Soren Kjeldsen dispatched the No. 2 golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy, from group two this week. Then he raced by William McGirt 5 and 4 in the round of 16.
But the 5-foot-7, 143-pound Dane ran into bigger trouble in the quarterfinals of the World Golf Championships — Dell Technologies Match Play.
Jon Rahm, standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing 220 pounds, towered over Kjeldsen both on the course and on the final scoreboard. Rahm sent Kjeldsen, one of the hottest players in the field, packing with a dominant 7 and 5 victory.
Before the match even began, Kjeldsen tried to avoid questions about his quarterfinals opponent. But after persistent interrogation from multiple reporters, he finally gave in.
“Jon is on a very good run at the moment,” Kjeldsen said. “I feel my game is good and I need to concentrate on that.”
Kjeldsen’s game was good — until he faced Rahm. He fired a sparkling 4-under thru 14 holes in his dismantling of McGirt in the round of 16. But just hours later, he shot 2-over thru 13 holes with the colossal figure of Rahm watching his every shot.
The Spaniard, just 22 years old, is less than one year removed from graduating from Arizona State University. He captured the Ben Hogan Award over Texas’ Beau Hossler last year.
Now, he’s playing the best golf of his life on an even bigger stage.
“There’s not many rounds of golf where a player looks back and says, ‘I cannot play any better,’ and today was one of those days,” Rahm said. “I did a really good job.”
He’s done a really good job all week. He beat world No. 10 and fellow countryman Sergio Garcia 6 and 4 on Friday to advance out of group seven.
He’s poured in 20 birdies and one eagle compared to just three bogeys this week at Austin Country Club. His blistering play earned him a spot in the semifinals against Bill Haas.
Haas scraped by fan favorite Phil Mickelson 2 and 1 on Saturday afternoon. He’s playing well, but he’s almost lucky to be here. He chipped in on the second playoff hole against K.T. Kim and eventually advanced out of group 11 on the sixth playoff hole.
“Obviously, I have seen that Jon Rahm has won every match, 6 and 5, 5 and 4,” Haas said. “I certainly have not done that.”
Haas’ round of 16 match against Kevin Na came down to the 18th hole, where Haas won 1 up. The last time Rahm played the 18th was Tuesday — during a practice round.
He’s made quick work his opponents this week, only having to play the 15th hole or beyond twice in his five rounds.
Rahm’s hot play shouldn’t surprise anyone; he won his first career PGA Tour event at the Farmers Insurance Open in January and nearly won the WGC Mexico Championship, where he finished third earlier this month.
But going from attending class in Tempe, Arizona, week in and week out, to contending for World Golf Championships titles in less than one year’s time has surprised even Rahm himself.
“It really amazes me that I’m doing this,” Rahm said. “To win gave me a lot of confidence, but to be in a World Golf Championship, I can have a chance to win… obviously gave me more confidence,” Rahm said. “To believe that I truly belong out here, and that I can beat the best players in the world.”
Should Rahm keep his hot streak flaming into the final, there’s a chance he’ll get to test his mettle against not only one of the best golfers in the world, but the very best at the moment: world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.