Spain’s Jon Rahm set up a WCG Match Play final against world No 1 Dustin Johnson with a win over Bill Haas on Sunday.
Rahm and Haas both played impressive bogey-free golf through 13 holes.
The tour rookie made his fifth birdie of the day with a 6-1/2 footer at 13 and went 1 up. But he found trouble on his approach on 14, and bogey was imminent. With a chance to square the match, however, Haas hit a poor chip and could not convert his par putt from 14 feet.
Having been bailed out, Rahm won the 15th hole with a 10-foot birdie, and closed out the match with a 7-foot birdie at the 16th. Rahm, making his first Dell Match Play start and just his second WGC appearance, now becomes the first Spaniard to reach the final.
‘Towards the end, especially, I really made a couple of clutch putts,’ said Rahm.
‘I think all day both of us played great. The front nine we went a little bit back and forth. On the back nine we kept playing good. We just weren’t making the putts. I made that on 13. And then the one on 15 was just the one that put me in the perfect direction to play 16.’
Johnson was made to sweat by Japan’s Hideto Tanihara, who took the match to the 18th before Johnson got up and down to win the match 1up.
Johnson was in firm control early. After an eagle at the sixth and a birdie at the 7th, he was 3 up and seemed to be cruising into the finals.
But the underdog Tanihara was not about to go quietly. His birdie at the eighth, and a Dustin lip-out of a par putt at the 10th reduced DJ’s lead to 1 up.
A key hole was the par-5 12th. Tanihara found the green in two for a great eagle opportunity, while Dustin came up short of the green. But Dustin scrambled for birdie while Tanihara three-putted for par to lose the hole. Give credit to Tanihara — he bounced back with consecutive birdies to square the match after 14.
The match stayed that way going to 17, a hole Dustin had yet to play this week. He looked quite comfortable, though, as his tee shot left him 6.5 feet for birdie, which he converted to take the lead.
Tanihara had the advantage at the 18th green, with a birdie putt from 12.5 feet while DJ missed the green. But Tanihara missed his putt and DJ made his 8-footer for par to close it out.
Tanihara’s missed birdie on 18 will not haunt him for too long as he punched his ticket to The Masters.
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