Rahm four shy of Smotherman after solid title defence opener in Mexico

Ronan MacNamara

Jon Rahm (Photo by Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Defending Mexico Open champion Jon Rahm was pleased with his opening four-under 67 at Vedanta Vallarta although he feels he should have been a couple lower.

Rahm trails Austin Smotherman by four shots after the American shot an eight-under 63 to lead by one from Erik Van Rooyen and Tano Goya.

Masters champion Rahm was out in the morning wave and after a sluggish front nine of two birdies and two bogeys he dusted off any cobwebs from his post Augusta celebrations last week and roared home in 31.


The four-time winner this season carded birdies on the first, second, seventh and ninth and he is lurking dangerously among the pack.

“It’s a good score, I’m happy with the score. Those first 13 holes we had virtually no wind, about as easy conditions as it can get. I wish I would have taken advantage of it more,” said Rahm. “I did make some good swings early on, I just couldn’t quite get the number and judge some lies off the fairway, but that’s just things that happen.”

The World Number One was pleased with his putting, sitting second in strokes gained and he finished his round in style, rolling in a birdie at the par-3 9th.

“It’s not the smallest target but you don’t really have margin of error. It’s into the wind, the wind was starting to pick up, so you have to hit a quality shot to put it on the green and then to make the putt,” said Rahm. “I was rolling it really well all day, so to finish it off that way, obviously it always feels like you’re stealing one from the field.”

Smotherman also finished in sumptuous fashion to grab the solo lead as he closed out with four successive birdies and a back nine of 30.

The 2018 Mexico Open champion – from its PGA Tour Latinoamerica schedule – is looking for his first official PGA Tour win but his name will forever be etched alongside the likes of Lee Trevino and Ben Crenshaw in Mexico.

“I mean, still get a little bit of some goosebumps thinking about it,” Smotherman said. “Just the reception, winning an event like that, the Mexico Open, which has such a deep history. There are names on that trophy that are in the Hall of Fame.

“A national open anywhere is very special.”

Scoring HERE

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