HOYLAKE, England (AP) — The hug Jon Rahm gave his parents after finishing his round at the Open Championship on Saturday felt a lot better than the one he gave them the day before.
On Friday, he struggled just to make the cut. This time, he scored the lowest round ever at the Royal Liverpool Open to put himself back in contention to win the claret jar.
“Today wasn’t a comforting hug,” Rahm said after an 8-under 63 round, which was his best ever by any stretch. “Days like these are so much fun.”
It was a stark contrast to the disappointment of the first two days. Rahm left Hoylake frustrated with his mistakes and complaining about the number of people who tripped him while he was playing Rory McIlroy.
“I was playing good golf and I knew what I was capable of,” Rahm said. “I was frustrated because of the… mistakes I made. I gave up shots at major championships that cost a lot, and that’s mostly it. That’s what I felt.”
It was different on Saturday.
Rahm started the day at 2-over par, 12 shots behind then-leader Brian Harman. The Spaniard made eight birdies and no bogeys, shooting 30 on the back nine. By the time he finished his round, which he called his best ever on a links course, Rahm was just four shots off the lead.
Royal Liverpool was the only course in the modern rotation that had not produced a score lower than 65 until Saturday.
“The job today was to go out and give myself the best chance I could. Every time you get a bird, just think of another one. “It’s just all you can do,” Rahm said. “I did what I needed to do, which is to give myself a chance.”
With the odds not too long, Rahm said his game plan was to use the driver as often as possible to avoid the punishing pot bunkers on the fairway.
“I was very comfortable off the tee,” he said. “When you feel comfortable off the tee, it’s very easy to stay aggressive.”
Rahm said it was one of those days where he could execute everything he envisioned before his shots.
“It’s not often you see those shots come out the way they’re supposed to and put them in the spots you’re supposed to,” Rahm said. “You see everything as it’s supposed to happen, and it’s very unusual.”
It could have gone even better, as Rahm had other good birdies but couldn’t convert them, especially on the front nine.
The world No. 3 birdied a 6-footer to save the eighth, then bogeyed his next four holes to go on the back nine.
One of the highlights of his round was a 34-foot putt he made for birdie on the par-4 16th. He also drained a 22-footer on the ninth hole and a 12-footer for his final birdie of the day on the par-5 18th.
Rahm won the Masters in April for his second major and leads the tour with four wins this season. He came to Royal Liverpool after a break after losing the branch in the Travelers Championship almost a month ago.
Victory at Hoylake would put him alongside Seve Ballesteros as the only Spaniards to win the Open. Ballesteros won in 1979, 1984 and 1988.
Rahm was asked what it felt like to become the first Spaniard to shoot 63 and do something that even the great ballers didn’t do in a major.
“I’d rather win three times and never shoot 63,” Rahm said.