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Rahm edges Dunne at Spanish Open


Big Jon Rahm's star continued to rise in Madrid on Sunday when six birdies, a closing 67 and a 20-under 268 total saw the World No 4 go two shots clear of Ireland's Paul Dunne and win the Spanish Open at the Centro Nacional de Golf.

It was the 23-year-old Basque's 5th worldwide career victory, his third on the European Tour and, because it enabled him to follow in the footsteps of Spanish icons like Seve Ballesteros, Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez and capture his nation's long-running open championship on Spanish soil, it was also an especially emotional one.

And, to be sure, the exuberant support given him by the large galleries that came out to see their newest favourite golfing son amplified this even further.

"It's such a satisfying feeling," he told the media afterwards. "When I made the decision to come straight from Augusta (where he finished 4th in the Masters last week) it wasn't to just show up and walk around, I really wanted to win this tournament."

"It's been amazing. But It's also 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.

"I could feel how excited everybody was. I felt the tension, I felt the stress, I felt everything magnified. They played a huge part.

"I've been blessed to be a national (amateur) champion with the Spanish Golf Federation many times, European champion and world champion representing them.

"So being able to win this as a pro and do this for them and the Spanish people makes me feel really great."

Dunne, a 25-year-old from Wicklow County who was coming off a brief but impressive recent stab at US golfing glory, led Rahm by two strokes and another of the crowd-pleasing Spaniards, Nacho Elvira, by one going into the final round, but he could not rekindle the magic that had seen him overshadow Rahm during the first three rounds, and, in the end, his rather pale1-under 71 saw him finished in sole second place with an 18-under par total.

Even the strongest supporters of Rahm and Dunne must have felt sorry for Elvira, who was briefly tied with Rahm at 19-under before Rahm birdied the 18th to take his score to 20-under and then beaming broadly, went off to the clubhouse with his blonde American girlfriend, Kelley Cahill, to wait for the final pairing to finish.

In trying to catch Rahm, the luckless Elvira found water to the left of the green at the short 17th and then missed a sitter of a putt to pick up a double bogey that dropped him back to 17-under and into third place, just one shot in front of South African George Coetzee who, much earlier in the day had come blazing out of nowhere with a stunning 63.

Ironically, a little earlier, Rahm looked to have found the very same spot of water as Elvira with his tee shot, but he was luckier than Elvira.

His ball ended up short of the water on a grassy bank and, with a superb chip, he was able to salvage par and go on to win.

(Par 72)

268 Jon Rahm (ESP) 67 68 66 67
270 Paul Dunne (IRE) 66 65 68 71
271 Nacho Elvira (ESP) 68 66 66 71
272 George Coetzee (RSA) 72 66 71 63
273 Brett Rumford (AUS) 68 66 68 71, Marc Warren (SCO) 66 69 69 69, Jorge Campillo (ESP) 70 67 67 69, Henric Sturehed (SWE) 67 68 66 72
274 Julien Guerrier (FRA) 67 69 74 64, Jacques Kruyswijk (RSA) 69 70 66 69, Hideto Tanihara (JPN) 70 70 67 67
275 Andrew Johnston (ENG) 68 68 69 70, Maximilian Kieffer (GER) 69 67 69 70, Victor Pastor (A) (ESP) 67 72 69 67, Sebastien Gros (FRA) 73 67 71 64, Cho Rak-Hyun (KOR) 73 64 73 65, Alejandro Canizares (ESP) 72 67 70 66, Adrian Otaegui (ESP) 69 70 70 66, Yusaku Miyazato (JPN) 69 68 72 66, Aaron Rai (ENG) 67 71 66 71
276 Andy Sullivan (ENG) 75 63 65 73, Seung-su Han (USA) 70 69 68 69, Tapio Pulkkanen (FIJ) 75 65 69 67, Andrea Pavan (ITA) 71 67 72 66, Erik Van Rooyen (RSA) 67 71 70 68, Renato Paratore (ITA) 70 70 68 68, Pablo Larrazabal (ESP) 71 65 73 67.

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Neville Leck

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