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Ulster Delight

by Mike Cullity

With a Sunday smackdown on the links of Portstewart in Northern Ireland, Jon Rahm proved he is a bona fide sensation.

The 22-year-old Spaniard, who turned pro last summer after reigning as the world’s top amateur for an extended spell, was projected to crack the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking this morning after his stunning Dubai Duty Free Irish Open victory. Tied for the lead entering the final round, Rahm holed out from 150 yards for an eagle, drained a long putt for another and despite bogeying two of his last three holes posted a jaw-dropping 65 that left the field in his distant wake.

The young man who struggled with his temper at the U.S. Open last month – he apologized in Ireland for his Erin Hills petulance – kept his cool in the face of a potential rules infraction during the final round at Portstewart involving what appeared to be his improper replacement of a marked ball. Thanks to the “reasonable judgment” standard the USGA and R&A implemented following Lexi Thompson’s travails at this year’s ANA Inspiration, officials did not penalize Rahm.

Less than six months after his maiden PGA Tour triumph at Torrey Pines, Rahm clearly has the world No. 1 ranking in his sights. Claret Jug beware.

In West Virginia, 23-year-old Xander Schauffele won the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic, which returned after a year’s hiatus following the state’s tragic 2016 floods. Australian veteran Katherine Kirk captured the LPGA’s Thornberry Creek Classic in Wisconsin, while 14-year-old Atthaya Thitikul shocked her elders by winning a Ladies European Tour event in her native Thailand, making her the youngest player to win on a major professional tour.

 

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