AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) - Jon Rahm matched the low round at this year’s U.S. Masters with a seven-under-par 65 on Saturday, but the Spaniard’s superb play barely made an impression on leader Patrick Reed’s advantage heading into the final 18 holes of the season’s first major.
Rahm made what seemed like a storming charge up the leaderboard, but he ended the day only two strokes closer than where he had started and six strokes behind Reed after a day of low scoring in perfect conditions at Augusta National.
After moving to eight-under for the tournament, Rahm was conducting a news conference when the American leader’s eagle at the par-five 15th flashed up on the electronic leaderboard inside the interview room.
“Hopefully I have a chance. It’s looking less likely by the second,” a subdued Rahm, who sits alone in fourth place, said as he eyed the news.
Moments earlier, he was speaking positively at the prospect of winning a sixth Green Jacket for Spain, adding to those of Seve Ballesteros (two), Jose Maria Olazabal (two) and last year’s winner Sergio Garcia.
Rahm , however, almost shot himself out of the tournament with an opening 75 on Thursday, leaving himself needing three near-perfect rounds to have any chance. No winner has ever trailed by more than seven strokes after 18 holes.
“I felt I played so good and I shot 75. When I feel as good as I did and shoot 75 I try to figure out what happened,” the 23-year-old from Barrika added as he continues his search for a first major victory.
“I knew I was playing good. I went back over my round and realised every time I missed the fairway, I basically made a bogey.”
Rahm has been flagged as a potential superstar since his teenage years at Arizona State University, where he arrived in 2012, speaking only a smattering of English.
With a powerful swing that generates one of the highest club-head speeds on tour, Rahm is best known for the quality of his long game, though his short game is none too shabby either.
His vaulted into contention on Saturday with an eagle at the par-five eighth, where he pitched in from 30 yards, from what he described as “about as good a lie as you can get anywhere in the world”.
He later enjoyed a touch of luck at the par-five 13th, where he knocked his second shot into the tributary of Rae’s Creek and was in danger of dropping a shot.
Taking a penalty stroke, he dropped his ball 35 yards from the hole and sent in a skidding pitch that failed to put on the brakes, its progress halted only by the pin, into which his ball clattered and stopped nearby for a tap-in par.
Rahm crossed himself, Catholic style.
He will need some more help from the golfing gods on Sunday.
Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by John O'Brien