Jon Rahm strikes late to claim US Open title as McIlroy fades away

Spaniard finished with two birdies in-a-row to win first Major title on dramatic day

Jon Rahm reacts after sinking his birdie putt on the 18th hole during the final round of the 2021 US Open at Torrey Pines. Photo: Erik S. Lesser/EPA

Jon Rahm reacts after sinking his birdie putt on the 18th hole during the final round of the 2021 US Open at Torrey Pines. Photo: Erik S. Lesser/EPA

 

Fifteen days after his preparations were seemingly thrown into disarray, Jon Rahm produced a grandstand finish to claim his first major title in the 121st US Open while Rory McIlroy’s challenge faded on the back nine.

The Spaniard birdied the final two holes at Torrey Pines to complete a closing 67 and finish six under par, a shot ahead of South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen.

Oosthuizen, who also finished runner-up in last month’s US PGA, bogeyed the 17th and needed to eagle the last for the second day running to force a play-off, but was unable to hole out from 69 yards having missed the fairway with his drive.

McIlroy’s bid for a first major title since 2014 unravelled in the closing stages, the Northern Irishman having been part of a four-way tie for the lead following a birdie on the fourth.

McIlroy three putted the 11th and ran up a double bogey on the 12th to effectively end his chances, a closing 73 leaving him in a tie for seventh.

McIlroy reacts to a missed putt on the ninth hole. Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
McIlroy reacts to a missed putt on the ninth hole. Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Shane Lowry’s closing round of 79 – which included a double bogey and five bogeys – was a disappointing end to the week for the Offalyman who finished in a tie for 65th at 13 over par and now sets his sights on defending his Open Championship title at Royal St George’s next month.

But this was redemption for Rahm after a tough couple of weeks. He had just completed a sensational third round of 64 in the Memorial Tournament to establish a six-shot lead when he was told beside the 18th green that he had tested positive for Covid-19.

That necessitated a period of self-isolation until two days before play began at Torrey Pines, where he won his first PGA Tour title in 2017 and also proposed to his wife.

And although Rahm received results of two negative tests on Friday and Saturday to allow him to leave isolation early, it was hardly the ideal way to get ready for golf’s toughest major.

Crucially, the 26-year-old handled the situation with an admirable sense of perspective, defending the PGA Tour’s decision to strictly enforce their rules and noting that he still had the positive memories of his form at Muirfield Village to draw upon.

“I’m a big believer in karma and after what happened a couple of weeks ago I stayed really positive, knowing big things were coming,” Rahm said.

“I didn’t know what it was going to be but I knew we were coming to a special place, I knew I got my breakthrough win here and it’s a very special place for my family.

“The fact my parents were able to come, I got out of Covid protocols early, I just felt like the stars were aligning.”

Rounds of 69, 70 and 72 meant he started the final round three shots off the lead but he made the ideal start with birdies on the first and second before making what would prove his only bogey of the day on the fourth.

A wild drive on the ninth looked in danger of being out of bounds, but Rahm was entitled to a free drop away from a fence and, after hitting his second shot down the fairway, spun his approach to within a few feet of the hole to set up an unlikely birdie.

A run of seven straight pars on the back nine meant Rahm still trailed Oosthuizen by a shot as he reached the last two holes, but he holed a curling birdie putt from 25 feet on the 17th and a similar putt on the par-five 18th after finding a bunker with his approach.

Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau had taken the lead with his second birdie of the day on the eighth, the American coming agonisingly close to making a hole-in-one.

However, DeChambeau imploded on the back nine with two bogeys, a double bogey on the 13th and a quadruple-bogey eight on the 17th, eventually signing for a closing 77.

Earlier in the day, Phil Mickelson’s “unique opportunity” to complete the career grand slam in his home city of San Diego came to an unusual end, almost two hours before the final group was due to tee off.

Rahm with his son Kepa and wife Kelley after leaving the 18th green. Photo: Erik S. Lesser/EPA
Rahm with his son Kepa and wife Kelley after leaving the 18th green. Photo: Erik S. Lesser/EPA

Mickelson began the week with renewed hope of winning his national open for the first time, but ended it by hitting his approach to the 18th around 70 yards beyond the hole and completing a 75 to finish 11 over par.

