BROOKLINE, Mass. – A year after netting a long birdie putt to wrap up his first major title, Jon Rahm provided more drama on his final hole in the first round of the 2022 US Open. But the circumstances couldn’t have been more different, especially since Rahm needed a different golf ball just to finish the hole.

Moments earlier, Rahm got to where his tee shot on the par-4 18 had settled into the left rough. There was just one problem: there weren’t any more. As if the USGA’s Country Club setup wasn’t difficult enough, apparently players this week need to be on the lookout for a few golf ball bandits.

A marshal had placed a flag on the ground marking the Spaniard’s ball, but two children decided it would make a nice souvenir and walked away with it. These rogues better beware, though, because Rahm can identify them.

“Somebody – I’m pretty sure I know who it was. I recognized the two kids running in the opposite direction with a smile on their face,” Rahm said with a laugh. “I’m 100% sure I saw the two kids who stole it.”

Rahm was in good spirits about it afterwards, as the unusual event didn’t stop him from making a closing birdie. After a brief delay to drop a new ball and take another drop because a grandstand was in his way, Rahm found the 18th green with his approach, then buried a 21-footer for a birdie to end the day in red numbers with an aperture of 69.

“I’m just very happy that someone spotted the ball first,” Rahm said. “We knew exactly where he was. At the start I was comfortable. I was past all the trees…After the free clearance I had 135 yards to the pin, in an area where the rough wasn’t that thick I don’t think they were expecting anyone to hit it there or be there so I was able to drop it in an area a bit downriver , and I was in no danger of carrying the bunker a concern.”

The defending US Open champion had previously had concerns on the hole when he wasn’t sure his tee or provisional shot was in bounds, but he ended up being OK and made the par . And he threw a big fist pump after making the unusual birdie, however, for obvious reasons he said the situation was not comparable to his game-winning putt at Torrey Pines last year.

“It’s just more of a thank god I made a putt type deal,” Rahm said. “I feel like I’ve played pretty good golf all day. I just saw a lot of them get in close and not get in, and hit two wayward shots in the last two holes and end up in a way or another with two birdie putts and making the last one – it’s more about making a par-breaking putt in the first round of the US Open. That’s a big deal.”

Way to fight over there, Jon, but maybe bring an extra ball or two. You know, just in case those kids come back.