Rahm Leaves Woods in the Shade as Rose Fails to Reclaim World No 1 Spot
WHAT a difference a year makes. Just 12 months ago Tiger Woods was grabbing all the headlines at the Hero World Challenge when, at the start of his latest comeback from injury, he scored more birdies than anybody else in the field in the Bahamas. He failed to win but he got us all excited again - and it was the start of an extraordinary run that culminated in him leading The Open, finishing second at the US PGA Championship before winning the Tour Championship. This time around he nearly finished last in the 18-man field, trailing winner Jon Rahm by 19 shots.
Rahm, who led after 54 holes with Tony Finau and Henry Stenson, recorded seven birdies in a flawless final round of 65 for a 72-hole total of 268, 20 under par. It was good enough for a four-shot victory over Finau, with England’s Justin Rose one shot further adrift after also shooting a 65. Rose needed to finish second or better to finish 2018 as world number one, but he couldn’t quite catch Finau, who denied him with a birdie at the 18th hole.
Woods was 17th in the 18-man field after a closing 73 left him at one under.
Rose, 38, who was five shots off the lead in a share of eighth going into the final round, holed a putt from off the green at the 11th for his fourth birdie of the day. He sank a 15-footer to eagle the 15th and birdied the par-three 17th from five feet, but saw another birdie chance from 12 feet, for a round of 64, finish on the edge of the cup. Needing a three-way share of second place to regain the top spot he first achieved in September, it left him in second place on his own after Finau made a double bogey at the 14th.
But the American picked up two shots in the closing four holes to ensure that Brooks Koepka, who was at home with his feet up, remained at the top of the rankings as Rose finished third.
Big-hitting Rahm, the first Spaniard to play in the 20-year history of the event, moved ahead after four birdies in his opening nine holes in Albany. The 24-year-old world number eight, part of Europe’s winning Ryder Cup team, wrapped up his third individual title of the year, the sixth of his burgeoning career.
Jon Rahm’s Winning Bag at the 2018 Hero Challenge:
M2 Driver | 9.5° | Aldila Tour Green 75TX
M3 Fairway | 16° | Aldila Tour Green 75TX
RSi TP UDI #4 | 23° |True Temper Project X 6.5
P750 Irons| 4-PW | True Temper Project X 6.5
Milled Grind Wedges | 51° & 55° & Hi-Toe 60° | True Temper Project X 6.5
Spider Tour Red Putter
TP5X Golf Ball (#10)
Cameron Smith confirmed his status as one of the best young golfers in the world as he held off the challenge of fellow home favourite Marc Leishman to successfully defend his title at the Australian PGA Championship.
The 25 year old started the day at RACV Royal Pines Resort with a three-shot lead but found himself two behind after nine holes as Leishman turned in 32 to move ahead. Smith is made of stern stuff, however, and he came home in 33 to sign for a 70 and finish at 16 under, two shots clear of Leishman.
England's Ross McGowan broke the course record with a 63 to finish at 11 under alongside Australian Matthew Millar. Jake McLeod signed for a closing 74 to finish in a tie for 19th and that was good enough to secure the Australian the Order of Merit on the PGA Tour of Australasia and a European Tour card for the rest of the 2019 season.
Smith's second European Tour victory comes in just his 20th event and makes him the first player to successfully defend this title since Robert Allenby in 2001.
"I was expecting Leish to come out and give it a good crack today," he said "It's always hard going up against a mate and trying to win a golf tournament. I've been in this situation before and I've had it happen to me as well. I'm sure we'll have a beer over Christmas or when I see him next and we'll be back to being mates.
"I've definitely improved a lot over the last year. I've put in a lot of hard work and I've just stuck to my process goals. I would love to get into the top 20 by the end of this year, it's definitely the next goal. I think that's the next big step for myself, to get in there and get myself in a lot of situations where I can win golf tournaments.”
Smith and Leishman went a long way left off the first tee, with the leader having to take a drop from an unplayable lie in a bush. Leishman did well to find the green and save his par but Smith dropped a shot and the lead was down to two. Leishman hit a beautiful third into the par-five third to get to 12 under and while Smith made an excellent save to make a par, the lead was just one.
There was then a two-shot swing on the fourth as Leishman chipped in in spectacular fashion and with Smith making another bogey, it was Leishman who led. The 35 year old put his tee-shot on the par-three fifth to tap-in range to go two ahead but Smith put an approach to six feet on the next to get back within one. Leishman drove the green at the par-four eighth and got down in two to lead by two again and he maintained that advantage at the turn.
The final duo both birdied the par-five 12th and Smith also made a gain from 12 feet on the 13th to cut the lead to one before a Leishman bogey on the next left it tied at the top.
Smith found the 16th tee-box with his second on the 15th but got up and down to birdie the par five and when Leishman missed the green and bogeyed the par-three 16th, Smith led by two.
"I think Cam made birdies when he had to so all crdit to him," said Leishman. "I'm obviously disappointed I didn't get it over the line but glad that I gave it a run there and made it pretty interesting."
Proving that dreams do come true in this magnificent sport of ours, Kurt Kitayama secured his maiden European Tour title in just his third event after claiming a two-shot victory at the Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open at Anahita. The American, who only earned his playing privileges at Qualifying School last month, carded an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys in his closing 68 on Sunday.
But it was not all plain sailing for Kitayama, who saw his lead reduced to a single shot when he missed his par putt from six feet at the 16th. He held his nerve, though, holing from 20 feet for a birdie at the 17th to restore his two-stroke cushion, before parring the last to finish the tournament on 20 under par.
S Chikkarangappa and Matthieu Pavon finished in a tie for second on 18 under after they both produced closing rounds of 67 at Four Seasons Golf Club Mauritius at Anahita. Justin Harding fired a closing birdie to get to 17 under and finish alone in fourth, one shot ahead of Masahiro Kawamura and defending champion Dylan Frittelli, who notched made seven birdies in a magnificent 65.
Kitayama was delighted. "It’s an unbelievable moment for me, I’m just so happy I was able to pull it off,” he said. "There were definitely some nerves around the first tee-shot. Going birdie-eagle-birdie helped to calm things down for the rest of the day.
"I was aware a little bit of what was going on, I kept one eye on the scoreboard. I just tried to stay calm and take it one shot at a time. It was important on the 13th [where he produced a brilliant approach shot], to get back with another birdie. I just tried to stay patient.
"This whole year has been, well, what a great year. I still have two more events but to win on one of the last events of the year is just great. It’s been really exciting, being able to travel all over the globe and I’m going to continue to travel more. I’m really looking forward to it."
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