Jon Rahm Outlasts Competition to Win Mexico Open

Jon Rahm has returned to the winner circle…

After a stressful final two hours of competition, the 27-year-old Spanish professional golfer held on to win the Mexico Open and claim his first victory since the U.S. Open last summer.

Jon RahmRahm rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-5 14th hole to pull out of a four-way tie for the lead, and he had to make two tough pars and a finish more nervy than he expected.

The relief and satisfaction was evident when he tapped in for par on the final hole at Vidanta Vallarta for a one-shot victory. He pumped his arm and then pounded his fist downward, and at one point he looked skyward and exhaled.

“Today was a battle,” Rahm said. “But I got it done.”

Tony Finau and Brandon Wu each closed with a 63, while Kurt Kitayama birdied the final hole from a back bunker for a 68. They tied for second.

Rahm had a couple of close calls in Mexico City when it was a World Golf Championship at Chapultepec. Now the Mexico Open, which has a history dating to 1944, is a regular PGA Tour event for the first time. And it got a popular winner.

Against one of the weaker fields of the year — Rahm at No. 2 was the only player from the top 15 in the world — the Spanish golfer was a heavy favorite and played that way from his opening 64.

“I like to think every time I tee it up I’m a favorite. I play to win,” Rahm said. “Fortunately, I got my seventh PGA Tour win. It was a pretty stressful weekend, all the way to the end.”

Staked to a two-shot lead going into the final round, he never trailed. But it was never easy.

Rahm had a one-shot lead after his lone bogey of the round on the tough par-4 10th.

Well ahead of him, Wu holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole to join him at 16 under. Kitayama, playing in the final group with Rahm, got up and down from right of the green on the par-5 12th to tie. And then Finau went birdie-eagle-birdie to get in the mix and capped off his 63 with a birdie to make it a four-way tie.

“I really wanted to put together a nice week and I was able to do that this week and gave myself a chance to do something special right at the end,” Finau. “Making a 3 on 18 probably would have been a big deal, but making that putt for birdie, a lot of confidence builders on a day like today, and I’ll carry that with me the rest of the season.”

Rahm never lost his patience. His chip left of the green on the par-5 14th raced 12 feet by the hole, but he hit his best putt of the round and made it for birdie for a one-shot lead.

His wedge to the 15th came up short, and his chip ran 5 by the hole. He made that to stay in front and then had to two-putt from 50 feet on the 16th for his par. Rahm missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th that would have given him room for error.

Still, the closing par 5 at Vidanta Vallarta is easily reachable, and Rahm birdied it the three previous times. This time, his fade stayed straight and instead of dropping into the bunker, it nestled in deep rough on a steep slope just above the sand. He did well to punch that out just over a waste area and into the fairway.

His approach to a back pin just trickled off the green, and he navigated the slick putt perfectly to a few inches. Instead of waiting for Kitayama and Cameron Champ to finish, Rahm quickly stepped in and closed the deal.

“I didn’t think a par 5 that requires a fade that I’d be stressing this much,” Rahm said. “It wasn’t my best putting weekend, but I stayed aggressive. I was confident in what I was doing. I have faith in every part of my game, and it showed.”

Champ, who like Kitayama started the final round two shots behind, took himself out of the mix with a triple bogey on the par-4 eighth hole. He never recovered, shot 70 and finished three shots behind in a tie for sixth.

Rahm has 14 victories worldwide. He had gone 17 starts without winning, matching the longest such streak in his career. The victory moves him a little closer to Scottie Scheffler in his bid to reclaim the No. 1 ranking, and he’ll have another opportunity at the PGA Championship in three weeks.

Rahm has at least one victory in six full years as a pro.

Producers Guild to Honor Rita Moreno with Stanley Kramer Award

Rita Moreno is earning yet another honor…

The Producers Guild will present the 90-year-old Puerto Rican actress, singer and dancer with the 2022 Stanley Kramer Award at the 33rd annual PGA Awards, set for March 19 at the Fairmont Century Plaza.

Rita MorenoThe honor goes to a production, producer or other individuals “whose achievement or contribution illuminates and raises public awareness of important social issues.”

