Irish Open: Jon Rahm wins at Portstewart by six shots after rules scare
|Dubai Duty Free Irish Open fourth round leaderboard|
|-24 J Rahm (Spa); -18 R Ramsay (Sco), M Southgate (Eng); -17 J Rose (Eng), D Drysdale (Sco), R Fox (NZ), D Im (USA); -16 J Quesne (Fra), B Hebert (Fra); -15 O Fisher (Eng), T Fleetwood (Eng), H Tanihara (Jpn)|
|Selected others:– 14 B Dredge (Wal) -13 H Matsuyama (Jpn), G Moynihan (Ire), S Jamieson (Sco); -12 S Lowry (Ire), A Sullivan (Eng); -11 M Hoey (NIr); -9 P Harrington (Ire), I Poulter (Eng), MA Jimenez (Spa)|
Jon Rahm overcame a rules scare to earn his first European Tour victory as a closing round of 65 won him the Irish Open by six shots at Portstewart.
Sharing the overnight lead on 17 under with Daniel Im, Spain’s Rahm eagled the fourth as he holed from 150 yards.
Rahm was four clear on the 13th fairway when a query over his ball marking on the sixth green caused a concern.
But no penalty was imposed and a dominant Rahm, 22, finished six ahead of Richie Ramsay and Matthew Southgate.
Despite having two bogeys in his final three holes, Rahm’s winning total of 24 under par was three shots inside the previous tournament record set by Bernhard Langer at Royal Dublin in 1984.
Scotland’s Ramsay clinched one of the three spots for Open Championship qualification available at Portstewart with a closing 64 on another day of low scoring despite frequent rain.
Ramsay’s compatriot David Drysdale, who finished with seven straight birdies to card a 63, also booked a Royal Birkdale berth along with New Zealander Ryan Fox as they shared fourth with Justin Rose and American Im.
Rahm takes control at Portstewart before rules query
Drysdale had joined world number 11 Rahm and Im on 17 under before they had even teed off after the remarkable conclusion to his round.
Rahm looked certain to fall out of the lead after a wild tee shot with an iron on the second but saved par by holing from 25 feet as Im took three putts to drop one behind.
After Im leaked another shot at the next, Rahm’s sensational eagle three at the long fourth moved him two ahead and four successive birdies from the seventh increased his lead to six at he stood on the 11th tee.
Tournament referee Andy McFee approached Rahm on the 13th to get the player’s view on his ball-marking incident on the sixth green after the European Tour had been made aware of the issue.
After moving his marker out of Im’s putting line, Rahm had appeared to replace his ball in a slightly different spot as he prepared to tap in from 14 inches but following a long conversation with the Spaniard, McFee elected to impose no penalty.
Rahm emulates his Spanish heroes
McFee’s decision was in contrast to the ruling imposed on American Lexi Thompson in April, when she was handed a two-shot penalty for incorrectly marking her ball plus another two shots for an incorrect scorecard.
After receiving the four-shot penalty, Thompson was eventually beaten in a play-off at the ANA Inspiration event, which was this season’s first LPGA major.
However, since that controversial episode a new rule now gives players the benefit of the doubt in such instances.
Rahm responded to the rules controversy by rolling in a 25-foot eagle putt at the 14th and avoided any further major mishaps as he followed compatriots Seve Ballesteros, Jose-Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia in winning the championship.
The tournament formed part of the prestigious new Rolex Series of events, boasting a prize fund of £5.4m, and Rahm picked up £585,000 for his victory.
Challenge Tour player Gavin Moynihan finished as the leading home player in a share of 20th place on 13 under after a closing 64.