Jon Rahm was followed by a blinding spotlight from the minute he landed in a west coast paradise of Mexico, carrying a big load of expectation coming into and then during the Mexico Open at Vidanta in Vallarta.
He was the highest-ranked player in a field of only five of the top 35 players in the world, at world No. 2. In betting shops all throughout the world, he was the overwhelming favorite. And he appeared to be on track to win for the first time since winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2021.
To put it another way, he was anticipated to win.
Rahm played up to his pre-tournament hype by sharing the lead after a first-round 7-under-par 64, leading by two shots after 36 holes and two shots after 54 holes.
Going into Sunday’s final round, the possibility of him cruising to victory was a distinct possibility. Rahm, on the other hand, never put the pedal to the metal because he couldn’t get a handle on the greens’ pace.
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After regaining a share of the lead after 12 holes, he held on to win his eighth PGA Tour title with a huge birdie on the 14th and gut-check pars the rest of the way. His final tap-in on the 72nd hole completed rounds of 64-66-68-69, putting him one shot ahead of the field at 17 under.
“I don’t pay attention to bets.” “I like to think I can win every time I tee it up,” Rahm said. “It had been a very tough weekend.” But in the end, I was able to complete it.”
As he had hoped to be able to do at the start of the week.
“I could see I was getting better. “I knew I was getting somewhere, and this week has confirmed it,” Rahm remarked. “I think Sunday at Augusta with Tiger (Woods) gave me a lot of confidence.” In my approach, I was a little more technical. I’m a feel player, so on that Sunday I told myself to just go out there and hit the golf ball, make shots, watch the ball flight, and execute, and I shot a 3 under par on a difficult day.
“So this week I did the same thing, with little technical thinking and simply visualizing the ball flight of the stroke and coming back to my true self, and I really noticed a difference.” My iron game was excellent, especially against the wind. We sometimes stray from our course, but not this time, and I’m thrilled to get my first win and climb back up the FedExCup rankings, with the prospect of getting my second shortly.”
Brandon Wu, Tony Finau, and Kurt Kitayama finished one stroke behind Rahm.
Wu started the final round seven strokes down, searching for his first PGA Tour victory. He did, however, make an eagle and six birdies, the last of which came on the 16th and gave him a share of the lead. His tournament-record 63 – also a lifetime low on the PGA Tour – put him in first place in the clubhouse at 16 under. However, he failed to birdie the par-5 18th.
“When you’re seven back at the start of the day, you’re not really thinking about (winning),” Wu said. “I was pleased with how I kept my head down and pushed on.”
Finau, who is rated No. 25 in the world, was playing one group behind Wu and had a seven-shot deficit to begin the day. Finau scored 63 to share the clubhouse lead at 16 under par, with a three-hole stretch on the back nine where he went birdie-eagle-birdie being the highlight of his day.
Finau finished in the top ten for the first time since winning the Northern Trust last August.
“I haven’t had a terrific season, but that’s just how it is sometimes.” Finau explained, “It’s the game we play.” “I really wanted to put together a pleasant week, and I was able to accomplish so this week while still giving myself the opportunity to do something special at the conclusion.” On a day like today, there are a lot of confidence builders, and I’ll carry it with me for the remainder of the season.”
Kitayama, who is also seeking his first PGA Tour victory, took a share of the lead with a birdie on the 12th hole, but slipped back with a bogey on the par-5 14th after a sloppy approach. He ended up with a 68.
“When there’s a lot of pressure on the line, I feel like I can compete up there.” “I think I’m really good at managing my emotions,” Kitayama stated. “I had a lot of attractive features. (Rahm) is simply a fantastic player. He got out to a slow start and just sort of plodded around, not really swaying much.”
Davis Riley finished on 15 under par with a 68.
Aaron Wise (64), David Lipsky (64), Alex Smalley (68), and Cameron Champ were all 14 under par (70).
Rahm, who appeared fatigued by the end, burst out laughing when his son, Kepa, 1, and wife, Kelley, joined him on the green to start the celebration. He also appeared to be quite pleased with himself for beating not only the field and the course, but also all the pressure that comes with being the favorite.
“I kept an optimistic attitude,” Rahm stated. “I vented a little bit of my feelings out there.” It wasn’t the best putting weekend I’ve ever had. But I remained combative. I’d prefer it to be less stressful, but a win is a win.”