When an athlete starts playing out of his or her mind, it’s often infectious and inspires the team to victory.
This held true at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational when ASU men’s golf sophomore Jon Rahm shot an unprecedented 192 at the three-day event, taking the individual scoring title by eight strokes.
Rahm set the bar high, and the rest of his team responded.
Sophomore Max Rottluff, freshman Ki Taek Lee, and juniors Broc Johnson and Austin Quick all finished in the top 17 of individual scores. The 817 scored by ASU as a team was also the lowest score in the history of the tournament.
Rahm acknowledged he and his teammates played confidently through all three rounds of the tournament.
“There was something inside me that was telling me there was no way I wasn’t winning the tournament,” Rahm said “I think I transmitted that confidence to the rest of the team, especially after the first round.
“Obviously, I played the best golf of my life but my teammates played great golf as well and thanks to that, we won by 20 strokes. Nobody gave up, and they kept making birdies like real champs.”
The Sun Devils had a combined 62 birdies by the end of the tournament, including two eagles by Rahm in the second round and one by Rottluff in the third.
Rahm said the preparation he took in practice was key to his success at the Thunderbird Invitational, which was played at the ASU Karsten Golf Course.
“I studied the course a lot, and I knew perfectly where I could be aggressive and where I had to be more conservative,” Rahm said. “Also, since it’s a short course, I worked a lot in my short game and that is what made the difference.”
The allure of setting records can get in someone’s head and affect his performance badly if he isn’t careful. Rahm said this wasn’t a problem for him; in fact, it seemed to have the opposite effect.
“I never thought about any records after the first round because I didn’t know. After the second round, I read all the articles that said I was close to breaking some records and somehow it helped me start how I started the last round,” Rahm said. “I wasn’t thinking about it on the course. I did think about it before the last round but never during it, I was so focused on following my game plan that I forgot about it.”
Overall, and not much to the surprise of anyone, Rahm was pleased with his play on his home course.
“My wedge game was outstanding and most of the shots I hit with the 8- and 9-irons were hardly outside 10 feet,” Rahm said. “But all that is in vain if you don’t make putts and my putting was great as well. I averaged 26 putts (per round) — that is something crazy.”
The Sun Devils hope the momentum continues for Rahm and the rest of the team when they travel to Tacoma, Wash., to play in the Chambers Bay Intercollegiate starting on April 7.
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