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SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 20: Jon Rahm of Spain celebrates with the trophy after winning during the final round of the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course) on June 20, 2021 in San Diego, California. (Photo : Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Jon Rahm captured the 121st U.S. Open in spectacular fashion Sunday, draining back-to-back birdies on the 17th and 18th holes to win by one stroke over Louis Oosthuizen on the South Course at Torrey Pines. It was a dramatic victory for Rahm who became the first Spanish golfer to win the U.S. Open.
Rahm stood tall as his peers crumbled under the pressure on the back nine. At one point, 10 golfers were within a shot of the lead but it was Rahm who had nerves of steel in the closing stages. He shot a tournament-best four-under-par 67 during the final round and was solid down the stretch.
Rahm seals win with clutch birdies
Trailing by three shots at the beginning of the round, Rahm immediately made a Sunday charge, making back-to-back birdies in his opening two holes. He closed his opening nine with a birdie to move into title contention at four-under-par. He then played steady golf on the back nine, making seven consecutive pars, eliminating costly mistakes that could sink his title charge.
Down by a stroke entering the 17th hole, Rahm then finally made his move. He made a curling 25-foot birdie putt on the penultimate hole to tie Oosthuizen at the top. Rahm then took sole possession of the lead on the final hole with a clutch 18-foot left-to-right birdie, entering the clubhouse with a six-under-par total of 278.
The job wasn’t finished though at that stage as Oosthuizen remained within striking distance with three holes remaining to his round. The South African had fared well between holes no. 16 to 18 during the first three rounds, making five birdies and an eagle. Sunday pressure is different, however, and Oosthuizen succumbed to it, making a costly bogey on the 17th hole after slicing his drive left into the penalty area.
It was game over for Oosthuizen when he missed the fairway on the par-5 18th hole that prevented him from going for the green in two. He failed to drain his approach shot from 69 yards for eagle on the final hole to give Rahm his first major championship victory.
It was a disappointing finish for Oosthuizen who recorded his second straight runner-up finish in a major tournament, and his sixth silver medal since he won the Open Championship at St. Andrews in 2010.
DeChambeau and McIlroy fade down the stretch
It wasn’t just Oosthuizen, though, who choked down the stretch on Championship Sunday. Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau headed into the back nine with the lead but a series of bogeys down the stretch gave him a shocking score of 44 on the back nine for a 77 on the day.
Mackenzie Hughes, who was just one shot behind going to the back nine, made double bogey on the par-3 11th after his tee shot bounced off a cart path and get stuck in a tree. Former PGA champion Collin Morikawa also recorded a double bogey on the 13th hole that took him from one shot behind to out of the mix.
Rory McIlroy also struggled down the stretch as he failed to end his seven-year title drought in the majors. The Northern Irishman made a three-putt bogey on the 11th when he was just one shot back of the lead, and then caught a bad lie in the bunker that led to a double bogey on the 12th hole.
It was only fitting that Rahm emerged as the winner as he was the only player among the contenders who didn’t drop a single shot on the back nine in the final round. Rahm finally grabbed the win that was denied of him just 15 days earlier after a positive COVID-19 test forced his withdrawal from the Memorial Tournament with the Spaniard holding a six-shot lead at that stage.
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