Grant Forrest’s acceleration to a third place finish in the Spanish Open last Sunday made his playing partner Jon Rahm look a bit like the hapless sheriff trying to keep pace with Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit.
In the company of the global game’s highest ranked golfer, Forrest produced eight successive threes in a back nine of just 28 en route to a sizzling 65 that just about left scorch marks on the fairways. “I think I even won over some of the Spanish crowd,” said Forrest with a wry chuckle.
Rahm would finish four shots behind the surging Scot. It’s not the first time Forrest has trumped the Spaniard, of course. They were regular sparring partners during their amateur days on the US college circuit while Forrest beat Rahm in a head-to-head on Scotland duty during a European Amateur Team Championship.
Since then, Rahm has propelled himself into a different stratosphere and justified the considerable hype and hoopla that surrounded him prior to his leap into the pro game.
“He was always a bit of a special talent,” reflected Forrest. “He’s not changed at all in my eyes. He’s just a nice big guy. You can never say in golf who will make it. There can be guys who you thought weren’t particularly special but they would surprise you and do really well as a pro and there are others who you think are destined for the top and it doesn’t work out. Golf is like that.
“I played against Jon and the likes of Xander Schauffele when I was at college in the States but out of all the guys, Jon was the best. He was on a different level really.”
Forrest,28, may not be operating in the same rarefied air that Rahm inhabits but the Scot continues to take his own game to a new level. His breakthrough win on the European Tour in August was one of those ‘it’s been coming’ moments for a player who sparkled in the amateur scene and went on to make assured strides in the pro ranks.
Since that victory on home soil, Forrest’s form has been more solid than spectacular. His finish in the Spanish Open, though, was a timely tonic as he exploded into life with all the whiz-bang of a major malfunction at a munitions depot. “I’ve never had eight threes on the bounce before,” he said of that spectacular closing stretch. “It was funny. I was all over the place on the front nine and had to chip out sideways three times on the first seven holes. But I hung in there and rescued it. It was nice to get that result. The last few events since my win, I’ve played solid enough but just haven’t scored. Last week, I didn’t play that well tee to green but managed to score well.”
Forrest and Rahm seem to have a habit of doing eye-opening things on the rare occasions they are paired together. In 2019, for instance, Forrest was Rahm’s final day partner when the Spaniard posted a barnstorming 62 at Lahinch to win the Irish Open. “We were waiting on the 17th last Sunday and Jon said to me, ‘I got the one at Lahinch so let’s see if we can do this one for you’,” added Forrest, whose late charge left him just two shots shy of a play-off for the title. “It was nice encouragement from him.”
Forrest and Rahm are back in action on Spanish soil in the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama. Over the formidable Ryder Cup venue, Forrest is not expecting another birdie feast like last week. The halfway cut in the 2020 event over one of Europe’s most demanding courses was eight-over while the winning total was two-over.
“It’s a mentally challenging course but it’s a test I enjoy,” he added. “You wouldn’t want this test every week, we’d all be on our knees. But it’s good to come up against it now and again.”
Bolstered by that podium placing last weekend, Forrest is now up to 35th on the Race to Dubai and with just a handful of events left in the season, there are new targets to aim for. “The top 30 on the rankings get into next year’s Open at St Andrews,” he said with relish. “You don’t want to miss that one.”