Published: Thu, March 30, 2017
Culture | By Julio Duncan

Jon Rahm, 22, takes one more big step with Match Play performance


Dustin Johnson finally held up his end of the bargain Sunday morning, setting up a powerful title bout in the Dell Technologies Match Play against Jon Rahm. But the very best get it done and there can be no doubt that the 32-year-old is the very best at the moment.

Three late birdies and Rahm had trimmed a once-seemingly insurmountable deficit against Johnson, golf's new Goliath, to a single hole.

"I think he's learned from what he's done in the past, and he's embracing it now and that's why he's winning tournaments", Rahm said. An example is how he played the thirteenth hole in this finals match, when he was three down to Johnson.

Johnson, who is favourite to win a second major title in the upcoming Masters, added: "This was a tough one, a tough match against Jon". "I'm proud of the way I played, the way I hung in there". Haas, seeded 42nd, shot just 1-under through the match's 17 holes and won even though Tanihara poured in a hole-in-one on the par-3 seventh and was conceded a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 12th after Haas missed a birdie opportunity. Yet what a show Rahm had given Austin Country Club. He won the HSBC Champions in Shanghai in 2013.

The sky-blue-colored Walter Hagen Cup, given to the Match Play champion, sat right in front of him. And for the longest time, it looked as though the 22-year-old Spaniard regretted it. Rahm and Haas were tied through the par-5 12th, which both players birdied, before Rahm finished off Haas with birdies on holes 13, 15 and 16. He was 4 up with six to play but wasn't unnerved when Rahm won three of the next four holes, closing out with a par on the final hole. In a shocking swing, Tanihara ran it 6 feet by and three-putted for par, and Johnson pitched to 8 feet and won the hole with a birdie. "What I saw this week, I just watched the same guy I've watched for five years now", he said. Luckily for me, he did, which he doesn't usually do, and I was able to take advantage of that.

Meanwhile, Bill Haas earned third place with a 2&1 win over Tanihara in the consolation match, although it was the Japanese player who provided the big highlight as he made a superb hole-in-one at the seventh with a flawless eight-iron from 201 yards - just the fourth ace ever seen in the event.

Dating to that U.S. Open victory, when a rules dispute kept him from knowing the score on the back nine at Oakmont, Johnson has won six times in his last 18 starts worldwide.

During Sunday afternoon's final match with Rahm, Johnson was in total control and led 5 up through eight holes. "I'm not going to win them all, but I'm certainly giving myself opportunities". It was no less important for Points, who lost his card a year ago and now has a full two-year exemption.

"I'm very pleased with my play this week", Johnson said after his win on Sunday.

Rahm, who already is No. 14 in the world in just his 15th tournament as a pro, began chipping away.

Those answers could be construed as elusive rhetoric from any other player, but in Johnson's case, it's just the plain truth. I feel like I'm driving the ball great.

The Masters is in two weeks.

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