Dubai Duty Free Irish Open: John Rahm overturns five-shot deficit to win competition for second time

Jon Rahm with his second Irish Open title
Jon Rahm with his second Irish Open title

A review of the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, as John Rahm claimed his second title in stunning fashion.

Leaderboard after round three

-16 Rahm

-14 Sullivan, Wiesberger,

-13 Rock, Cabrera-Bello, Pepperell

-12 Campillo, Waring


Day four report

Celebrations for Jon Rahm
Celebrations for Jon Rahm

Spain's Jon Rahm overturned a five-shot deficit with a brilliant final round of 62 to claim his second Dubai Duty Free Irish Open title in three years.

Rahm fired an eagle, eight birdies and two bogeys at Lahinch to finish 16 under par, two shots clear of England's Andy Sullivan and Bernd Wiesberger, the Austrian having the consolation of qualifying for the upcoming Open Championship.

Overnight leader Robert Rock also secured a place in the year's final major with a tie for fourth with fellow Englishman Eddie Pepperell and Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello.

Paul Waring secured the final berth at Royal Portrush thanks to a birdie on the last in a closing 66.

Cabrera Bello had surged into a three-shot lead with three birdies in the first five holes, but started the back nine with four bogeys in six holes as Rahm piled on the pressure.

After covering the front nine in 31, Rahm birdied the 10th and holed from 25 feet for an eagle on the 12th before recovering from a bogey on the next with birdies on the 14th, 15th and 17th.

"I keep saying I love this tournament, I love the country, I love the people," said Rahm, who played the last 36 holes in 14 under after a 64 on Saturday. "I feel like I'm at home every time I come here.

"I knew I had to do something amazing today to have a chance and that eagle on 12 got me going.

"My target was 15 under and I never thought I'd get to 16 under without a birdie on the last but I'm definitely thrilled with the back nine.

"I think Seve (Ballesteros) is the only Spanish player to have won this event twice so it's very special to add my name to the trophy again."

Day Three report

Robert Rock - stunning round at Irish Open
Robert Rock - stunning round at Irish Open

Robert Rock is in pole position to claim a second winner's cheque at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open despite never having won the tournament before.

Rock narrowly missed from 30 feet for eagle on the par-five 18th for what would have been the second 59 in European Tour history.

But he tapped in for his sixth birdie in succession at Lahinch on Saturday to complete a brilliant course record of 60, eclipsing the 63 established by Padraig Harrington on Thursday.

At 13 under par, Rock enjoys a one-shot lead over fellow Englishman Eddie Pepperell and Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello, with overnight leader Zander Lombard another stroke back after recovering from four-putting the fourth to card a 68.

Rock, who took home the first prize of 500,000 euros after losing a play-off to Shane Lowry at Baltray in 2009 because Lowry was still an amateur, said: "It was a fun day.

"The finish was a bit much really, I holed a really long putt on 17 and it was only when I was walking to the second shot on 18 and checked the par (of the course) that I realised it was an eagle for 59.

"My caddie was well aware. He wasn't going to tell me but I beat him to it. Thankfully I hit a good shot and gave myself a chance for it. It was a 25-foot putt, which I actually thought I was probably going to get the way I had been putting, and maybe that's where I went wrong.

"It's disappointing not to make it but 60 is a great score and I've played rubbish so far this season so it's nice to play better. It's a good opportunity to get my season back on track, qualify for the Open and maybe win a tournament again which would be lovely, because it's been a long while."

Rock's last European Tour title came in 2012, when he held off final-day challenges from the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

The 42-year-old combines playing with coaching and counts Race to Dubai leader Matt Wallace among his clients.

"I think it's made me realise what type of golfer I am," Rock added. "Maybe I'm not as good as Matt Wallace right, that's pretty obvious, but I've learnt some things from him as to how he's a really tough competitor and he's desperate to win things, which is amazing.

"But it's made me think a lot more about my golf in general and different styles of play, and it keeps me thinking."

Pepperell got off to a slow start but played his last seven holes in four under to remain in contention for a third European Tour title.

"I was quite angry," Pepperell said. "It was a tough day because I had to be really patient and today was the best day I've swung the club this week. It was quite frustrating actually the first 11 holes.

"It seemed like every good iron shot I hit went long and every putt I hit went short. One of those days to begin with, but came to me in the end, which is nice and I feel good.

"I don't see why I can't go out there and shoot six under or something tomorrow and make me hard to beat."

Lombard was understandably pleased with his response to the double bogey on the fourth and also dropping a shot on the eighth as the South African played his last 10 holes in five under.

"I lipped out on one and three from long range and then had a silly little four-putt, a brain f***, actually. Don't know actually what I was thinking about," Lombard said.

"But I didn't let it get to me and said to my caddie I'm just going to stay patient, made birdie on nine and 10 and got the momentum going on the right side again."

Day two report

Eddie Pepperell will be disappointed not to claim the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open title to add to a case of wine he won this week, despite only just returning from injury.

A back problem had sidelined Pepperell since mid-May and forced him to miss the US Open at Pebble Beach but he showed no signs of rust in adding a 67 to his opening 65 to trail halfway leader Zander Lombard by a shot at Lahinch.