Moreno, an EGOT winner, will join previous recipients including Jane Fonda as well as Get Out, Loving, Fruitvale Station, The Normal Heart, Bombshell, The Hunting Ground, An Inconvenient Truth and Hotel Rwanda.

Kramer’s work included such iconic films as Inherit the Wind, On the Beach, The Defiant Ones and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

“With grace, intelligence, charisma, and kindness, Rita Moreno made her mark in history as a brilliant entertainer and leveraged that star power to shepherd stories that tap into the human experience and represent people and communities we rarely see celebrated in film and TV,” PGA presidents Gail Berman and Lucy Fisher said Wednesday. “Beyond her on-screen contributions, she has used her unmistakable voice to hold a mirror to the prejudices and inequities that she so often experienced throughout her career. Her activism, strength, and artistic contributions set the precedent for how to be a changemaker in Hollywood, and it is our great honor to present Rita with the Stanley Kramer Award this year.”

Moreno most recently appeared and executive produced Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story after winning an Oscar for the original film, the latest in a seven-decade career that began with her Broadway debut at 13. She has appeared in more than 40 feature films and countless TV series including most recently Norman Lear’s remake of One Day at a Time. Her documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It had its world debut at Sundance Film Festival last year.

Moreno previously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush, the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama, the SAG Life Achievement Award, the Peabody Career Achievement Award and a Kennedy Center Honor.

“The last thing I ever dreamed of in my young life was being honored in any circumstance,” Moreno said. “That the Producers Guild of America has chosen to honor me not only for my work but for the principles I have tried to uphold and live by throughout my life is so gratifying. I am thrilled.”

Jon Rahm Wins PGA of America’s Points-Based Player of the Year Award

Jon Rahm is celebrating a points-tastic honor…

 The 26-year-old Spanish professional golfer has won the points-based player of the year award from the PGA of America, and it was a birdie putt on the 18th hole at the Tour Championship in East Lake that made all the difference.

Jon Rahm

Rahm finished with 75 points, with Bryson DeChambeau coming in second at 70 points.

Rahm received 30 points for his U.S. Open title this summer, along with 20 points for leading the PGA Tour money list and 20 points for winning the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average.

And although Rahm was runner-up to Patrick Cantlay in the Tour Championship, the PGA of America recognizes the actual score at East Lake. Cantlay started with a 2-shot lead at 10 under par because he was the No. 1 seed. Rahm started 4 shots behind as the No. 4 seed.

For the week, Rahm and Kevin Na finished at 14-under 266. That means they split the 10 points awarded for a regular PGA Tour win.

DeChambeau had 30 points for his U.S. Open win last September, 10 points for winning at Bay Hill, 14 points for being fourth in scoring average and 16 points for being third on the money list.

On the par-5 18th at the Tour Championship, Rahm hit a 5-iron that just ran through the back of the green. He needed to chip in to have any chance of forcing a playoff against Cantlay, who hit 6-iron to 12 feet. Rahm’s chip narrowly missed, leaving a short birdie putt.

That allowed him to tie Na at 14 under, giving him the five points that put him atop the points standing for the PGA of America award.

The PGA Tour award for player of the year is a vote of the membership. The ballot went out Tuesday and included Rahm, Cantlay, DeChambeau, Collin Morikawa and Harris English.

Justin Thomas won the PGA of America award last year, while Dustin Johnson was voted PGA Tour player of the year.

Rahm’s adjusted scoring average was 69.3. Johnson was second at 69.62.

Abraham Ancer Claims First-Ever PGA Tour Title at FedEx St. Jude Invitational

It’s a special first for Abraham Ancer

The 30-year-old Mexican American professional golfer has claimed the first PGA Tour victory of his career at the FedEx St. Jude Invitational.

Abraham Ancer

Ancer outlasted third-round leader Harris English, who was at 20 under midway through the final round. Ancer, playing the 10th hole, was 5 strokes behind at TOC Southwind.

“I said to [my caddie]: ‘Harris is running away with it, I’ve got to make some birdies, I’ve got to make a move,'” Ancer said.

Ancer didn’t run off a string of birdies, but he played steady, bogey-free golf and won his first title — in his 121st start — beating Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and Sam Burns with a 6-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a playoff.

Abraham Ancer

“It was a dream come true to win on the PGA Tour,” Ancer said.

