Ore., a slow start prevented Rahm Rodriquez from winning. After shooting five-over in the first round of the Pac-12 Preview, Rahm Rodriquez carded a combined 15-under in rounds two and three and finished one stroke behind the victor.
Again at the Bill Cullum Invitational, Rahm Rodriquez didn’t get off to a blazing start . He was even par through the first round, but he was only a few strokes back and closed in on the leaders in a hurry.
Mickelson said that some college golfers get scared when they drop a couple strokes under par. The player ends up playing not to lose rather than playing to win, a recipe for disaster. Mickelson added that Rahm Rodriquez has that intangible trait of playing to add on when ahead.
Rahm Rodriquez said learning the idiosyncrasies of the golf course helped him gain the confidence to win, and his putts were dropping.
As a team, ASU capped its fall season with a second-place finish at 5-under. ASU started slow, and were 6-over and in sixth place following the opening round, but once Rahm Rodriquez heated up, the Sun Devils did, too.
“We got off to a very, very poor start the first round of the tournament,” Mickelson said. “Without that start, we probably would have been right there having a chance to win the tournament instead of finishing second. … We’re certainly going to take that (finish) and be happy and end on a positive note for the fall.”
ASU had originally planned to start senior Jin Song, but Mickelson tweaked the lineup at the last minute late Sunday night to include senior Chris Russo.
Mickelson said he did this due to “a couple things we saw prior to the tournament.” The move backfired, as Russo finished last in the 108-player invitational at 35-over.
In the offseason, Russo transferred to ASU from Cal State Northridge, the host school of the Bill Cullum Invitation. Russo was already in the area, which made it easy for him to enter the invitational.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org