Spain’s Jon Rahm overcame nerves and a two-shot penalty to card a three-over 75 to claim a three-shot victory over Ryan Palmer at the Memorial Tournament on Sunday and take the top spot in the world rankings.
The big-hitting 25-year-old began the final round at a steamy and gusty Muirfield Village Golf Club with a commanding four-shot lead.
He upped his advantage to eight with nine holes to play, and needed almost all of it to collect a fourth PGA Tour win and replace Rory McIlroy as the world number one.
It was a strange and emotional scene as Rahm’s two-foot par putt dropped into the cup at the last hole. The Spaniard celebrated with a massive fist pump in fading light and near silence with no fans allowed on site due to restrictions in place due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
If spectators had been allowed, Muirfield Village would have been buzzing as Rahm battled nerves that saw an eight-shot advantage chopped to three with four to play.
Rahm’s round began to unravel with a bogey at 10 followed by a double-bogey at 11 while Palmer rolled in a birdie at 12 as a romp suddenly turned into a nail-biter.
When Rahm missed a routine three-footer to take a bogey at the 14th, the pressure continued to pile on with his lead now down to three.
But the Spaniard erased it all with a flash of brilliance at the 16th when he chipped in from 30-feet to restore a four-shot cushion with just two to play.
The suspense was far from over as Rahm later handed a two-shot penalty when his ball moved while addressing the shot.
Rahm was unaware of the penalty and, after Palmer bogeyed the 17th, walked to the 18th tee without being told his lead was four strokes, not five.
In the end it would matter little as the two-stroke penalty only changed the score not the result. Rahm posted a winning total of nine-under 279, a comfortable three clear of Palmer, who posted a final round two-over 74 for a six-under 282 total.