Ancer won the World Golf Championships event after Burns’ 5½-foot putt — on the same line as Ancer — lipped out.

“This is surreal,” said Ancer, the former University of Oklahoma player who was born in McAllen, Texas. “I felt I left so many shots out there on the back nine, but you never know.”

Ancer, who finished second at the Wells Fargo Championship in May, played more aggressively on the second extra trip down the par-4 18th.

“I went right at it and the shot played perfectly in my mind and it came out just how I pictured it,” he said.

English, the leader after each of the first three rounds, faltered on the back nine to give Ancer, Burns and Matsuyama a chance.

English made a double-bogey 5 at No.11 after hitting his tee shot in the water.

“I played good on the front nine and just kind of hit a road bump on 11,” he said. “I got the wind [reading] wrong and it kind of went downhill from there.”

Ancer closed with a 2-under 68 to match Matsuyama and Burns at 16-under 264. Matsuyama shot a 63, and Burns had a 64. English, the 2013 champion at TPC Southwind, was a stroke back after a 73.

On the first extra hole, Ancer, Burns and Matsuyama, coming off a bronze-medal playoff loss at the 2020 Tokyo Games, made decent runs at birdies. Matsuyama had the shortest attempt — from 20 feet — and it nearly went in the cup before lipping out.

“It’s tough to lose in a playoff,” Matsuyama said. “but I wasn’t able to hit the fairway with either tee shot [in the playoff]. I did my best.

English was seeking the fifth title of his career — and third this season — but collapsed on the back nine. Ahead by 2 strokes at 20 under at the turn, he played the back nine in 5 over. He missed a 13-foot birdie putt on 18.

Ancer made only one birdie on the back nine.

“It was definitely a surprise to win,” Ancer said. “I couldn’t believe I was tied for the lead on [No. 16]. I thought I was 4 behind. But you never know in golf.”

Sergio Garcia Wins Sanderson Farms Championship, Ending Yearlong PGA Tour Title Drought

Sergio Garcia is flying high like a bird(ie)

The 40-year-old Spanish professional golfer, who’d gone a little more than a year without a victory, has won the Sanderson Farms Championship with an 8-iron to 30 inches for birdie on the final hole.

Sergio Garcia

“The perfect ending for an amazing week,” Garcia said.

Garcia, who’d failed to make the FedEx Cup playoffs and fell out of the top 50 in the world for the first time since 2011, hit a 5-wood that barely cleared a bunker and set up an eagle putt from just inside 4 feet to tie for the lead, before hitting the birdie for the win.

Peter Malnati, whose lone PGA Tour victory was at the Country Club of Jackson five years ago, rallied from five shots behind with a career-best 63, punctuated by a 30-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole.

That set the target, and Garcia needed his two big shots to catch and then beat him. The 5-wood from 260 yards on the 14th hole hit the top collar of the bunker, hopped onto the fringe and rolled out close to the hole.

But it was the 482-yard closing hole into the wind that made him proud.

“I stood up on 18 and I did what I’ve been doing all week. I trusted myself,” Garcia said. “I aimed down the right side of the fairway and just hit a hard draw — really, really nice drive — and it gave me the ability to have an 8-iron into the green instead of having a 6 or something like that.”

It was his first PGA Tour victory since he won the Masters in 2017 with a back-nine rally highlighted by an 8-iron that glanced off the pin on the 15th and set up eagle. He eventually beat Justin Rose in a playoff.

“This time it was an 8-iron on 18, and to almost hit the pain again and hit it close, it was a dream come true,” he said.

Garcia now has won at least once worldwide in each of his last 10 years, a streak he shares with Rose. He won for the 11th time on the PGA Tour, and the 31st time worldwide.

He finished at 19-under 269 and moves to No. 38 in the world.

Garcia heads for Las Vegas, with the Masters just over a month away.

“A boost of confidence, there’s no doubt,” Garcia said. “Every time you play well, even if I would have not won it, it still would have been a massive high for me this week. To be able to do a lot of the things that I did, it meant a lot. It showed me a lot of what I still have and what I still can do.”

Carlota Ciganda Wins $1 Million Aon Risk Reward Challenge Prize

Carlota Cigandais the $1 million dollar woman…

The 29-year-old Spanish LPGA golfer has won the inaugural Aon Risk Reward Challenge and the $1 million prize.

