Shades of Sergio? Jon Rahm chases 1st European Tour victory, at Irish Open

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Shades of Sergio? Jon Rahm chases 1st European Tour victory, at Irish Open

Euro Tour

Shades of Sergio? Jon Rahm chases 1st European Tour victory, at Irish Open

PORTSTEWART, Northern Ireland – There’s a strange sense of déjà vu at this week’s $7 million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Another young Spaniard stands on the threshold of his winning his first European Tour event.

Eighteen years ago, a young Spanish phenomenon named Sergio Garcia made the Irish Open his first European Tour victory with an outstanding display at Druids Glen. Jon Rahm is putting on a similar performance this week at Portstewart.

Rahm is making up for Rory McIlroy’s weekend off. While McIlroy was on the range trying to find his game, Rahm was on top of his to get to the top of the leaderboard.

The 22-year-old began the third round one stroke off the lead, but posted a 5-under 67 to jump to 17 under, where he shares the 54-hole lead alongside former UCLA player Daniel Im.

“It could be a very special day tomorrow,” Rahm said. “This tournament has a great Spanish history and it would be great to join that. To achieve a goal that wasn’t in my mind or in my plans at the beginning of the year would be absolutely special.”

Out in 1 under, the Arizona State alum reeled off four straight birdies starting with the 11th hole to tie Im.

“The putts weren’t dropping on the front nine but I just stayed patient,” Rahm said. “I just told myself just hit in on the fairway, put it on the green and at some point they’re going to go in.”

They did at Nos. 11-14. It was reminiscent of Garcia 18 years ago. The reigning Masters champion putted his way to victory in 1999, which is ironic given his problems with the short stick until this year’s Masters.

Garcia parlayed his Irish Open win into another 11 European Tour wins, and 14 PGA Tour victories including this year’s Masters. Rahm could very well eclipse that tally.

Im is looking for his first European Tour win in his second full season on the European Tour. His consolation if he doesn’t take the $1,166,660 first place check could be a spot in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. The top three players in the top 10 not otherwise exempt into Royal Birkdale receive invitations to play in the 146th running of the game’s oldest tournament. Frenchmen Benjamin Hebert and Julien Quesne are in position to take the other spots, they are third and fifth respectively.

Rahm is already exempt into Royal Birkdale. He may just arrive there as Irish Open champion.

How McIlroy must wish he had Rahm’s game right now and not his own. Maybe then he’d still be competing instead of kicking his heels trying to fill his time after missing the cut.

As tournament host, Rory will be on hand tomorrow to hand out the trophy. Don’t be surprised if he’s handing it to Rahm.

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