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Analysis: Jon Rahm playing on one bad foot and trying to move past two bad weeks in the majors

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PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — Two bad weeks. One bad foot.

Jon Rahm says he is in a “happy place.” That was in response to a question Tuesday that suggested he was not.

The further implication was Rahm having doubts with his decision to sign with Saudi-backed LIV Golf at the end of last year for more money than he probably could have earned in a career on the PGA Tour. He has never indicated that was the case.

At issue at the U.S. Open are those two bad weeks.

It’s one thing that Rahm now has gone 14 months without winning anywhere in the world, the longest drought since he turned pro out of Arizona State in the summer of 2016.

Rahm, who is 29 and just entering his prime and was No. 1 in the world just over a year ago, has yet to win in eight starts against 54-man LIV Golf fields that include a range of players from Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau to Anthony Kim and Kalle Samooja.

The upside was being the only LIV player to finish in the top 10 at every tournament until he had to withdraw last week with a foot infection.

“It’s not like I’ve been playing bad, even though a lot of you make it sound like I’m playing bad,” Rahm said. “I had two bad weeks.”

Those two bad weeks stand out because they were majors.

Rahm looked certain to miss the cut at the Masters as the defending champion until an afternoon wind sent scores soaring, and he made it with one shot to spare at 5-over par and wound up in a tie for 45th. And then in the PGA Championship at Valhalla, he missed the cut for the first time at a major in five years.

“I’ve been top 10 and had a chance to win in most of the tournaments I’ve played,” he said. “And then unfortunately Augusta and PGA wasn’t my best showings. But yeah, I’m happy.”

If anything aggravates him right now it was showing up to his press conference at Pinehurst No. 2 with a slight limp and a sandal on his left foot. He has an infection between his last two toes, and it hurts enough for him to be concerned about playing this week.

Rahm still isn’t sure what happened.

“I think that the closest term would be a lesion on the skin,” he said “I don’t know how or what happened, but it got infected. The pain was high.”

He shot 69 on Friday in the first round of LIV Golf Houston, and then had a shot to numb the area before the second round. That was supposed to last all 18 holes. It started hurting on the second hole, and after six holes he was done.

“The infection was the worrisome part,” he said. “The infection is now controlled, but there’s still swelling and there’s still pain. There’s a reason I walked out here in a shoe and a flip-flop, trying to keep the area dry and trying to get that to heal as soon as possible. But I can only do what I can do. The human body can only work so fast.”

He plans to play, those his odds have dropped from +1200 to +3300 on BetMGM Sportsbook. Most of that is undoubtedly injury-related, though his name is not rolling off the tongue at majors the way it did a year ago.

Scottie Scheffler is the man to beat. Xander Schauffele is the PGA champion. Bryson DeChambeau nearly won at Valhalla. Rory McIlroy always seems to be in the conversation. Rahm certainly isn’t an afterthought, but he’s clearly not in form.

That happens in golf. Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, and McIlroy from time to time, can attest to that.

But there is great attention on Rahm because of how good he is and how big of a deal it was last December when he went from a Masters green jacket to a black LIV letterman’s jacket.

Two majors should be considered more of a blip than a trend. But there are only two more majors left, and that will be the last a wide golf audience will hear about Rahm until next April.

Rahm isn’t alone, of course.

Brooks Koepka, the first LIV Golf player to win a major at the PGA Championship last year, has finished out of the top 25 in his last three majors. These are the tournaments where Koepka typically is at his very best.

Dustin Johnson, long considered golf’s biggest talent, missed the cut in two straight majors and made it on the number at Valhalla. He tied for 43rd.

LIV doesn’t get world ranking points and it’s best to simply consider LIV players apart from the ranking. It’s still weird to see the Official World Golf Ranking listing and realize Dustin is not even low Johnson anymore. Zach Johnson has moved ahead of him.

Rahm is different because he was at the height of his game when he left for LIV and began performing for sparse crowds at some of the venues. He feeds off energy. There will be plenty of that at Pinehurst No. 2, which had more spectators in the gallery for a practice round Monday than some tournaments get in a week.

Rahm is concerned about his foot. He did not seem worried about his career choices.

“It’s been a wonderful career so far. And yeah, it hasn’t been the best first half of the year,” he said. “But there’s been many times where I haven’t had a great start, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great finish.”

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer

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