Jon Rahm says the FedEx Cup playoff system isn’t fair, but that won’t stop him from winning it

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JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Jon Rahm continues to dazzle at the Northern Trust.

The 26-year-old Spaniard fired another bogey-free round at Liberty National Golf Club, a 4-under 67, to grab a one-stroke lead over Tony Finau at the midway point of the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

While Rahm, who won the U.S. Open in June and held a six-stroke lead at the Memorial before having to withdraw from the tournament after testing positive for COVID-19, is picking apart the Bob Cupp-Tom Kite design with the Statue of Liberty and Verrazano Bridge in the background, he’s still not sold on the FedEx Cup playoffs. When asked if he liked that somebody could win the first two legs of the three-event playoffs and then sputter at the Tour Championship and fall several spots in the standings, Rahm said, “I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t like that at all. No, I think you have the playoffs itself and win the first two, and if you don’t play good on the last one, you don’t – you can end up with a really bad finish.”

Then he detailed a conversation he had with a PGA Tour official on this particular subject. Here’s Rahm’s version of how things went down: “I’m a Patriots fan, and the Patriots win the Super Bowl – win everything – and get to the Super Bowl and they don’t win the Super Bowl, you don’t win the Lombardi Trophy, right? My answer was, they still finished second.

“They have to understand golf is a little different,” Rahm continued. “You could win 15 events, including both playoffs events, and (under the current system implemented last year) you have a two-shot lead. I understand it’s for TV purposes and excitement and just making it more of a winner-take-all, and they give you a two-shot advantage, but over four days that can be gone in two holes, right.”

The FedEx Cup playoffs is an easy target to poke holes in – someday they are bound to get it right – but he did find one thing he liked about the current system over the one that came before it – no whiteboard and mathematical scenarios for NBC’s Steve Sands to try to explain.

“I do like going to East Lake with this new one in the sense of knowing where you stand and what you have to do. You know, the years prior, so many different combinations of what could happen. It was kind of hard to get your head focused on one thing, right,” Rahm said.

On the course, Rahm is doing everything he can to ensure he’s holding the gleaming silver trophy after three weeks. He backed up his clean card and round of 8-under 63 with more rock-solid play and impressive scrambling to boot. But when Rahm was asked what he was most pleased with it wasn’t shooting 12-under 130 and playing bogey-free for 36 holes for the first time in 110 career Tour starts or his ability to save pars, but rather his composure.

“Believe it or not, hit my fair share of bad shots today,” he said. “There were two of them. The second on 16 and the second on 3, two shots where I have a wedge in hand and I miss on the green and I’m leaving myself a really tough up-and-down and I was able to make good putts for par.”

Those were two moments where in the past he might have lost his cool, but on Friday Rahm listened to his caddie, Adam Hayes, who reminded him “there’s a reason why you’ve practiced those wedges.” Rahm said he’s turned a weakness in his game when he turned pro into an area where he’s better than most and still sees room for improvement. (Rahm added a new 58-degree Callaway wedge that he’s using for the first time in a tournament and he holed out on a flop shot on the third hole Thursday.)

“Much like yesterday, I was able to save a couple of good ones. Just accepting that I can miss shots, I guess that’s the best way to explain it, is what happens here. You get a little too greedy, miss the green, and you can have a tough up-and-down, and I’ve been able to save those so far.”

The best of the bunch was from 63 yards at 15, which spun back to inside a foot.

“That gives you a lot of confidence,” Rahm said.

Finau shared the lead with Rahm until 18 when he found the front greenside bunker and missed a 4-foot par putt. Still, Finau, 31, signed for 7-under 64 as he seeks his first win since 2016 and attempts to make a good impression with U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker.

“My last couple tournaments, the results haven’t shown I’ve played great, but I’ve played some really clean golf,” Finau said. “I felt like I was really close to putting it all together, and so far this week, after 36 holes, I’ve kind of done that.”

Justin Thomas, who was the first-round co-leader with Rahm, overcame four bogeys in his first eight holes to shoot 2-under 69 and was tied for third at 10-under 132 with Keith Mitchell, who six birdies in a row and 10 overall in matching Finau with 64.