As he claimed his third European Tour title with victory at the Open de España on Sunday, Jon Rahm etched his name into the history books alongside some of the greatest Spanish players ever to tee it up.
The World Number Four signed for a closing 67 at Centro Nacional de Golf to finish the week on 20 under par, two shots ahead of overnight leader Paul Dunne of Ireland, with fellow Spaniard Nacho Elvira a shot further back in third place.
Rahm’s emotional victory at his home Open grants him access to an exclusive club of Spanish winners. Seve Ballesteros, Sergio Garcia, Antonio Garrido, Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Alvaro Quiros have all previously triumphed at the Open de España since the event became part of the European Tour International Schedule in 1972.
Over 50,000 spectators descended on the municipal Madrid venue to roar on their Spanish star to home victory with excitement around Rahm continuing to rise as his influence on global golf increases.
The Open de España win places the Basque native as the third-fastest player of all-time to reach three European Tour victories following two impressive Rolex Series triumphs last season at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation and the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, fellow Spaniard Ballesteros won his third European Tour title after 38 events. Rahm? It’s taken him 19, half as many as the great Ballesteros.
With over 50 professional wins and five Major Championships, Rahm’s accolades cannot yet be compared with those of his compatriot, but the speed in which the 23 year old has wrapped up his third European Tour title has further enhanced the burgeoning reputation of the game’s rising star.
Victory in Spain rounds off a superlative few weeks for Rahm following his best-ever Major finish at the Masters Tournament in Augusta, where he ended the tournament fourth on the leaderboard, four shots behind winner Patrick Reed.
No-one would have begrudged Rahm a break after that excellent showing at Augusta National but when he made the decision to go straight to Madrid for the Open de España, it wasn’t, in his own words, just to “show up and walk around”; he wanted to win.
Four sub-70 rounds of 67-68-66-67 helped him not only to win the title, but to capture the hearts of the scores of Spanish fans attendance, who duly responded by registering with the Spanish Golf Federation as the organisation welcomed 7,000 new members over the weekend.
Going into the final round two shots behind overnight leader Dunne, Rahm started quickly with two birdies in his first two holes. A birdie on the seventh and a bogey on the par three ninth ensured he made the turn in 34, before three birdies on the back nine secured his maiden Open de España title.
A patriotic Spaniard, Rahm said after his third Tour victory the crowd were feeding him energy and he could feel the tension around the course as he closed in on a memorable victory. He wanted to win, but the crowd were equally as desperate to see their man become the sixth Spanish winner of the event.
Rahm was somewhat lost for words after his triumph was confirmed, admitting it was “hard to explain how good it feels and how satisfying it is” to win a competition which is clearly so close to his heart.
With that win, which he dedicated to the Spanish public, Rahm has risen from 11th to fifth in the Race to Dubai rankings presented by Rolex and is nicely poised for a place on Thomas Bjørn’s European Ryder Cup team for the biennial tournament at Le Golf National, Paris, in September. He currently occupies second spot on the World Points List and third place on the European Points List as he vies for one of eight automatic qualification places.
The win – his first as a professional in Spain – contributes to a CV which includes seven amateur titles in his home country after Rahm spent his formative years combining his studies and golf at Centro Nacional de Golf in his final two years of high school.
From Seve laying the foundations to Sergio clinching his first Major at last year’s Masters, Spanish golf has always had a prodigal son leading the way, and now Rahm seems to be maturing into the country’s next icon.