Jon Rahm continues to crack Sawgrass code

The big Spaniard was struggling on day one but a second-round 68 has put him in position for a weekend challenge at THE PLAYERS Championship

Jon Rahm, like many of the world's top players, has experienced highs and lows during his short career at TPC Sawgrass.

His debut in 2017 had a bit of everything: an impressive opening 68, a low-key 72 in round two and a disastrous Saturday 82 that meant he didn't make the final day.

The Spaniard followed a similar path on his next visit to THE PLAYERS Championship in 2018, shooting 68-70-77 over the first 54 holes. A closing 70 left him in tied 63rd.

But if Rahm seemed to be developing a problem in round three, he reversed the direction of travel in spectacular fashion in 2019. After rounds of 69 and 68, he blitzed an 8-under 64 on 'Moving Day' to take the lead with 18 holes to play.

However, this time he'd merely delayed his one bad round 24 hours and a hugely disappointing Sunday 76 relegated him to tied 12th.

The key for Rahm and any potential Sawgrass champion is to string four good days together.

Already this week, he's had that ambition challenged twice. In round one, the 26-year-old wobbled to 3-over par after just five holes before a run of four back-nine birdies put him in red figures. A walk-off bogey was frustrating but a potentially bad day had been saved.

In Friday's second lap, Rahm appeared to be flirting with the cut line when slipping to 1-over for both round and tournament after six holes.

But he birdied the par-5 16th, held his nerve at the infamous 17th and then hit the gas coming home with birdies at 2, 4, 7 and 9.

Suddenly the leaders were in sight again and Rahm would go onto finish the day five back from new pacesetter Lee Westwood.

The good thing for Rahm is that all parts of his game looked in solid shape in round two. And hitting 30 greens in regulation over the first 36 holes suggests he's a real contender going into the weekend.

The bookmakers know it and he's now joint-fifth favourite at 12/1 with Paddy Power.

After his 68, Rahm talked through his round, settling in with new clubs and the return of fans

On the importance of making birdie at No.9, his final hole of the day.

"Big. I hit a great tee shot and I ended up with somewhat of an in-between distance. I had to fade a 5-wood, ball below my feet, and it's just not the easiest shot, barely come out of it, leave myself 35 yards short-sided. Par-5s you can get in trouble very easily and it's not easy birdies, but I just took my medicine, even though I was in the fairway, I knew anything inside 10 feet was going to be amazing, hit it to about 12, 15 feet and was pretty confident over the putt. I felt pretty good on the greens today, especially as the round went on, and had a couple long ones that had a pretty decent chance of going in. I just put a free stroke on it. It was a pretty stressful round. I was barely in the fairway, fought all day, and I just thought it was a free birdie look, and took advantage of it."

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On bedding in his new Callaway clubs

"I'm confident. I learn more each day. The club quality is incredibly high, and the golf ball is really good, as well. It's just a little bit different to what I play. So there's still certain instances where the distance is off and the way it reacts in the wind is a little bit different, but for just playing it three months, like you said, I think I've done pretty well.

"On the golf course is when you have to get used to it, especially seeing it in different conditions. Practisng in Arizona you're at a certain altitude, the ball tends to go pretty straight, not much wind. So I've got to see the situations, like this one, Torrey, LA, sea-level stuff where the wind is a little thicker and it might move a little bit more. Again, it's been working pretty well. My ball-striking has been good so far all year, and hopefully just keeps feeling good."

On Jordan Spieth saying TPC Sawgrass is like a US Open test

"He's kind of right. We were talking about it yesterday, and it's hard to be defensive with a wedge in your hand and you have to be a lot of times. Perfect example of it is second shot on 4. That pin looks like it's in the middle of the green and I was lucky that that ball went dead straight at the pin and it didn't draw, because if it goes an inch left of where it was or way down there, where if you just hit it 15 feet right you're going to have an easy putt.

"Same with the shot on 13. If you're able to hit it on line, great, if not you're going to have 60 feet over the slope. It's difficult. Again, pars aren't bad on any hole, so you've just got to manage that and take advantage of the times you can. But yeah, you have to be pretty smart with where you're putting the golf ball pretty much all day."

On having fans back

"You know, I don't know how many we have, whatever it is, 10,000 or around that. From zero to 10,000 it's a pretty big difference. It's nice that they're back, to be honest. I don't know how to put it exactly, but you can feed off the crowd. That's a thing, right. You're going to get a lot of people that are supporting you, and whether you hit a good shot or bad shot, you can feed off that positive energy that they're giving you.

"I've missed them. I'm glad they're back. Hopefully we can keep having them, and as long as we don't get any outbreaks or any spikes, hopefully we can keep playing events with the crowd. At the end of the day we play for ourselves, but we're here to entertain, as well, so we're playing for them. Not only for us, but for them, I hope we can keep it going."

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