Analysis: Jon Rahm says he's in 'happy place' before foot injury forces him to withdraw from US Open

PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — Jon Rahm says he is in a “happy place.” That was in response to a question Tuesday that suggested he was not, mainly because of two bad weeks and one bad foot.

And that was before the bad foot caused Rahm to withdraw from the U.S. Open.

The further implication of the question was whether Rahm had doubts about his decision to sign with Saudi-backed LIV Golf at the end of last year for more money than he probably could have earned in a career on the PGA Tour. He has never said he regretted his move.

His performance is what raised questions.

It's one thing that Rahm now has gone 14 months without winning anywhere in the world, the longest drought since he turned pro out of Arizona State in the summer of 2016.

Rahm, who is 29 and just entering his prime and was No. 1 in the world just over a year ago, has yet to win in eight starts against 54-man LIV Golf fields that include a range of players from Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau to Anthony Kim and Kalle Samooja.

The upside was being the only LIV player to finish in the top 10 at every tournament until he had to withdraw last week with a foot infection.

“It’s not like I’ve been playing bad, even though a lot of you make it sound like I’m playing bad," Rahm said. “I had two bad weeks.”

Those two bad weeks stand out because they were majors.

Rahm looked certain to miss the cut at the Masters as the defending champion until an afternoon wind sent scores soaring, and he made it with one shot to spare at 5-over par and wound up in a tie for 45th. And then in the PGA Championship at Valhalla, he missed the cut for the first time at a major in five years.

“I’ve been top 10 and had a chance to win in most of the tournaments I’ve played,” he said. “And then unfortunately Augusta and PGA wasn’t my best showings. But yeah, I’m happy.”

Now he will have to wait until next month for another crack in the majors, all because of an infection in his left foot that caused enough pain for him to withdraw last week, and not even wait until the opening round this week at Pinehurst No. 2 before pulling out.

It was a smart move. Rahm told Spanish media he wouldn't be here in the first place if it wasn't a major, and after consulting doctors, figured he could do more harm than good by trying to play without a reasonable chance to win.

The infection is between his last two toes. Rahm still isn't sure what happened.

“I think that the closest term would be a lesion on the skin,” he said “I don’t know how or what happened, but it got infected. The pain was high.”

The fear is that compensations to his swing because of a painful left foot might lead to other problems with his swing, or even injuries. Rahm didn't want to risk the rest of his season.

But the rest of that season isn't what he had in mind. LIV is in Nashville, Tennessee, next week and there's a chance the Spaniard won't be there if the infection was bad enough to cause him to pull out of Pinehurst.

And then five LIV events remain — one in Spain, another in England — along with the British Open at Royal Troon.

Before he withdrew, Rahm's odds on BetMGM Sportsbook had started at +1200 and dropped to +3300. Most of that was undoubtedly injury-related, though his name is not rolling off the tongue at majors the way it did a year ago.

Scottie Scheffler is the man to beat. Xander Schauffele is the PGA champion. Bryson DeChambeau nearly won at Valhalla. Rory McIlroy always seems to be in the conversation. Rahm certainly isn't an afterthought, but he's clearly not in form.

That happens in golf. Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, and McIlroy from time to time, can attest to that.

But there is greater attention on Rahm because of how good he is and how big of a deal it was last December when he went from a Masters green jacket to a black LIV letterman's jacket.

Any measure of two majors is more of a blip than a trend. But now there is only one major left this year for Rahm — assuming the foot infection doesn't linger — and that will be the last time a wide golf audience will hear about Rahm until next April.

Rahm isn't alone, of course.

Brooks Koepka, the first LIV Golf player to win a major at the PGA Championship last year, has finished out of the top 25 in his last three majors. These are the tournaments where Koepka typically is at his very best.

Dustin Johnson, long considered golf's biggest talent, missed the cut in two straight majors and made it on the number at Valhalla. He tied for 43rd.

Rahm is different because he was at the height of his game when he left for LIV and began performing for sparse crowds at some of the venues. He feeds off energy.

Rahm is concerned about his foot. He did not seem worried about his career choices.

“It’s been a wonderful career so far. And yeah, it hasn’t been the best first half of the year,” he said. “But there’s been many times where I haven’t had a great start, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great finish.”

The question now is the starting line for the rest of the year.


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