Rahm, 23 stormed his way to third place playing the closing five holes in five-under par that included a six-foot eagle ‘3’ at 15th in a round of 66 for a 12-under par tally in bright but continuing windy conditions on the Kapalua course.
It left last month’s European Tour DP World Tour Championship winner in third place and trailing just four shots behind World No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Johnson, and a former event winner, let loose his own pyrotechnic display holing his second shot for an eagle ‘2’ at the par-4 12th hole before birding three of his closing five holes also in a 66 to lead fellow American Brian Harman (69) by two shots at 16-under par.
Johnson, however, will be keen there is not a repeat of his bizarre collapse when comfortably leading going into the last round of October’s WGC – HSBC Champions only to giftwrap victory to England’s Justin Rose.
Rahm is contesting his first event of his just a second full season and after a wonderful maiden 2017 full season that began with victory in the Farmers Insurance Open before muscling his way to success in the Rory McIlroy hosted Irish Open.
The US-based Rahm then had two other second place finishes along with five other top-five place results before heading in November to Dubai where his efforts saw Rahm awarded the prestigious European Tour ‘Rookie of the Year’ and just days before he muscled his way to success in the Tour’s season-ending event.
Rahm is currently lying third on the European Ryder Cup standings and should he succeed on debut in Hawaii he would move to World No. 2 behind Johnson.
And victory would ensure Rahm becomes just the third European-born player to win the Tournament of Champions in the 55-year old history of the event after compatriot Sergio Garcia won in 2002 and Swede Daniel Chopra in 2008.
“I always think that if you can play the last few holes, like 14 onwards, under par you can make a run up the leader board and that is what I did today,” Rahm said.
“So, today I just kind of turned it on as I was hitting really good shots and holing some good putts that were not going in and not so much the birdie 14 but my second shot on 15 (Fairway shot from 231-yard out to just six feet) is what greatly helped get me to finish with a 66.”
Rahm’s first Tour success just two weeks short of a year ago came about when he went into the final day trailing by three shots and proceeded to win by three.
In May, Rahm shared the lead on day three at Portstewart and proceeded to win a first European Tour by six shots before ending the year trailing by a shot starting out on day four to win by the same margin.
“I am comfortable being in the position of a few shots back heading to a final round as it allows me to be as aggressive as I am,” he said.
“So, if I can keep making birdies and focus solely on making birdies and not worry about what others are doing is how I like to play a final round.
“To be honest, I don’t have all that much experience going to a final round with the lead as it has only happened once and that in sharing the lead in Ireland and that turned out good.
“So, that will be my mentality tomorrow just to get my aggressive attitude going and hopefully make a few putts early and set about catching ‘DJ’ or whoever is up there leading but then catching ‘DJ’ is not an easy task.”
In contrast to Rahm, reigning U.S. Open winner, Brooks Koepka continued to occupy the cellar position in the 28-man field adding a 78 to earlier scores of 78 and 74 to be trailing in last spot at 11-over par.