Carlota Ciganda

The goal of the season-long competition was to illustrate how the world’s best golfers are among the world’s best strategic decision makers. The competition measured the performance of LPGA Tourand PGA Tourgolfers on a series of challenging holes across various tournaments. Players took their best two scores from each hole, with the winners having the best average score to par at the end of the regular season.

Ciganda was 37 under par for 44 challenge holes played, giving her a winning score of -0.841. Ariya Jutanugarn(-0.833) was second, followed by Lee-Anne Pace(-0.731), Brooke Henderson(-0.720) and In-Kyung Kim(-0.714).

For Ciganda, an eight-year player on the LPGA Tour, the end of the season provided her with the most crucial risk-reward situations. Although she was a leading contender from the start of the competition, it wasn’t until the end of the season, at the Buick LPGA Shanghai and the BMW Ladies Championship, where she stretched her lead with eagle-birdie scores on challenge holes.

“I played very consistent the whole year. I love being aggressive. I love taking the risk. I love that,” Ciganda said at the CME Group Tour Championship, the final tournament of the season. “That’s golf for me. That’s par-5 going on two, going for the green. That’s what I love the most.”

In August, PGA golfer Brooks Koepka won the inaugural trophy and the $1 million prize. Both Koepka and Ciganda were awarded equal payments for their accomplishments in the challenge, a rarity between the PGA and LPGA Tours, which differ greatly in prize money.

“It’s an unbelievable prize,” Ciganda said. “It’s really amazing finally to get recognized with the same amount of money. I’m the winner, but women’s golf is the winner today. The LPGA is the winner. We’re all winners.”

In 2019, LPGA players competed for a record $70.2 million in total prize money, up $7.2 million from 2016. This week, at the CME Group Tour Championship, the entire field will compete for the $5 million purse. And, the $1.5 million winner’s check will be the largest single prize in the history of women’s golf. (For context, Brooks Koepka won nearly $2 million after clinching the 2019 PGA Championshipat Bethpage Black. The total purse was $11 million.)

“We couldn’t be more proud of this outcome, and maybe most proud of the equal prize money across the LPGA and PGA Tour,” Andy WeitzAonChief Marketing Officer, said. “It’s really great to see the level of consistency and high performance across both tours, and to see these players come out ahead at the end was incredibly exciting.”

Ciganda will compete at the final LPGA tournament of the 2019 season, the CME Group Tour Championship. Ciganda is currently ranked No. 14 in Women’s World Golf Rolex Rankings.

Jon Rahm Wins Spanish Open for Second Year in a Row

Jon Rahm is making Spanish golf history…

The 24-year-old Spanish professional golfer won the Spanish Open for a second consecutive year on Sunday, beating Seve Ballesteros‘ record for the fastest Spaniard to reach five European Tour wins.

Jon Rahm

Golfing great Ballesteros needed 49 events to get five wins on the tour. Rahm did so in 39 tournaments after shooting a five-under 66 on the final round to finish 22 under and win by five strokes.

“In front of a home crowd, it’s always really hard for me to keep everything under control and to play the weekend that I did for them,” Rahm said.

“I can’t wait to come back next year and hopefully do it three times. It was unlike anything else. Spanish crowds love golf, they love us coming back. It’s hard to believe how many people come out here.”

Rafa Cabrera Bello (66) was second, followed by another Spaniard, Samuel del Val (68), who was seven strokes back at the Club de Campo Villa.

Starting with a commanding five-shot lead, Rahm had an eagle and four birdies to go with one bogey on the final day.

Rahm shot an eight-under 63 on Saturday to match the course record.

Sebastian Munoz Wins First PGA Tour Title at the Sanderson Farms Championship

It’s a hard-earned first for Sebastian Munoz…

The 26-year-old Colombian professional golfer made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff, and then beat Sungjae Im with a par on the first extra hole to win the Sanderson Farms Championship for his first PGA Tour victory.

Sebastian Munoz

Munoz, who closed with a 2-under 70, made it two straight weeks for South American winners, following Joaquin Niemann‘s victory last week at the Greenbrier.

“Jaco’s win gave me the belief I needed, the little extra belief I’m good enough, I’m here,” Munoz said.

