Jon Rahm wrapped up his first round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational with an eagle-birdie-birdie finish, then proceeded to give all four of those shots back Friday morning in windy conditions at Bay Hill.
Rahm’s 76 surely came as a surprise to the Spaniard and the entire golf world, which has spent the last six months watching the number one player in the world run roughshod over fields from Dubai to Maui.
The former Arizona State star didn’t mince words when asked about the difficulty of Bay Hill when the wind starts to wreak havoc on the par-72 layout.
“Excuse my language, but it's f**king hard,” Rahm said with a laugh. “It's firm, it's fast and it's blowing 30 miles an hour. It's a very difficult golf course.”
Rahm managed the conditions well throughout most of his second round and was sitting at even par on the day and 7 under for the tournament through 13 holes Friday after starting on the par-4 10th. That’s when it all started to come undone.
After a bogey at the fifth, Rahm rinsed his tee shot at the famous par-5 sixth hole that wraps around a lake in the middle of the property. He was forced to re-tee, finding the right rough with his third shot and ultimately making double bogey.
A birdie at the par-3 seventh was followed by bogeys at eight and nine, bringing to an end a four-over finishing stretch that was a stark contrast to the way Rahm finished Thursday.
Despite the difficulties late in the round, the 10-time PGA Tour winner sounded optimistic after walking off the course.
“For most of the day I managed it,” Rahm said. “It's just the last five holes. Even though I didn't feel like I was making bad swings, I just couldn't quite get it going and finished poorly the last stretch. Main thing is, two swings that didn't feel bad, both of 'em end up in the water. That's costing me two shots right there. Luckily, I shot 7 under yesterday and I'm not too far off.”
Rahm also the found the water on Bay Hill’s 11th hole, but managed to escape with bogey.
Now 3 under for the week, Rahm finds himself six shots back of Kurt Kitayama’s lead heading into the weekend.
“Especially in this tournament you're going to have to show up on the weekend and play good,” Rahm said when asked about Kitayama. “So, so far he's been doing it. Hopefully, I'm one of those that spoils the weekend for him.”