Jon Rahm's command of back nine at Spanish Open brings Seve to mind

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Jon Rahm's command of back nine at Spanish Open brings Seve to mind

Euro Tour

Jon Rahm's command of back nine at Spanish Open brings Seve to mind

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Jon Rahm’s final round of the $1.65 million Spanish Open should be a mere formality, a lap of honor to celebrate a successful defense of the title he basically sealed a day early.

The world No. 5 takes a five-shot lead into the final round at Club de Campo in Madrid after shooting a 63 to get to 17 under par. The rest of the field are probably playing for second place.

Fellow Spaniards Rafa Cabrera Bello and Samuel Del Val share second place on 12 under. Sweden’s Jens Dantorp is 11 under.

Rahm began the third round two shots off the lead. He was still in that position after nine holes. Then he turned into Seve Ballesteros in his prime. Actually, the late, great Ballesteros might have struggled to match Rahm’s play over the final nine holes of the third round.

The 24-year-old played the back nine in 28 blows, 7 under, thanks to five birdies and an eagle. The eagle came at the par-4 16th when Rahm holed his second shot.

“I’ve never teed up with such a lead,” Rahm said. “Every time I’ve teed off it’s been a one-shot lead or tied for the lead, so it’s going to be a little bit of a different story.

“I don’t know what the challenge is going to be. I have a real good chance to defend this title. I’m feeling good, so hopefully I can keep doing what I’ve been doing.

“It’s just one of those days where everything was going good for me on that back nine.”

It has been 24 years since Ballesteros claimed his 50th and final European Tour victory at Club de Campo. If Rahm claims his fifth European Tour win at the same course it will be special, especially since that fifth victory would come in just his 39th European tournament. Ballesteros needed 49 tournaments to reach five victories.

A Rahm win will propel him to the top of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. Even if he slips up, he can still go to the top of the European pecking order with a fourth-place finish. Not many would bet against the powerful Spaniard finishing the season as European No. 1.

Ballesteros won the European Tour order of merit for the first time in 1976 when he was just 19. He went on to win it another five times. Whether Rahm can match or surpass that feat remains to be seen, but he’s the odds-on favorite to better Seve’s three Spanish Open wins. After all, Rahm’s second national title is practically already in his back pocket.

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