Niemann won by 6 shots at the Greenbrier. Munoz had it far more difficult.

He was among four players in the mix over the back nine at the Country Club of Jackson, and it looked as though Im would snatch his first victory when he made a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-5 14th, got up and down from a bunker on the reachable 15th for birdie, and made it three straight birdies with a 12-foot putt on 16.

He closed with a 66, and that looked like it might be enough.

Byeong Hun An made consecutive bogeys to fall out of the mix. Carlos Ortiz couldn’t get a putt to fall.

Munoz lost two good scoring opportunities by hitting his drive well right of the fairway on the 14th, and then flubbing a lob shot left of the 15th green that went into the bunker, leading to bogey. Down to his last hole, he played it to perfection with a big drive, an approach to 15 feet below the hole and the most important putt of his young career.

The Bogota native, who played his college golf at the University of North Texas, poured in the birdie putt to join Im at 18-under 270.

“We just decided on a line, kept it as simple as can and just strike the putt,” Munoz said.

The playoff on the 18th hole wasn’t as clean.

Im went left into the Bermuda rough and caught a flier, sending the ball well over the green against the grandstand. Munoz was in the right rough and, expecting the ball to come out hot, he abbreviated his swing and it came out some 30 yards short. His chip-and-run rolled out to just under 4 feet. Im did well to pitch out of rough to just over 6 feet by the hole, but his par putt didn’t even touch the cup and he started walking soon after he hit it.

Munoz rolled in the par putt and the celebration was on.

“I’m speechless,” he said.

This is the first time since the tournament began in 1986 that it was not held the same week as another PGA Tour event with a stronger field. That means it gets full FedEx Cup points, and Munoz earned a spot in the Masters for the first time.

The playoff ended a streak of 38 consecutive PGA Tour events that were decided in regulation, dating to Charles Howell III winning in a playoff at Sea Island at the end of last year.

Tony Romo Leads After First-Round at the American Century Championship

Tony Romo is one step closer to defending his turf…

The 39-year-old Mexican American former Dallas Cowboys quarterback-turned-NFL analyst birdied six of his final 11 holes to take the first-round lead Friday in the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

Tony Romo

Romo, the defending champion, shot a 2-under 70 and scored 26 points in the celebrity tournament that uses the modified Stablefordscoring system.

Arizona Cardinalscornerback Patrick Peterson was two points back, and former Major League Baseball pitcher Derek Lowe was another point behind. Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltzwas fourth at 22, and actor Jack Wagner, a two-time winner in the event, had 21.

Romo, who has competed in two PGA Tour events this year, played the back nine in 5-under 31 after getting off to a slow start with two bogeys and a double-bogey on his first five holes.

“I think I had two points after five holes,” Romo said. “So from that point on, I got pretty hot.”

Charles Barkley, the former NBA star who has regularly finished last or second to last, birdied the second hole.

“Did he hit somebody and they threw it in the hole?” Romo joked.

Barkley was at minus-12 points, but he was ahead of 14 players in the 90-player field.

Jon Rahm Wins Hero World Challenge Title

Jon Rahm is Hero

The 24-year-old Spanish professional golferturned a potential shootout into a Bahamas breeze Sunday, closing with a 7-under 65 for a four-shot victory in the Hero World Challenge.

Jon Rahm

Starting the final round in a three-way tie with Tony Finau and Henrik StensonRahm took the lead when Finau made bogey on the par-3 eighth hole, and the Spaniard never trailed the rest of the day at Albany Golf Club.

Finau was the last challenger until the 14th hole, when he went from a sandy area to a bunker and over the green, leading to double bogey. Rahm made birdie on the hole, and suddenly had a five-shot lead without much trouble to get in the way.

Rahm ends his year with three victories, just like in 2017, his first full year as a pro.

Even with his individual trophies, no moment for Rahm will top facing Tiger Woods in the Sunday singles at the Ryder Cup and beating him on the 17th hole, putting the first point on the board for Europe that day. And then Rahm ended his year with Woods handing him the trophy from his holiday event.

“That Sunday with Tiger is still the most emotionally, most important moment of my golf career,” Rahm said. “It means so much to play against Tiger. A couple months later, to win his event, it’s really special.”

Rahm  previously won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour and the Spanish Open on the European Tour.