Jon Rahm is making a nice habit of pulling off remarkable feats. His latest one, delighting the home crowds by winning the Open de España, was arguably his best yet, given that he had arrived in Madrid with little left in the tank after finishing fourth behind Patrick Reed in the Masters.
A closing 67 at Centro Nacional de Golf for a 20-under-par total gave the 23-year-old a two-shot victory from overnight leader Paul Dunne (71), with another Spaniard, Nacho Elvira, a further shot adrift in third.
Marc Warren birdied two of the last four holes to secure a share of fifth spot, his best performance of the season, but the day belonged to Rahm as he became the sixth Spanish player to win the event.
“It’s such a satisfying feeling,” he admitted after following in the footsteps of Antonio Garrido, Seve Ballesteros, Sergio Garcia, Alvaro Quiros and Miguel Ángel Jiménez. “When I made the decision to come straight from Augusta, it wouldn’t be to just show up and walk around; I wanted to win this tournament.”
The victory is Rahm’s first as a professional in his homeland after claiming seven national individual amateur titles at various age levels and adds to his two Rolex Series triumphs in Ireland and Dubai last season. “I’ve been blessed to be national champion from 16 to all ages in Spain,” he added. “To round my amateur and pro career together in this way and win the last one I had to win and join that prestigious list of Spanish winners, it’s hard to explain how good it feels and how satisfying it is.”
After Rahm had stamped his mark on proceedings with birdies at the first, second and seventh holes in the final round, the tournament was decided on the short 17th. There, he escaped with a par after almost sending his tee shot into the water, the ball just holding up in the rough. His closest challenger at that point, Elvira, was not so fortunate at the 17th when he found the hazard and his hopes of a maiden victory disappeared with a double-bogey 5.
Moments later, Rahm birdied the last to secure a third win from only 19 European Tour events, making him the third-fastest player to reach that mark. Dunne also birdied the last to beat Elvira by one, with South Africa’s Gerry Coetzee finishing fourth a further shot back after his 63 equalled the lowest round of the week.
“It’s been amazing,” continued Rahm. “It’s truly been the hardest Sunday I’ve ever had in any tournament that I’ve won because the crowd wanted it so much and I wanted it so much. You can tell how excited everybody is. I felt that tension, I felt that stress, I felt everything magnified. They were pushing so hard and I felt that. As a golfer it’s hard to deal with the public’s emotions, so I tried to isolate myself and that’s perhaps why I didn’t play my best golf. I’ve been blessed to be national champion with the Spanish Golf Federation many times, European champion and world champion representing them. So being able to win this as a pro and do this for them and the Spanish people feels great.”
Dunne, the British Masters champion, was “disappointed” to miss out on a second European Tour victory but, at the same time, expressed his delight for the winner. “Spain has a great champion in Jon and I’m sure he’ll win many more,” said the Irishman.
Warren closed with a 69 to finish on 15-under, eight shots ahead of the next best Scot, Stephen Gallacher, as he shot a third 70 in the event. A closing 77 saw Bradley Neil drop 48 spots as he ended up on six under, with Richie Ramsay finishing on two under.
Elsewhere, Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira beat Si Woo Kim of Korea at the third extra hole to win the PGA Tour’s Heritage Classic at Hilton Head in South Carolina. Kodaira had earlier closed with a 66 to finish alongside Players champion Kim (71) on 12 under. Ian Poulter led going into the last round but closed with 75 to finish joint seventh. Martin Laird and Russell Knox ended up 32nd and 40th respectively.