June 21, 2021

Rahm bags first major with stunning US Open success

Jon Rahm claimed his first major title after finishing with back-to-back birdies on a dramatic final day of the 121st US Open at Torrey Pines in California.

The 26-year-old Spaniard roared at fans gathered around the 18 green after his 18-foot birdie putt took him to six under par and gave him a one-shot lead over  Louis Oosthuizen. Oosthuizen then bogeyed the 17th, meaning he needed to eagle the last to force a play-off, but the South African could only manage a birdie.

Rahm’s breakthrough Major victory comes just two weeks after he was forced to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament that he was leading by six shots after three rounds because of a positive coronavirus test. Rahm said his main concern at that time was for his wife and two-month-old baby and it was them he celebrated with – aptly on his first Father’s Day – after the close birdie putt saw him compile a final round 67, the joint lowest score of the day.

“I’m a big believer in karma and after what happened a couple of weeks ago, I stayed really positive knowing that big things were coming,” said Rahm, who won his first PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines in 2017. “I didn’t know what it was going to be, but I knew we were coming to a special place. I got my breakthrough win here and it’s a very special place for my family. The fact my parents were able to come, I just felt like the stars were aligning.”

Rahm dedicated his win to Seve Ballesteros, who claimed five major titles, but died 10 years ago of brain cancer at the age of 54. “I knew my best golf was to come and I have a hard time explaining what just happened because I can’t believe I made the last two putts and I’m the first Spanish player to win the US Open,” Rahm continued. “This is definitely for Seve – I know he tried a lot, I know he wanted to win this one most of all.”

A memorable final day began with numerous major winners crowding the top of the leaderboard and 17 players within five shots of Oosthuizen, Mackenzie Hughes and Russell Henley’s five-under overnight lead. McIlroy started two shots off the lead, hoping to win a second US Open title 10 years after his first, but the Northern Irishman’s double bogey on the 12th, where he found a horrible lie in a bunker, put paid to his chances as he closed with a 73 to finish joint seventh on one under, alongside Paul Casey, who enjoyed another decent major finish without ever being in the mix after a closing 70.

Defending champion DeChambeau was just two shots back at the start of the final round, but he found himself in the lead on five under when he birdied the 8th hole. However, the hero of Winged Foot 12 months ago saw his trusty driver start to misbehave on the back nine as a succession of missed fairways on  saw his challenge fade in dramatic fashion. He dropped four shots in three holes from the 11th and then racked up a quadruple-bogey eight at the par-four 17th as he signed for a six-over 77 and three-over total.

Unheralded American Russell Henley had held the lead throughout much of the first three rounds, but a run of three bogeys starting on the sixth hole were enough to put him out of the running on Sunday as he closed with a 76 to finish level par. England’s Richard Bland had provided the fairy-tale opening to the tournament, becoming the oldest man to lead at the halfway stage, but the 48-year-old too fell foul of the challenging course, with rounds of 77 and 78 over the weekend.

Conversely, Rahm bided his time with opening rounds of 69 and 70 before slipping to two under with a one-over 72 on Saturday, but brought his best golf when it counted. With the title wide open for most of Sunday and the lead changing hands numerous times, the Spaniard got off to a promising start as he began the final round with two birdies. That put him one off the lead and he managed to rectify a wayward tee shot with a classy chip on to the third green, but he could not avoid a bogey on the fourth.

In a sign that perhaps Rahm was destined to win, he got a free drop after his tee shot on the ninth flew close to a boundary fence and he took advantage to card a birdie to get back to four under, one off the lead. He missed birdie chances on 14 and 15, and his tee shot into a fairway bunker on, 17 seemed unnerving, but the Spaniard hit his approach to 25ft and raucously celebrated after holing the birdie putt to join Oosthuizen as tournament leader. After another trip into the sand on the par-five last, Rahm chipped onto the green and made another challenging 18ft putt to set the clubhouse lead and, ultimately, claim his longed for first Major victory.

For the full final round leaderboard, click here

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