In the end, the most controversial golf ruling of the weekend didn’t impact Jon Rahm’s victory at the Memorial Tournament, it didn’t affect his pending No. 1 world ranking and it didn’t erase the memory of a clutch shot under pressure.
It did, however, matter toward the betting markets. For some, it mattered a lot.
The situation took place on the 16th hole of the final round. Leading by three, but with a gnarly lie to the left of the green, Rahm methodically looked over his shot and readied himself to hit it. The CBS telecast zoomed in on a tight shot of his ball, which moved ever so slightly as he placed his club behind it. Seconds later, he hit the pitch shot and watched it bounce and roll into the hole, culminating in a throaty scream from Rahm, who likely knew the title was now his.
Two holes later, he tapped in for par and triumphantly lifted his arms above his head, golf’s new top-ranked player at the age of 25.
It was a five-stroke victory — or so he thought for a few minutes afterward, until CBS reporter Amanda Balionis asked him on live television whether he knew the PGA TOUR was examining video of the incident and whether he believed the ball had moved.
Rahm looked dumbfounded, explaining that he knew nothing about it, but would review the video with tournament officials and assess himself a two-stroke violation if indeed that’s what happened.
Minutes later, his birdie on the 16th hole was changed to a bogey, his final score went from 73 to 75 and his five-stroke win had become a three-stroke differential.
“All I can say is, as minimal as it was, it moved,” Rahm later said. “I accept it. It doesn’t change the outcome of the tournament. It just puts a little bit of an asterisk in it in the sense of I wish I could just keep that birdie, because it was one of the greatest shots of my life.”
It did change other outcomes, though.
Rahm was a -200 favorite in a final-round head-to-head matchup bet against playing partner Ryan Palmer, and that ruling moved the money toward wagers on Palmer at +180.
It also changed over/under bets on Rahm’s score for the round, which was set at 73.5 with such blustery, firm conditions at Muirfield Village.
Then there’s DFS, where point totals for thousands of lineups changed well after the final putt was dropped. There are myriad stories of winners turning into losers, and vice versa, but perhaps none were more tilting than DraftKings’ final-round finale tournament.
For about 30 minutes after the tournament was over, a user named DraftMasterFlex was leading, a nice little $200,000 payday for picking a Sunday lineup that included Rahm.
When that birdie was changed to a bogey, that lineup not only lost the 5.75 points which had been awarded, it took a 1.8-point hit for the bogey.
All of which enabled user chuckchuck8, who didn’t have Rahm in the lineup, to climb into that top spot and win the $200K first prize. DraftMasterFlex ended up winning $50,000, a $150,000 swing due to the Rahm penalty.
In the end, that violation and the resulting penalty didn’t matter to Rahm, who will still enjoy all the spoils of his victory. It did, though, matter to so many others whose bottom line moved up or down based on that late ruling.
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