One of the most difficult tasks in golf is to deliver a win when you are expected to do just that.
It is simply too easy to not live up to expectations, especially when those expectations are sky-high.
Jon Rahm found himself trailing by two shots going into the final round Sunday at the Open de Espana. No problem for the world’s fourth-ranked player.
Rahm was truly the class player in the field at the Centro Nacional de Golf in Madrid. He started the final round trailing overnight leader Paul Dunne and he was also a shot back of countryman Nacho Elvira, a native son of Madrid and a huge crowd favorite.
For three days Dunne looked unbeatable. Sundays are different, even on the European Tour.
Rahm didn’t waste any time getting deeper into red numbers and by the time he reached the 18th tee, he was 19-under par, two clear of Dunne and tied with Elvira.
Then Elvira drowned his chances at the par three 17th when his tee ball found the water left of the green and he’d eventually miss a two-footer for bogey and the double dashed his chances.
From the middle of 18 fairway, Rahm led by two and promptly launched a sweet mid-iron onto the green of the closing par five, leaving himself just 28 feet for eagle. An easy two-putt got him to the magic 20-under number and his closing 67 beat Dunne by two, Elvira by three.
Rahm was obviously elated to pick up his third European Tour win in just 19 appearances. More important, he won the title previously owned by the likes of Seve Ballesteros and Sergio Garcia.
“It’s such a satisfying feeling,” Rahm said with the trophy in his arms. “When I made the decision to come straight from Augusta, it wouldn’t be to just show up and walk around. I wanted to win this tournament. I’ve been blessed to be national champion from the age of 16 to all ages in Spain. To round my amateur and pro career in this way and win the last one I had to win and join that prestigious list of Spanish winners, it’s hard to explain how satisfying it is.”
Rahm played hard from the start, opening Thursday in chilly, windy conditions with 67 then adding rounds of 68 and 66 on Friday and Saturday in better weather.
“It’s been amazing,” Rahm continued as he talked about his week. “It’s truly been the hardest Sunday I’ve ever had in any tournament that I’ve won because the crowd wanted it so much and I wanted it so much. You can tell how excited everybody is. I felt the tension, I felt that stress. I felt everything magnified,” he said.
He was surrounded by thousands over the final 18. Huge crowds turned out, wanting, expecting and anticipating a move by Rahm.
He didn’t disappoint.
“They played a huge part,” he said of the support from the galleries. “I came for them, mainly, so I’m just glad I can win this one for the Spanish people.”