Rahm standing tall among final four golfers at WGC-Match Play

AUSTIN, Texas -- Since we're still in the thick of March Madness, it's only natural to compare the Final Four here at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship to those stereotypical teams which always seem to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.

Dustin Johnson is the prohibitive No. 1 seed, the team that only lost once during the regular season and usually looks bored -- even when it is winning big. He's the team with five future lottery picks in the starting lineup and former McDonald's All-Americans loitering on the end of the bench.

Bill Haas is the team that's always solid and rarely spectacular. It beats everyone they're supposed to beat and loses against everyone it's supposed to lose against -- except now, in the thick of the tournament, when the team clings to its philosophy of being overlooked and underrated, riding it all the way to the semifinals.

Hideto Tanihara is the mid-major that nobody seems to know much about. It plays in front of smaller crowds, usually against inferior opponents -- to the point that no one expects much when it goes up against the blue-chippers. He's the team that doesn't look perfect on paper, but passes, rebounds and plays suffocating defense.

Then there's Jon Rahm.

It might be more difficult to classify the 22-year-old super-stud than his fellow Final Four contestants, but let's give it a try.

Rahm is the team that everyone calls a sleeper -- so much that it can't even be a sleeper anymore. He's the one that the television experts who go chalk in their brackets use as a way of making it seem like they're being unpredictable with one selection. And they're not alone: Even your next-door neighbor, the guy who knows nothing about the tournament, picked this team to get here. He's also the team which, now that it's in the Final Four, has become the darling of the tourney, with people clamoring to learn more about it, while simultaneously picking it to win this tourney for the next decade.

Sound familiar?

He's neither the most accomplished player still remaining in this event nor the biggest surprise, but Rahm is the one who's got people talking about him. He hits monstrous shots off the tee, owns a precision iron game and is a strong putter -- especially for a player of his age.

Over the past two days of this event, though, Rahm isn't just impressing everyone else with his solid play. He's even impressing himself.

"The golf I've played the last three matches really has been very impressive even to myself, and it seemed to get better as I played, which is something that doesn't happen often," he said. "I felt my confidence was growing."

As well it should. Rahm disposed of Sergio Garcia, 6-and-4, on Friday to move into the weekend single-elimination rounds. Then on Saturday, he beat Charles Howell III, 6-and-4, and Soren Kjeldsen, 7-and-5, to move into a semifinal matchup against Bill Haas on Sunday morning.

And yes, those scores are as impressive as they sound. During those past three matches, he needed just a total of 41 holes played. He won 21 of them and lost just two, playing to a score of 14-under during that time.

If Rahm can get through two more matches unscathed and win his second PGA Tour title of this young calendar year, he will have risen from 137th in the world when 2017 started to inside the top-10 -- and just in time for the Masters in less than two weeks.

"I try to stay humble," he said after dismissing Kjeldsen on the 13th hole Saturday afternoon. "Honestly, I would have taken this or just to win in general, would have taken it for sure ... It really amazes me that I'm doing this, and I'm playing the semifinal tomorrow."

Rahm is the sleeper who everybody calls a sleeper -- until the point when he isn't anymore. He's the darling of the tournament, the one whose intangible stock is steadily rising right before our eyes.

And just like any basketball comparison, he's the pick to keep building on this success, year after year, for many years to come.