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Jon Rahm: Why the world's best players should come to the Irish Open

 

Just champion: Jon Rahm celebrates with girlfriend Kelley Cahill
Just champion: Jon Rahm celebrates with girlfriend Kelley Cahill
Cormac Sharvin

By Brian Keogh

The Spanish Armada might have met a gruesome fate on the west Clare coast but there was no stopping Spanish raider Jon Rahm as he sailed majestically to his second Dubai Duty Free Irish Open victory in three years at a packed Lahinch.

The strapping Basque star (24) closed with a mesmeric, eight-under-par 62 around the storied Old Course to win by two strokes on 16-under par and will now weigh anchor before setting sail for Royal Portrush in search of the ultimate booty - the Claret Jug.

If there's a player in the game who embodies the swashbuckling spirit of the late Seve Ballesteros it's Rahm, who came from five strokes behind Robert Rock with a Sunday charge for the ages - carding an eagle and eight birdies in a sparkling round that featured no fewer than 11 threes, eight of them in a tournament-winning, 11-hole spell from the seventh.

He needs just one more win here to match his idol with three victories and having insisted in his press conference he will be back to defend, whatever about the potential clash of dates with the WGC event in Memphis, his performance gave a brilliant Irish Open the final flourish it deserved.

"Do I even need to respond?" Rahm said, drawing gales of laughter, when asked if he'd defend his title after becoming the first man to win three Rolex Series events.

"I can't say again how much I like Ireland. Yeah, you'll see me here. Hopefully I get my third one and tie Seve. That's my goal from now on coming to this event, to have as many as Seve."

He will return to the world's top 10 today and while he hopes the world's stars add the Irish Open to their schedules in future, few would rival his brilliance on Irish soil where his record reads first-fourth-first.

"It would be amazing to see some of the best players in the world come over and play because they are missing some of the best golf courses I've ever played in my life," he said.

"I always say Portstewart, the front nine, is arguably the most beautiful front nine I've ever played, and I can honestly say of all the golf courses I've played in the world, this is probably one of the best."

When he followed a birdie at the second by missing a three-footer for par at the third, it appeared it wasn't his day.

But he then put on a show that the 20,477-strong crowd enjoyed by following a two at the Dell with birdies at the seventh and ninth to turn in 31.

His compatriot Rafa Cabrera Bello set the early pace by also turning in 31 but he would founder in Rahm's enormous wake, making four bogeys in a five-hole spell at the start of the back nine to fade to tied fourth alongside Rock and Eddie Pepperell after a 69.

Rahm birdied the 10th, then eagled the par-five 12th to get to within one stroke.

And while a bogey at the 13th might have sent him into a rage in previous years, he responded like a champion and followed a birdie at the 14th with another at the 15th, ignoring his caddie's advice to play left by rifling a 211-yard seven-iron from the right rough to three feet.

"He told me, 'Go left'. And I'm like, 'No. I'm going at the pin'," Rahm said. "I was just full of confidence… that was the shot of the week."

He would birdie the 17th and par the last to win by two strokes from Andy Sullivan and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger.

But while spots in The Open eluded Challenge Tour players Cormac Sharvin (below) and Robin Dawson - Wiesberger, Rock and Paul Waring took those - they took major steps forward in their careers.

"You know, it's got nothing to do with physical ability," said Padraig Harrington, who tied for 50th on one-under after a 70 as Shane Lowry took 34th after a 68 and Seamus Power came 60th after a 72.

"It's all to do with the belief whether they are good enough or not and that has to be deep down. That's not something you can tell somebody. They have to genuinely believe it deep down and weeks like this really help.

"We're definitely lacking at the moment on Tour. There's only sporadically three or four of us out there, five at most at times. We need a few young guys out there. When I started out, there were at least 14.

"It's time that we had a few of these guys come through. Cormac does look like a solid player. He's playing and doing well on the Challenge Tour and just getting his feet, and he looks like he has a bright future.

"Robin has just turned pro. He's a very good player. He has to find himself as well."

Ardglass star Sharvin (26) has confidence in spades and he closed with a rollercoaster 70 to tie for 15th on nine under, pocketing a cheque for €85,655 that will cover the cost of a full-time caddie for the remainder of his Challenge Tour season.

"I haven't had everything this week, so for me to be able to compete, not having everything, it shows that I can stay out here," Sharvin said.

"I think I belong out here, and I think anybody who watched me would say the same. Coming into this week, I knew I could compete with these guys and I tried to keep myself in that mindset and I proved that I can this week.

"It's definitely a big stepping stone for me. Obviously to compete with the best in the world is obviously going to give me confidence going forward.

"I already had huge confidence of getting my card this year. This is only going to add to that and hopefully I can kick on and get off The Challenge Tour as soon as possible and get out competing with these guys."

As for Tramore talent Dawson (23), he posted a one-over 71 to tie for 27th on six-under, picking up €58,035.

"It gives me a lot of confidence," the Portmarnock Links man said. "It shows that I can play with the top, top lads, and I'm doing the right things, so it gives me a lot of confidence going forward."

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