Strong final day carries Rahm and Palmer to Zurich Classic of New Orleans title
WESTWEGO – Just like the weather at the Zurich Classic, Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer looked a lot better Sunday than they did earlier in the tournament.
Rain wreaked havoc on the tournament’s first day Thursday and when Rahm and Palmer finally finished their first round the next day, they were tied for 17th at 8 under par.
They scrambled into contention as the weather improved Friday and were tied for the lead after Saturday’s third round. Then on a glorious final day Sunday, they took sole possession of the lead for good on the first hole of the TPC Louisiana course on their way to a three-shot victory over Sergio Garcia and Tommy Fleetwood.
“What an awesome week,” Palmer said after his fourth career PGA Tour victory.
Rahm/Palmer, who began the day tied with Scott Stallings and Trey Mullinax, finished at 26-under par 262 after shooting a 3-under-par 69 in their first-time participation as teammates in the event.
“Our games complement each other so much,” Palmer said, “the way we drive the ball, our iron play, and there’s nothing better than missing greens knowing his short game is behind me.”
Rahm, No. 11 in the World Golf Ranking, and Palmer, ranked No. 70, each received $1,051,200 from the total prize money of $7.3 million. Rahm’s eighth top 10 finish of the season broke a tie with Rory McIllroy for the most on Tour as he got his first win of the season and third of his career.
The teams of KH Lee/Matt Every and Brian Gay/Rory Sabbatini finished tied for third at 21 under and four teams tied for fourth at 20-under – Seamus Power/David Hearn, Roberto Castro/Cameron Tringale, Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown and Hank Lebioda/Curtis Luck. Stallings/Mullinax tied for 13th after shooting a final-round 77 to finish at 18 under.
Rahm/Palmer started the day with a par and it proved to be significant as it gave them a lead they would never relinquish after Stallings/Mullinax bogeyed the same hole. A birdie by Rahm/Palmer on the second hole gave them a two-shot lead.
After three consecutive pars, Rahm/Palmer got their first bogey of the day at No. 6, but still led by two strokes over Garcia/Fleetwood and Stallings/Mullinax.
Garcia/Fleetwood birdied No. 7 to get within one shot, then bogeyed nine and birdied 11 to again get within a shot. Stallings/Millinax joined them at 22-under when they birdied No. 7.
A bogey at No. 13 dropped Gracia/Fleetwood out of the second-place tie moments before Rahm/Palmer moved to 24-under and a two-shot lead with a birdie at No. 10.
The lead grew to three strokes when Stallings/Mullinax bogeyed No. 11, dropping into a second-place tie with Garcia/Fleetwood and Gay/Sabbatini.
Garcia/Fleetwood took sole possession of second place with a birdie on No. 17, but moments later Rahm/Palmer birdied No. 13, then birdied 14 to take a four-shot lead.
“He started off playing great,” Rahm said of Palmer. “I kind of struggled and then I came through in the middle and then he finished it up.”
Garcia and Fleetwood said their target score beginning the day was 24-under, which would have required a 5-under 67. They missed by just a shot, but even that wouldn’t have been enough to catch Rahm and Palmer.
“We could have easily shot it, but it would have been short anyway.” Fleetwood said, “(The conditions) didn’t really lend itself to great scoring in the end.”
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Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. His blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. You can follow…