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ASU alum Jon Rahm turns in solid first round at WM Phoenix Open

PGA pro Jon Rahm walks off the tee box of No. 17 during Round 1 of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Whoever said there wasn’t home-field advantage in golf?

While Wyndham Clark is the leader in the clubhouse at 9-under, a familiar face isn’t far off from the top spot.

Tied for 13th, Arizona State alum Jon Rahm is right in the mix, firing off a four-under 67 in the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on Thursday.

Rahm started his round on the back-nine, rattling off five straight pars before dropping in a birdie on his sixth hole of the day, No. 15. He followed that up with a second birdie on the 17th on his way to a two-under front nine.

Rahm kept that early momentum rolling on the back nine, putting in three birdies over the course of seven holes.

But then the eighth hole gave the Sun Devil some issues.

After going birdie-par-birdie for 11 holes, Rahm ran into the first blemish of his round, recording a bogey on the 17th hole of the day. He followed up the bogey with a par on his final hole.

Even with the late bogey, Rahm was pleased with his round.

“Solid day, man, really, really solid,” Rahm said after his 67. “Played good, I felt like I did everything good. The only thing I wish I could take back is that 8th hole and maybe get a clean card and shoot 66. But still really, really solid day. … I’ll take four days of playing tee to green as good as I did today.”

Not only did Rahm put up an impressive opening-round mark, he did so rocking custom Pat Tillman golf shoes, something he plans to do throughout the tournament as a way to honor the fallen hero and those serving the country.

“It’s all good luck. I always try to do something for the home crowd always,” Rahm said. “As an ASU Sun Devil, you got to learn and you basically get imprinted with what Pat Tillman meant. He was a great example and role model as a student-athlete, and then having his life figured out, basically being an NFL player who decided to go to war, joined the Army and defend the country.

“It’s just trying to raise awareness that while we are here, most of the people here are partying, drinking, enjoying the nice, sunny Scottsdale weather, there’s people out there, not only military, but there’s a lot of people out there just defending and fighting for us to have a secure and safe life and to be able to enjoy things like this. So never to forget things like that.”

Rahm didn’t stop there, as the golfer added some Mamba Mentality to his round.

“TaylroMade did a great thing on the ball, we have the number 24 on our golf balls,” Rahm said. “To be able to honor and do something to honor his legacy. But to be in an atmosphere and in a place in life as athletes to be able to honor and do something for him, it’s a beautiful thing, right, so lucky we could do it.”

He wasn’t the only one paying tribute to the Black Mamba, either.

Joining in on Kobe-inspired gear was Justin Thomas and Tony Finau.

Thomas rocked the Lower Merion Kobe jersey on the 16th hole, while Finau donned the purple and gold golf shoes with Nos. 8 and 24 printed on them.

“Just for me, he had such an impact on me and was s person I looked up to and try to have my mental approach like that. I felt it was very fitting, there’s only one tournament all year where can put a jersey on and hit a shot. The timing worked out to be here so it was a no-brainer for me.”

Finau, taking a page out of Thomas’ book also repped Kobe on No. 16 in the form of a retro No. 8 Laker jersey.

“It was so cool, just being a Laker fan and a Kobe fan just about my whole life,” Finau said after the round. “It was cool just to pay homage to him and I think of what he means to a lot of athletes, me included, I was very inspired. I remember as a kid watching … Kobe was going to do something special it seemed like.

“When he retired I felt like I lost a part of my life, and obviously when I heard the news last week that he had passed away in a tragic way it was very sad, along with the other eight that were on that chopper so obviously sad to think about that but the legacy left behind is pretty special.”

MULLIGANS

– After a round of action, Wyndham Clark leads the field at 9-under.

Clark holds a two-stroke lead over Billy Horschel, while J.B. Holmes sits alone in third at 7-under.

– Bubba Watson on the course conditions:

“This is the best I’ve ever seen [TPC Scottsdale]. Green-wise, you couldn’t ask for better surfaces to putt on. You feel like you could make all the putts. Everything just seemed smooth, the ball’s rolling smooth, so this is the best I’ve ever seen the greens for sure.”

– Defending WMPO champion Rickie Fowler posted a 3-over 74.