Rahm finishes with a birdie to take a 2-stroke lead at Mexico Open

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PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico (AP) — Jon Rahm birdied the final two par 5s and got help from some poor Cameron Champ chips to take a two-shot lead in the final round of the Mexican Open .

Rahm, whose last win was the US Open at Torrey Pines last summer, raised his fist on Saturday when he landed a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18 for a 3-under 68 .

He liked the way he played from tee to green. Rahm said he was hoping he could see a few more putts go down.

“The one on 18 was the first outside 10-footer I’ve seen roll,” Rahm said. “If I can continue like this and make putts like I did the first two days, I think tomorrow I’ll give myself a really good chance.”

About an hour before that key birdie on the 18th, Rahm was two shots down and trying to keep up with Champ, one of the longest hitters in the game whose penetrating ball flight was ideal for the windy conditions at Vidanta Vallarta.

Champ went to the back of the green on the 15th and crushed a chip that didn’t reach the green, leading to a bogey. He went just over the next hole, and this time he cut it too hard and watched it roll about 10 feet through the hole, leading to another bogey.

Just to the right of the 18th in two, Champ’s chip came in about 15 feet and he had to settle for a par and a 67.

Kurt Kitayama was tied with Champ after a 66 that also featured late struggles. He was tied for the lead when he blocked his tee shot on the par-3 17th so far right that it crossed a cart path on dirt ground under trees. He did well to bogey.

Then the former UNLV player with two European Tour wins had 109 yards on the par-5 18 and missed 25 feet, having to settle for a par.

Rahm was 13-under 200, two ahead of Champ and Kitayama. Another shot behind was Nate Lashley (64), Davis Riley (67) and Patrick Rodgers (66).

Rahm had two eagle chances on the par-5 sixth (20 feet) and the accessible par-4 seventh (15 feet) and settled for birdies. He drove into the water on the tough 10 and bogeyed, and Champ took the lead with a birdie on the par-5 12, then briefly extended his lead to two strokes with a long back-and-forth from the right from the green on the par-5 14th.

“I feel like I didn’t have it all there. My iron game, you know, I hit a few shaky shots, but I was just able to move around and score,” Champ said. “I like it a lot here. It suits me well. I like the wind. Just excited for it.

Rahm squandered a birdie chance on the No. 12 with a short birdie putt that he missed. But on the 14th, he had some ups and downs for a birdie, then played solidly the rest of the way, closing his round with a birdie.

This will be the seventh time Rahm has had at least a share of the lead going into the final round. He has converted just one of six previous chances on the PGA Tour, although that does not explain his withdrawal from the Memorial last year when he had a six-stroke lead and was unable to play. the final round because of a positive COVID. -19 test result.

It seems to be a little more difficult with only a two-shot margin and with five players within three shots of the lead.

Riley, the PGA Tour rookie from Alabama, lost in the playoffs at Innisbrook this year. Rodgers is part of that high school graduating class along with Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. He was a prolific winner at Stanford, but has yet to win on tour.

Rodgers seemed patient about his approach to playing Vidanta Vallarta and winning. He hopes to use the advice he’s received from Jack Nicklaus, whom he first met in 2014 when Rodgers won the Jack Nicklaus Award as the NCAA’s top national player, and recently at Bear’s Club in the south Florida.

“It was really surprising to hear him say that, but he said he never tried to win a golf tournament,” Rodgers said. “Obviously he got his fair share. He just tried to do his part and deal with what was in his control and believe that it would eventually fall his way, so I definitely have to heed that advice as I take on this challenge tomorrow.

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