Before the serious action got underway, Pepperell took on New Zealand's Ryan Fox in a 14-club challenge on the par-three eighth at Lahinch and emerged victorious with some brilliant shot-making to win the wager which had been agreed beforehand.

"I've surprised myself, I guess, to be in this position," said Pepperell, who won the Qatar Masters and British Masters last season, and was third in the Players Championship in March.

"I don't feel like I've played great but I've certainly been quite steady and my short game has been great.

"I would be quite honestly disappointed if I didn't win, or certainly come close to winning, being in this position with my recent record in terms of my form over the last 12 to 18 months.

"I certainly feel very calm leading and if I don't get in my own way over the weekend, I don't see why I can't win this tournament, and I'm not afraid of winning it, so that's a nice feeling.

"I think in the past I would certainly have been a lot more nervy in this position but I feel relatively calm, to be honest, so I'm looking forward to a good weekend ahead around a great course."

Lombard, who was joint sixth at halfway in last year's Open but finished 67th after a closing 82 at Carnoustie, declared himself "ecstatic" to find himself in the lead after six straight missed cuts.

"I went through a bit of a bad spell, missing a few cuts by one, and it's really just been hard graft the last three months, sticking to the process with my team," the 24-year-old South African said.

"It just came together at the right time I suppose, and I'm happy with the results so far. I'm so comfortable on links golf. It's never just a normal shot. It's always a little three-quarter, a little punch, judging the wind right.

"I've had great success on links golf in my amateur career and hopefully I can take it into the weekend."

England's Lee Westwood, Mexico's Abraham Ancer and Spain's Jorge Campillo are two shots off the lead, with defending champion Russell Knox another two strokes adrift thanks to an eagle on the 18th in a battling 68, with the Scot recovering from playing the first six holes in three over.

Overnight leader Padraig Harrington slipped five shots off the lead after struggling to a 73, while Graeme McDowell missed the cut after a second successive 72.

"You have to stick in there, and I was a little better on the back nine, so hopefully I have not done too much damage," three-time major winner and 2020 Ryder Cup captain Harrington said.

"Four under par is still in it. I'm under pressure now over the weekend. That's the problem."

Former champion Shane Lowry, who won the title in 2009 while still an amateur, and 2017 winner Jon Rahm are both two under after rounds of 72 and 71 respectively.

Day one report

Making his 24th consecutive appearance in the event, Harrington recorded eight birdies and a solitary bogey to establish a new course record of 63 and enjoy a two-shot lead at the top of a crowded leaderboard.

Eddie Pepperell marked his return from a seven-week injury-lay-off with a 65 to share second place with compatriot Lee Slattery, Thorbjorn Olesen, Wade Ormsby, Mike Lorenzo-Vera and Hyowon Park, with Lee Westwood, Shane Lowry, Martin Kaymer and Ian Poulter part of a large group on four under.

A broken wrist at the end of last year kept Harrington out of action until March and the three-time major champion started the week ranked 291st in the world after missing the cut in three of his last four events.

"Every week feels like my first week out, trying to find my game, but links golf suits me because you can really work your way around," said the 47-year-old Ryder Cup captain, who shot rounds of 68-78 last year at Ballyliffin to miss the cut.

"I had neutral expectations. I just wanted to take stock of my game and did not expect a 63 but it was a bit of a stroll in the park. I've worked a lot harder to shoot 73, that's for sure.

"It was buzzing out there and it would only be bettered if I did it on Sunday, but if you don't do something on Thursday you won't be around for Sunday anyway. All this does is create a number of scenarios where I can go on and win this tournament."

Lorenzo-Vera had earlier shrugged off the embarrassment of suffering a dreaded shank to post a five-under-par 65 as he chases a first European Tour title in the £5.5million event.

"I am a little bit ashamed of this one but I shanked one on 11, the par 3, like proper shank into huge rough," Lorenzo-Vera admitted. "I didn't shank a golf shot for five or six years in a tournament, so that was a bit strange.

"After those kinds of shots you laugh, and I was just trying to make a good bogey there, hit it to around 15 metres and got the bonus to hole the putt.

"I just went to the next tee with a big smile and bombed one down the middle and birdied the next two holes, so that was a big turning point."

Slattery has missed the cut in 10 of his 13 European Tour events this season, including the last six in succession.

But he raced to the turn in 30 thanks to four birdies in a row from the sixth, and then bounced back from a bogey on the 10th with further gains on the 13th and 16th.

"I'm in a good position in the sense that I've not played particularly great so far this year, and I've also not played as many tournaments as I would usually," Slattery said.

"I've not played much golf because I've not played the weekend that much so I feel fairly fresh.

"But I've just been very unfortunate, missing a lot of cuts by a shot. There has to be a time in the season where you turn it around, especially as hard as I work."

Scotland's Russell Knox is four shots off the lead after beginning the defence of his title with a 67, which was matched by playing partner Tommy Fleetwood and 2017 champion Jon Rahm, but Graeme McDowell struggled to a 72.

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