JON Rahm carded a sizzling 62 in the final round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open to become the first player to win three Rolex Series titles in front of sell-out crowds at the famed Lahinch Golf Club.
The Spaniard entered the final day five strokes behind leader Robert Rock but stormed to the top of the leaderboard after carding an eagle and eight birdies to get to 16-under – and win the Irish Open for the second time.
Rahm said: “I keep saying, I love is this tournament. I love this country. I love the people and feel like I’m at home every time I come.
“My game was in great form, it just didn’t show the first two days. I couldn’t hole the putts, and the weekend was the complete opposite.
“Putts started rolling in from everywhere, I felt really confident and I knew I could do something.
“I knew I had to do it today to have a chance, and man, I kept looking at the leaderboard and looking up, and after 10, I’m like okay, let’s get a good run and that eagle on 12 just completely got me going.
“Even though I had the little mistake on 13, I just knew that my target number was 15-under.
“Definitely thrilled with the back nine I had. Me and Adam (caddie) did a lot of work over the weekend to polish the mistakes over the first few days,” added Rahm who admitted he was excited to repeat his win in front of the Irish galleries and match the achievement of his hero Seve Ballesteros.
Rahm added: “I think Seve was the only Spanish player to win more than one and to join my name to that trophy again, it’s special.
“It’s probably one of my favourite trophies that I have at home, and to have another one, it’s definitely a special moment. I don’t know how to explain it.”
It was two years ago that Rahm lifted the trophy in his rookie season for a maiden European Tour win.
Rahm now has four titles to his name, with three of those coming in the prestigious Rolex Series – after just his 34th appearance.
The victory moves the 24-year-old to the top of the Race to Dubai Rankings and also takes him back into the top 10 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and England’s Andy Sullivan finished two off the lead, a shot clear of two more Englishmen – Oxfordshire’s Eddie Pepperell and Robert Rock – and Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello.
Sullivan, who has been slowly finding his form after achieving three wins in 2015 to earn a Ryder Cup place, said: “I just managed to get it around a number really. Stuck in there well. Mentally I was very good.
“I chipped and putted it around nicely. Not my best, but I was really happy to come up with the score I did and finish my round.
“It is getting better, I must admit. It’s starting to come back to when I was playing my best in 2015. Hopefully more of the same trending that way and I can get my hands on the trophy.”
Wiesberger and Rock earned places in the field at next week’s 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club, with their top 10 performances, as did England’s Paul Waring, who finished at 12-under along with another Spaniard in Jorge Campillo.
Wiesberger, looking for a second win in 2019 after his triumph at the Made in Denmark after a spell distrupted by injury, said: “I had a lot of time to reflect and work on some things on my game.
“A lot on the mental state I want to be out on the golf course and it’s a lot better. It’s just nice to see it pay off every now and then and getting to play a couple rounds in the 60s, seeing myself on the leaderboard again, it’s very nice.
“We’ve done a lot of good things out there this week and hopefully we can get do well next week in Scotland and then in Ireland.
“That was the goal. It was lovely to get a sniff at it again at Pebble Beach for the qualifier, and it’s great to be in position to play with all these guys in the biggest events, and there’s no bigger than The Open Championship and the Majors.
“I was really relaxed all week and enjoyed my time out there and took advantage of my good shots and really happy to be going to Portrush.”
The event at Lahinch GC, emulated 2012 at Royal Portrush Golf Club, by selling out both Saturday and Sunday – crowds totallling 86,793 came through the gates at the famous Old Course links.
Colm McLoughlin, chief executive of Dubai Duty Free, said: “That was another fantastic edition of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, and Jon Rahm is a worthy winner.
“This has been a wonderful week of sport, festivity and fun, there were sell-out crowds and a fantastic atmosphere both at the golf and in the village.
“I would like to thank and congratulate Paul McGinley, Lahinch Golf Club, the European Tour, Clare County Council, the local community and all who worked so hard and partnered with us to make this tournament so special.”