PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico (AP) — Jon Rahm came out of a tie-4 with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole and then held on with pars for a two-under 69 and a one-shot victory Sunday at the Mexico Open.
Rahm won for the first time since the US Open last summer at Torrey Pines, and the relief showed in the smile and the way he waved his arm and then punched after touching par on Day 18 at Vidanta Vallarta.
Tony Finau and Brandon Wu closed with a 63 apiece, while Kurt Kitayama birdied the final hole from a back bunker for a 68. They tied for second.
Against one of the weakest fields of the year, Rahm at No. 2 was the only player in the top 15 in the world, the Spaniard was a heavy favorite and played that way from his first 64. He just didn’t feel any expectations.
“I like to think that every time I pitch I’m a favorite. I play to win,” Rahm said. “Fortunately, I got my seventh win on the PGA Tour. It was quite a stressful weekend, until the end.”
With a two shot lead going into the final round, he was never far behind. But it was never easy.
Rahm had a one-shot lead after his only bogey of the round on the tough par-4 10.
Far ahead of him, Wu holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole to join him at 16-under. Kitayama, playing in the final group with Rahm, went up and down from the right of the green on the par 5 12 to tie. And then Finau birdie-eagle-birdie to get into the mix and finished off his 63 with a birdie to make it a four-way tie.
Rahm never lost his patience. His chip to the left of the green on the par 5 14 ran 12 feet down the hole, but he hit his best putt of the round and birdied it for a one-shot lead.
His wedge at 15 fell short and his chip ran 5 for the hole. He did that to stay ahead, and then had to make two putts from 50 feet on the 16th to par with him. Rahm missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th that would have given him room for error.
Still, the closing par-5 at Vidanta Vallarta is easily accessible, and Rahm has birdied the previous three times. This time, his cast stayed straight, and instead of falling into the bunker, he curled up on a steep slope just above the arena. He did well to hit that right over a waste area and into the fairway.
His approach to a back pin just slipped off the green, and he navigated the slippery putt perfectly within inches. Instead of waiting for Kitayama and Cameron Champ to finish, Rahm quickly stepped in and sealed the deal.
“I didn’t think a par 5 that requires a fade was that stressful,” Rahm said. “It wasn’t my best putting weekend, but I stayed aggressive. He was confident in what he was doing. I have faith in every part of my game and it showed.”
Champ, who like Kitayama started the final round two shots behind, got out of the fight with a triple bogey on the par-4 eighth hole. He never recovered, shot 70 and finished three shots behind in a tie for sixth. place.
Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ontario shot 67 on Sunday and finished tied for 24th in the championship.
Rahm has 14 wins worldwide. He had gone 17 starts without a win, matching the longest of his career. The win brings him one step closer to Scottie Scheffler in his bid to reclaim the No. 1 ranking, and he’ll be at the PGA Championship in three weeks.
The Spaniard has at least one victory in six full years as a professional.
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The Associated Press