Rahm Reigns in Spain Again and Overtakes Seve
JON RAHM missed the cut at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland. It is not something that happens to the Spaniard very often. And when he arrived in his homeland he admitted that he was struggling with his game. But he quickly found the answers and duly recorded his fifth European Tour victory, successfully defending his Spanish Open title by five shots from compatriot Rafa Cabrera Bello. World number 1,413 Samuel Del Val made it a Spanish one-two-three on 15 under. It was Rahm’s second victory on European soil in 2019, having also claimed the Irish Open.
At one point he led the field by seven and the outcome was never in doubt as he cruised home in 66 shots for a total of 22 under par. Rahm began the day with a five-shot lead and put the issue beyond any doubt with an eagle at the par-five fourth and two further birdies on the front nine, as he reached the turn in 32. Two further birdies followed at the 10th and 14th before he dropped a shot at the 17th.
Only a fast finish by Cabrera-Bello prevented an even more convincing triumph. With six holes to play the gap between the eventual winner and runner-up was 10 shots. Five birdies from Cabrera-Bello restored some sort of respectability to the final margin. It continues an impressive 2019 season for Rahm who has started in 23 events worldwide and has won twice, had eight top-five finishes, 15 top-15s and have finished inside the top 15 in every start except last week's Alfred Dunhill Links Championship since June's U.S. Open.
But the man who will be most pleased with his week’s work is Del Val, whose cheque for 100,000 euros was more than 10 times his career earnings in four previous European Tour starts.
"I'm not happy I three-putted 17, I wanted to go bogey-free, but at the end of the day I did the important thing, I was able to successfully defend it in front of the home crowd," Rahm said. "It might not be the strongest field yet but it's always really hard for me to keep everything under control and to play the weekend that I did for them is always really fun. I can't wait for next year to come back and hopefully do it three times."
Rahm now leads the European Tour's Race to Dubai leaderboard with seven events remaining, overtaking Open champion Shane Lowry.
Seve Ballesteros needed 49 events to clock up five wins on the European Tour but 24-year-old Rahm has done so in just 39 starts.
A third-round 63 that included eight birdies and an eagle—he played the first seven holes of a back-nine 28 in a remarkable seven under par—was the key to Rahm’s victory. Holding a five-shot lead with 18 holes to play, the World No. 5 was never seriously threatened thereafter. It was a performance of total domination.
It was some week for home players, with Adri Arnaus finishing in a tie for fourth and former Masters champion Sergio Garcia among a five-strong pack tied for seventh.
FOR a man who has sometimes found it almost impossible to pull the trigger on the greens, Kevin Na may have surprised even himself with his putting as he won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin, beating Patrick Cantlay in a playoff and setting a PGA Tour record for feet of putts made in a 72-hole event. And it came down to a four-footer on the second extra hole to finish the job.
Cantlay – the winner two years ago and runner-up last year – had continued his love affair with the course until he three-putted on the second sudden death hole and opened the door for Na, who duly holed it to win.
“I should have kissed it after I won. I'll give it a kiss when I get home,” Na said of his putter. “I feel like I'm a pretty good putter. I'm a player that I feel like I get better as I get closer to the greens. That's a strength of my game, a part of my game that gets stronger. The putter got hot this week. It tends to do that sometimes, and when it does, if I'm hitting it halfway decent I feel like I can win.”
The PGA Tour has been tracking putts since ShotLink arrived in 2003 and Na set the new mark at 558 feet, 11 inches over the regulation 72 holes.
Na had a three-shot lead at the turn on Sunday and was seemingly cruising to a win. But a triple-bogey on the 10th gave some hope to Cantlay, who actually took the lead after Na found water on the 16th hole. But the Korean born American stayed calm and after Cantlay had his own water problems on the 17th, Na made a clutch 22-foot par save to square things up.
“The 10th was hard to shake it off, but I made some great putts coming down the stretch,” Na said. “I was just grinding, grinding everything I can to make that putt. I'm sure my emotions showed that.”
Having now won three of his last 30 starts, including two in the 2019 calendar year, Na said he will be making sure Tiger Woods is aware of his form as he chases a captain's pick for the Presidents Cup.
“I'm hoping he texts me. If not, I'm going to be texting him,” Na said. “You know, during the Fedex Cup Playoffs I had the birth of my second child where I missed the BMW Championship. I was injured quite a bit last season. I only played 19 events, which is six to seven short of my normal. So I was a little bit behind on the points but I got two wins in this calendar year, so hopefully he's keeping an eye on me. I could make some putts. I'm a good match-play player. I don't know. I keep trying to sell myself. Hopefully he considers me.”
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