LA JOLLA (AFP) – Jon Rahm made tension-packed long birdie putts on the last two holes Sunday to win the 121st US Open and capture his first major title, defeating South African Louis Oosthuizen by one stroke.
The 26-year-old Spaniard curled in a spectacular birdie putt from just inside 25 feet at the par-4 17th hole then made his fourth birdie of the week at the par-5 18th, blasting out of a bunker and rolling in an 18-footer to seize the lead.
“I have a hard time explaining what just happened because I can’t even believe I made the last two putts,” Rahm said.
After stunning, fist-pumping putts to reach the clubhouse, Rahm could only watch 2010 British Open champion Oosthuizen play the last four holes.
At 17, Oosthuizen sent his tee shot left into bushes and made bogey to fall two adrift and a closing birdie only made him a major runner-up for the sixth time in his career.
“I played good. Just fell a little short again,” Oosthuizen said. “Jon played a great round of golf. Errant tee shot on 17 just cost me. I fought really well to stay in it and just fell short again.”
Rahm fired a four-under par 67, the only leader to go bogey-free on the back nine, to finish 72 holes on six-under 278 with Oosthuizen on 279 and American Harris English third on 281.
“He was a major champion in waiting. It was just a matter of time,” four-time major winner Rory McIlroy said of Rahm. “To shoot 67 out there was a really good round.”
On the same course where he won his first US PGA title in 2017, Rahm became only the fourth US Open winner to close with back-to-back birdies, matching Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Ben Hogan.
“It’s incredible that I finished the way I did,” Rahm said. “Making that putt on this green when I got my first win, it’s hard to describe.”
He became the first Spaniard to win a US Open and the fourth to capture a major title after Sergio Garcia, Jose Maria Olazabal and the late Seve Ballesteros.
“This was definitely for Seve,” Rahm said. ”I know he wanted to win this one most of all.”
Rahm won on his first Father’s Day as a dad at the same course where he proposed to wife Kelley, who gave birth to their first child, Kepa, in April.
Third-ranked Rahm also became the new world number one after top-ranked Dustin Johnson shared 19th on 286. Rahm topped the rankings briefly last year after winning the Memorial, but tested positive for Covid-19 during the event two weeks ago and spent last week in quarantine.
“I’m a big believer in karma and after what happened a couple weeks ago, I stayed really positive knowing good things were coming,” Rahm said.