Rahm shoots 61, propels ASU to early lead at NCAA golf

Freshman Jon Rahm’s 9-under-par 61 led Arizona State into first place after Tuesday’s first round of the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship at Capital City Club in Atlanta.

Rahm had 10 birdies and a single bogey to take a four shot lead over Abraham Ancer of Oklahoma in the individual standings.

On the team leaderboard, 38th-ranked ASU sits at 10-under par 270, followed by No. 7 Georiga Tech (274), No. 2 Alabama (275), No. 26 Illinois (276) and No. 1 California (277).

Rahm, from Spain, is trying to continue a 10-year cycle of excellence for the Sun Devils’ men’s program. Their last NCAA individual champion was Alejandro Canizares in 2003. Ten years earlier, ASU’s Todd Demsey brought home the NCAA individual title, and 10 years before that, in 1983, Jim Carter won ASU’s first individual championship.

All told the Sun Devils have produced six NCAA medalists. The other three were accomplished by Phil Mickelson in 1989, 1990 and 1992. The program’s six individual champions are the most of any school over the past 30 years — Oklahoma State (five) is the only other program with more than two individual champs in that period.

Mickelson’s brother, Tim, is ASU’s head coach, and he wasn’t surprised by Rahm’s strong start. “He plays his best golf on really tough golf courses,” Mickelson said. “So I wouldn’t say I saw it coming, but he actually told me this morning that his putting felt really good. so I’m not surprised.”

Playing the back nine first, he birdied the tenth hole, had his only bogey on 11 and then had nine more birdies and no bogeys en route to the 9-under 61. Duke’s Michael Schachner shot a 60 in the final round of the 2007 NCAA Championship at Golden Horseshoe Golf Club in Williamsburg, Va., which is the NCAA Championship single-round scoring record.

Rahm said he thought he played better this fall while shooting a 64 at Pumpkin Ridge in the Pac-12 Preview, “but my putting today was probably the best I’ve ever putted in my life.”
Rahm was asked if he entertained a thought about breaking 60 as he stood at 8-under par with three holes to play.

“It was coming up way before,” he said. “I think it was my 14th hole, I had a nine-footer for birdie and I thought if I play the last holes good, I could really do a 60, a 10-under. I’ve been dreaming about that, but I missed that putt and then made the really big one on the last hole to shoot a 61. And it was the best round I’ve ever played.”

Freshman Max Rottluff was also under-par for the Sun Devils with a 2-under 68 that left him tied for eighth. Sophomore Austin Quick shot even-par 70.

After three days of stroke play, the individual champion will be crowned

and the eight lowest-scoring teams will advance to a match play

tournament to decide the national team champion.