Jon Rahm pulled out of a four-way tie with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole and then held on with pars for a 2-under-par 69 and a one-shot victory Sunday in the Mexico Open in Puerto Vallarta.
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 pumped his arm and then pounded down his fist after tapping in for par on the 18th at Vidanta Vallarta.
Tony Finau and Brandon Wu each closed with a 63, while Kurt Kitayama birdied the final hole from a back bunker for a 68. They tied for second.
Against one of the weaker fields of the year — Rahm at No. 2 was the only player from the top 15 in the world — the Spaniard was a heavy favorite and he played that way from his opening 64. He just didn’t feel any expectations.
“I like to think every time I tee it up I’m a favorite. I play to win,” Rahm said. “Fortunately, I got my seventh PGA Tour win. It was a pretty stressful weekend, all the way to the end.”
Staked to a two-shot lead going into the final round, he never trailed. But it was never easy.
Rahm had a one-shot lead after his lone bogey of the round on the tough par-4 10th.
Well 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, got up-and-down from right of the green on the par-5 12th to tie. And then Finau went birdie-eagle-birdie to get in the mix and capped off his 63 with a birdie to make it a four-way tie.
Rahm never lost his patience. His chip left of the green on the par-5 14th raced 12 feet by the hole, but he hit his best putt of the round and made it for birdie for a one-shot lead.
His wedge to the 15th came up short and his chip ran 5 by the hole. He made that to stay in front, and then had to two-putt from 50 feet on the 16th for his par. 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 easy reachable, and Rahm birdied it the three previous times. This time, his fade stayed straight and instead of dropping into the bunker, it nestled in deep rough on a steep slope just above the sand. He did well to punch that out just over a waste area and into the fairway.
His approach to a back pin just trickled off the green, and he navigated the slick putt perfectly to a few inches. Instead of waiting for Kitayama and Cameron Champ to finish, Rahm quickly stepped in and closed the deal.
“I didn’t think a par 5 that requires a fade that I’d be stressing this much,” Rahm said. “It wasn’t my best putting weekend, but I stayed aggressive. I was confident in what I was doing. I have faith in every part of my game and it showed.”
Rahm has 14 victories worldwide. He had gone 17 starts without winning, matching the longest such streak in is career. The victory moves him a little closer to Scottie Scheffler in his bid to reclaim the No. 1 ranking.
The Spaniard has at least one victory in six full years as a pro.
LPGA — Marina Alex won the Palos Verdes Championship for her second LPGA Tour title, breaking a tie with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th and parring the final two holes for a one-stroke victory over Jin Young Ko.
Three strokes behind Hannah Green entering the round, Alex closed with a 5-under 66 to finish at 10-under 274 at hilly and windy Palos Verdes (Calif.) Golf Club.
“The hard work has paid off,” said Alex, the 31-year-old from New Jersey who recently fought a herniated disk in her lower back. “I wasn’t sure if this would ever happen again if I’m being perfectly honest. It’s been tough. We’re all getting older. I’m getting older. There are so many amazing players out here. The competition is really, really difficult.
“So, I just didn’t know if my mind and body were going to put me back in a position that I was going to be able to do it again. Today was the day.”
The top-ranked Ko also shot a 66. She finished about an hour before Alex in the first-year event that wrapped up the LPGA Tour’s two-week, Los Angeles-area stay and five-tournament West Coast swing.
“My swing was really better than first three days,” Ko said. “I got something — I found something, so hit really well today.”
Alex bogeyed the par-4 third, then birdied the par-4 fifth, par-5 seventh and par-4 eighth. She added birdies on the par-3 11th and par-12th and two-putted from 40 feet on 16 to take the outright lead.
“Today was amazing,” Alex said. “I’m kind of not really there with processing what went down today, but it’s been a really tough couple years. I mean, since the COVID — that slowed all of us down.
“And then I was injured really quick after that. Had seven months off, and it’s just been a really tough rebuilding back. Coming into this year I finally have felt good physically, like really good.”
Alex also won the 2018 Portland Classic. She tied for 10th last week at Whilshire Country Club in the LA Open.
“My goals for the year were just to like get through the year, silly as that sounds,” Alex said. “No, I really did feel like this year was going to be different than years past. I struggled last year just getting back in things competitively and also physically.”
Third-ranked Lydia Ko (70) and Rockland’s Megan Khang (68) tied for third at 8 under. Green shot her second straight 72 to drop into a tie for fifth at 7 under with Ryann O’Toole (68), Andrea Lee (69) and Annie Park (69).
European — Home favorite Adri Arnaus finally won a dramatic playoff to beat Oliver Bekker at the Catalunya Championship in Girona, Spain, and claim his first European tour win on Sunday.
Arnaus, who is from Barcelona in northeast Spain near Girona, trailed overnight leader Bekker by seven shots at the start of the day. But he carded a final round 7-under 65 to pull level. In contrast to Becker’s even-par 72, Arnaus’s fourth round included five birdies and an eagle on the par-5 12th.
In the playoff, Arnaus and Becker made par on five trips to the 18th hole, but when they went to the 17th Bekker’s bogey gave Arnaus the title.