The 51-year-old was disappointed not to have played better, but remains confident he can replicate the form which made him the oldest ever major winner in last month’s US PGA Championship.

“There’s some opportunities coming up with the way I’ve been playing that I’m optimistic that I can compete and contend,” the six-time major winner said.

“There’s nothing more fun for me than to be in it on the weekend. I’ve actually been playing well enough to have chances, and we have some good tournaments coming up the next couple of months.

“Afterwards I’ll look back and reminisce when the season’s over and I’ll still have that Wanamaker trophy I’ll be looking at, and I’m still looking to add a friend to it along the line.

“That win was very meaningful to me because I’ve been putting in a lot of work the last couple of years and getting nothing out of it, and so to have a moment like that is something that makes it worthwhile.”

Final scores from the 121st U.S. Open, Torrey Pines (South), San Diego (USA unless stated, Par 71)

278 Jon Rahm (Spa) 69 70 72 67

279 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 67 71 70 71

281 Harris English 72 70 71 68

282 Brooks Koepka 69 73 71 69, Guido Migliozzi (Ita) 71 70 73 68, Collin Morikawa 75 67 70 70

283 Daniel Berger 71 72 72 68, Paul Casey (Eng) 71 75 67 70, Branden Grace (Rsa) 72 70 74 67, Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 70 73 67 73, Xander Schauffele 69 71 72 71, Scottie Scheffler 72 69 70 72

284 Russell Henley 67 70 71 76, Francesco Molinari (Ita) 68 76 69 71

285 Patrick Cantlay 70 75 71 69, Mackenzie Hughes (Can) 73 67 68 77, Kevin Streelman 71 69 72 73, Matthew Wolff 70 68 73 74

286 Sergio Garcia (Spa) 71 74 73 68, Brian Harman 72 71 71 72, Dustin Johnson 71 73 68 74, Patrick Reed 72 73 74 67, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa) 71 74 71 70, Jordan Spieth 77 69 68 72, Justin Thomas 73 69 71 73

287 Chris Baker 74 71 69 73, Bryson DeChambeau 73 69 68 77, Rikuya Hoshino (Jpn) 69 74 73 71, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 77 68 69 73, Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 69 76 74 68

288 Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa) 72 70 70 76, Joaquin Niemann (Chi) 75 69 71 73, Patrick Rodgers 70 71 77 70, Dylan Wu 70 73 74 71

289 Lanto Griffin 76 69 69 75, Sung Jae Im (Kor) 72 72 69 76, Robert MacIntyre (Sco) 71 73 72 73, Edoardo Molinari (Ita) 70 76 72 71, Adam Scott (Aus) 70 75 71 73

290 Adam Hadwin (Can) 70 72 75 73, Si Woo Kim (Kor) 71 75 70 74, Wade Ormsby (Aus) 72 74 73 71, J. T. Poston 72 73 71 74, Ian Poulter (Eng) 74 71 68 77, Chez Reavie 76 68 72 74

291 Dylan Frittelli (Rsa) 73 72 72 74, Tom Hoge 72 71 76 72, Rick Lamb 71 75 74 71, Lee Westwood (Eng) 71 72 71 77

292 Richard Bland (Eng) 70 67 77 78, Rafael Cabrera (Spa) 68 76 74 74, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 72 73 74 73, Bubba Watson 72 67 77 76, Gary Woodland 74 71 73 74

293 Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) 70 75 72 76, Kevin Kisner 73 73 72 75

294 Akshay Bhatia 73 73 73 75, Stewart Cink 73 72 74 75, Charley Hoffman 72 71 75 76, Taylor Montgomery 70 76 74 74, Jhonattan Vegas (Ven) 75 69 74 76

295 Phil Mickelson 75 69 76 75, Greyson Sigg 71 74 75 75

296 Marc Leishman (Aus) 74 70 75 77

297 Matt Jones (Aus) 72 71 79 75, Shane Lowry (Irl) 72 74 72 79, Troy Merritt 75 71 73 78

298 Wilco Nienaber (Rsa) 72 74 80 72, Kyle Westmoreland 71 73 78 76

303 Fabian Gomez (Arg) 70 76 78 79, Jimmy Walker 74 72 77 80

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