By Jack Bantock, CNN
The Spaniard eagled twice across the final three holes to salvage a miraculous tie in his afternoon fourballs match alongside Nicolai Højgaard against world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka, his earlier foursomes point further helping Europe surge into a five point lead at Marco Simone Golf Club.
Rahm had roared with delight after his chip-in eagle at the 16th hole, celebrating with a flurry of fist pumps, but had a markedly more subdued reaction for his closing effort. As crowds around the 18th green erupted, the Masters champion simply stood motionless, shaking his head in disbelieving delight.
After Scheffler’s superb birdie at the penultimate hole had looked to put Team USA on course for its first point of the tournament, it left Koepka frustrated with the result – and Rahm.
“I think me and Scottie birdied, what did we say, 14, we birdied 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and then ‘lost’ (to) two (eagles),” the 33-year-old said in a TV interview, per Sky Sports.
“So yeah, I mean, I want to hit a board and pout just like Jon Rahm did. But, you know, it is what it is. Act like a child. But we’re adults. We move on.”
The five-time major champion appeared to reference the subject again when later asked what attitude his team needed to have to bounce back.
“We’ll be fine. We’re all grown-ups, we act like grown-ups,” Koepka told reporters.
“Just got to play and see where it puts you.”
Rahm brushed off the comments when asked about them Saturday, believing Koepka’s “board” comment to be in reference to the Spaniard “letting off some frustration” by hitting a board sideways after leaving a putt short at the 17th hole.
“I kept walking, never stopped, that was it. If Brooks thinks that’s childish, it is what it is. He’s entitled to think what he thinks,” Rahm told reporters.
“I’m very comfortable with who I am and what I do. I’ve done much worse on a golf course like that. That doesn’t even register to a low level of Jon anger on the golf course.
“I needed to do that at that moment to let off some steam … and clearly it worked out, played two great shots and got a little lucky on the putt.
“Is it right or wrong, childish or not? I don’t know, but that’s what I needed at the moment.”
European captain Luke Donald similarly played it down when quizzed on Koepka’s criticisms of Rahm’s behavior.
“I certainly didn’t see any of that,” Donald said Friday.
“Jon was a big support system for Nicolai today, and to hit a big drive down 18 and hit it on the front of the green and make an eagle for a halve, that’s a lot of passion.
“Jon is a passionate person, but I didn’t see him acting any other way.”
Donald’s American counterpart Zach Johnson, now fighting an uphill battle to end a 30-year US losing run on European soil, sympathized with Koepka’s frustrations but was quick to praise Rahm’s skill.
“I’m sure Brooks is frustrated, like all 12 of us, 18 of us are, frustrated, with today and the result,” Johnson told reporters.
“The only thing you probably can’t do in that situation, because we had two birdie putts, was to leave it short. So he [Rahm] executed his shot, played the percentages properly … Tip of the cap. Great putt.”
Things went from bad to worse for Koepka and Scheffler on Saturday morning as the duo suffered a historically crushing defeat at the hands of young Scandinavian duo Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg in the morning foursomes.
The American duo were crushed 9&7 by Norway’s Hovland and Swedish rookie Aberg, the young European pair carding seven birdies across eight holes to record the largest margin of victory for an 18-hole match, foursomes or otherwise, in Ryder Cup history.
Though world No. 4 Hovland is one of the game’s most in-form players, on paper it was a match-up that pitted a five-time major champion and the world No. 1 against a pair with no major crowns and in Aberg, a 23-year-old Ryder Cup debutant who turned pro less than 100 days ago.
“We make a strong team,” Hovland said.
“Regardless, I think we could’ve met a lot of guys and we would’ve been tough to beat today.”
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