World number two Jon Rahm battled to a two-under par 69 yesterday to pull off a one-shot victory in the US PGA Tour Mexico Open at Vidanta Vallarta. Rahm held or shared the lead after every round, but it was far from easy for the Spaniard, who had to salvage a par at the par-five finishing hole to finish on 17-under 267 – a stroke in front of Brandon Wu, Tony Finau and Kurt Kitayama.
Wu and Finau charged up the leaderboard with outstanding eight-under par 63s while Kitayama, playing alongside Rahm in the final group, closed with a 68 to join the group on 268. “Pretty stressful weekend all the way to the end,” Rahm said after sealing his seventh US PGA Tour title -- his first since his maiden major victory at the US Open at Torrey Pines last year.
After back-to-back birdies at the sixth and seventh Rahm bogeyed the 10th, missing a six-foot putt to save par. He missed a 10-foot birdie attempt at the par-five 12th and both Wu and Finau were in the clubhouse at 16-under before Rahm drained a testing 11-foot birdie to reach 17-under at the 14th.
Rahm rapped in a par-saving five-footer at the 15th and parred the 16th. He looked in control with a tee shot to 11 feet at the par-three 17th, but his birdie attempt came up short. And he was in dense rough off on a steep bank above a fairway bunker at the 18th, where he eventually two-putted from the fringe 23 feet from the cup to seal the win.
“I did not think that having a par-five where a fade tee shot was required I’d be stressing this much,” Rahm said. “But I got it done at the end and I think all the stress earlier in the round helped me on those last two putts.”
Rahm acknowledged that compared to the first two rounds his play on the weekend “wasn’t great.” “But I stayed aggressive,” he said. “I had faith in every part of my game and it showed.”
Wu, 25, notched his best career round with an eight-under effort that featured an eagle and six birdies. “I played awesome today,” said Wu, who picked up four strokes in three holes with a nine-foot birdie at the fifth, a 14-foot eagle at the sixth and a birdie at the seventh, where he drove the green and two-putted.
He added birdies at the 10th, 13th, 14th and 16th to grab a share of the lead on 16-under, although he couldn’t take advantage of the par-five 18th. Wu was barely in the clubhouse when Finau rolled in a six-foot birdie at the 18th to join him on 16-under with a 63 of his own.
Finau rolled in a 56-foot eagle putt from off the green at the 14th to highlight a round that also featured six birdies. Finau said some post-Masters adjustments had paid off in his iron play. “I hit so many greens, I gave myself so many looks, I knew if I could just roll some in that maybe I could pull something today and I was able to do that,” he said.
Kitayama was tied for first at 16-under after his fourth birdie of the day at the 12th. He bogeyed the 14th, but gained a share of second with a birdie at the last, where he, too was in the rough off the tee. “I’m ecstatic really,” said Kitayama, a two-time winner on the DP World tour. “(It was a) tough battle out there, so I’m really happy where I ended up.”