PORTSTEWART, Northern Ireland (AP) — Jon Rahm enhanced his burgeoning reputation by winning the Irish Open by six strokes and a record tournament score on Sunday, shooting a 7-under 65 in a final round marked by two eagles and rules controversy.
The 22-year-old Rahm, one of the hottest young players in world golf, holed out from 150 yards for eagle on No. 4 and strung together four straight birdies from No. 7 to turn what promised to be a tight final day into a procession at Portstewart Golf Club.
The 11th-ranked Spaniard added a second eagle with a long putt on the par-5 14th to put more distance to his chasers, led by David Drysdale following his course-record 63 early Sunday.
Rahm finished on 24-under 264 overall – breaking the record to par by three shots – for a second victory of 2017, and in little more than a year as a professional.
“To actually play my best golf that I can remember and shoot 24 under on this golf course and win it by six, that is not something I would have believed I was capable of,” Rahm said. “I learned a lot about myself and it’s a really, really special day.”
His resounding victory on the links made him believe his first major title could come in two weeks’ time at the British Open at Royal Birkdale.
“It proves to me I can perform properly on a links golf course and that’s what I’ve got to take to The Open,” Rahm said. “I know now that I have what it takes.
“I know I can read the putts right, I know I can interpret the wind and I can hit the shots and I can manage myself around the golf course properly enough to have a chance to win The Open.”
Rahm avoided being handed a two-shot penalty for replacing his ball incorrectly on the 6th green, following emails and calls from TV viewers. Andy McFee, chief referee of the European Tour, said Rahm made a “reasonable judgment” after having moved his marker one putter length to the side to get it off the line of playing partner Daniel Im.
“I know it’s a little suspicious sometimes but I knowingly did it,” Rahm said. “I moved my marker so it was not in the way of Daniel’s and put it back, and when I replaced my ball I thought it was in the same exact spot.”
When told by McFee on the 13th hole that there had been complaints, Rahm said: “I told him, ‘Listen, if it’s a penalty stroke, let me know now, I’ll accept it.'”
Richie Ramsay (65) and Matthew Southgate (66) were tied for second on 18 under, with Drysdale tied for fourth alongside Justin Rose, Ryan Fox and overnight joint-leader Im.
Ramsay, Fox and Drysdale qualified for the British Open at Royal Birkdale, which starts July 20, courtesy of their top-10 finishes.