Open de Espana Preview, Picks & Analysis
JON RAHM returns to the European Tour as he attempts to win a third successive Open de Espana. Two years ago he became the first player in 66 years to successfully defend the title with a five-shot victory at Club de Campo in Madrid in 2019. The tournament returns this week after a Covid-enforced break, and is the first of three successive tournaments in Spain as the European Tour season heads towards its climax in Dubai, another event at which Rahm has enjoyed success.
Rahm carded a closing 66 to finish 22 under par, five shots ahead of compatriot Rafa Cabrera Bello, with Samuel Del Val making it a Spanish 1-2-3 on 15 under.
The win gave Rahm a fifth European Tour title in just his 39th start, surpassing the record for a Spanish player set by Seve Ballesteros, who reached the milestone on his 49th appearance. It also took him above Open champion Shane Lowry on the Race to Dubai with seven tournaments remaining. Ballesteros was the last Spanish player to finish top of the money list in 1991.
"To beat Seve in something is unbelievable, one of the main figures in European golf and world golf in general," Rahm said. "It's great that I've done it here, it's great to beat Seve's record with his last professional win being on this course as well. It's very special to me and any time I can do anything close to what he did is unbelievable."
Rahm began the final round with a five-shot lead following a superb 63 in the third round and he was never in danger of being caught after a brilliant approach to the par-five fourth set up an eagle from four feet.
The 24-year-old also birdied the seventh, ninth, 10th and 14th and was only denied an even bigger winning margin when Cabrera Bello birdied five of the last six holes, while he dropped a shot on the 17th.
"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 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."
It was a massive week for Del Val, who began the week ranked 1,413th in the world and jumped 750 places on the back of his third-place finish.
"It's been incredible," he said after a closing 68 which left him two shots ahead of Adri Arnaus, JB Hansen and Jeff Winther. "I felt like I played much better today than yesterday. The score was one shot better but yesterday I was hanging on for dear life. It was a bit like a chess game, finding the right angles and the right spots.
"I was just trying to play my game. He [Rahm] had a five-shot lead and I knew I wasn't capable of catching him. At the end the race was for second place between Rafa and me, and he played great with five birdies on his last six holes. I'm really happy with the performance.”
Much has happened to Rahm since he last played in this event. He is now the undisputed world number one and the reigning US Open champion. And his performance in the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, where he won 3.5 points, was one of the few bright spots for Europe. Rahm’s consistency is quite remarkable and playing in front of a home gallery seems to inspire him even further. Right now, this must seem like a very easy game for the Spaniard.
He will be joined in Spain by Bernd Wiesberger, who endured a miserable Ryder Cup debut. There will also be a host of the European Tour’s brightest young players on show, including Guido Migliozzi, Nicolai Hojgaard, Wilco Nienaber, Calum Hill and Grant Forrest.
And there will, of course, be a formidable Spanish presence with Cabrera Bello, Pablo Larrazabal, Pep Angles, Jorge Campillo, Adrian Otaegui and Adri Arnaus all looking to give the home fans something to smile about.
It was won in 2015 by James Morrison, in 2016 by Andrew Johnston and in 2018 and 2019 by Jon Rahm. There was no tournament in 2017.
Club de Campo Villa de Madrid is widely regarded as one of the finest courses in Spain. Designed by Javier Arana, it opened in 1956 and has hosted the Open de Espana on many occasions. Featuring tree-lined fairways, it measures 7,112 yards
How can you possibly bet against Jon Rahm? Looking for a third victory in this tournament, the world number one enhanced his reputation at Whistling Straits. He is one of the most consistent players in the world and has absolutely no weaknesses. Loves playing on home soil - and loves winning on home soil. Will see anything other than victory as a failure. Alejandro Canizares represents a decent each-way bet after finishing third at the Dutch Open and ISPS Handa World Invitational.
Jon Rahm. Who else?
Guido Migliozzi. Fabulous ball striker
Calum Hill. Enjoying a fine season
Five to Follow:
Jon Rahm. Looking for third victory
Guido Migliozzi. Italian with a magical touch around the greens
Calum Hill. Flying Scotsman
Rafa Cabrera Bello. Still a formidable competitor
Bernd Wiesberger. Desperate to put Ryder Cup misery behind him
Andrew Johnston. Beef won this event in 2016 and has shown some decent form recently
Jordan Smith. Capable of going really low
Alejandro Canizares. Can he capitalise on his third-place finish at the Dutch Open?
Nacho Elvira. Just needs to find some self-belief
Pep Angles. Has shown flashes of his undoubted talent
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Tags: european tour