Jon Rahm has big finish for 65, 2-shot lead at Bay Hill

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Jon RahmHe started strong and finished it strong Thursday. He closed eagle birdie-birdie for an impressive 7-under 65 and a two-shot lead in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Bay Hills brute test was not enough to match golfs hottest player.

He said, Amazing round of golf. I wish all of them were just as enjoyable as this one.

But that doesnt mean it was perfect. Rahm opened the day with three straight birdies, playing in the afternoon as the greens became more crustier. He was steady throughout the round, until his big burst at final allowed him to speed past Honda Classic winner Chris KirkAnd Cameron Young.

He only managed to hit eight fairways. He was twice blocked by trees. On the 15th hole, he made par and putted a 30-foot putt.

But, oh! Thats the end.

Rahm hit 5-iron to 25 yards on the fringe at the par-5 16th, and it was holed for eagle. He hit a 7-iron to the par-3 17th that cleared the bunker, landing in the right spot to roll out at 2 feet. On the final hole, he hit a soft nine-iron to a frontpin that settled at 6 feet.

Rahm stated earlier in the week that he doesn’t believe he can beat him when he is firing on all cylinders. This belief is shared by many top players. He also stated that he could not think of a tournament in which he played at his absolute best.

Rahm said, Go through each round, and there will be many mistakes. I took advantage of the minimizing of mistakes and converted some situations into really great scores. It can always be even better.

He said, But its only the first day. Ask me if Sunday is the first day that I play like this and Ill likely change my answer.

Bay Hill is expecting the worst over the next few day, with strong winds expected to make it worse on a course that is already fast and steady.

Kirk is celebrating a win that was nearly eight years in making. He carried that momentum to seven birdies and a 67 in the morning round. Young had a 67 in morning conditions, which might have been as easy as Bay Hill gets all week.

They were joined together by Kurt KitayamaRahm, but he lost his last shot at No. 9.

The group at number 68 included the current champion Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Xander SchauffeleAnd Patrick CantlayAll of them are among the top 20 worldwide.

It all starts at the top and Rahm is looking as tough as ever. He has already won three PGA Tour titles this year and has won five of his nine previous tournaments.

Rory McIlroyThe mathematical possibility of regaining No. 1 is in the hands of, With a win, he was over par and carded a 73. He also had a double-bogey on the par-5 sixth when he drove into water.

Kirk won the Honda Classic in a playoff only four days ago, a major win for the 37-year old from Georgia who walked away from the PGA Tour for help with alcoholism.

Since then, it has been non-stop — the Seminole pro-Member on Monday and the drive north to Orlando with long-time friend Charlie Culberson. Tampa Bay Rays, the proam Wednesday and then one among the most difficult tests of the Florida swing.

He was up to the challenge, with a round that began and ended in a bogey, and featured seven birdies between.

Ive been very busy and so 5:30 a.m. arrived this morning. I felt a little strange and like we were doing this all over again. Kirk explained that while he felt a little out of it at first, he soon settled down and played some solid golf.

It was a good thing that he holed a pair of 30-foot birdie putsts, but it didnt seem like he wanted to wait another eight-years for his next win.

Young is still waiting for his first and its difficult to believe that this talent will be able to wait so long. Two close calls in majors last year included a 31 on St. Andrews back nine to finish one back at The British Open.

Young has a connection with Bay Hill. David, his father, retired recently as the long-serving head pro at Sleepy Hollow, New York. They also spent many weeks in Orlando during winter at the Orange Tree. Young played Bay Hill occasionally as a teenager.

Young stated that a tournament-shaped golf course is different from one that has rough like this and when the green becomes firm.

He didnt have any problem with Bay Hill being set up for the PGA Tour, but that doesnt mean he did.

He said, It is not easy as it seems. And I wasn’t quite so good then.

Bay Hill will be as tough as ever in strong winds. During the Wednesday pro-am, players had difficulty finding pitch marks on green.

Scheffler said, Well be watching what happens on those greens. Its best to not blow too hard. They may need to slow down or something. I dont know what they will do.

The main concern for now might be stopping Rahm.

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