LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Jon Rahm became the first Spaniard since Seve Ballesteros in 1989 to hold golf's world No. 1 ranking, fending off a late challenge Sunday to win the US PGA Memorial tournament.
"Anytime I can join Seve at anything, it's incredible," said Rahm, who added, "It's hard to process right now," because his thoughts were with two family members who have died of Covid-19.
"There are so many things going through my mind right now that have nothing to do with golf," he said.
Rahm led by eight shots through nine holes but dropped four strokes in a five-hole span on the back nine with a bogey at the 10th, double-bogey at 11 and a bogey at 14 to see Ryan Palmer pull within three.
But the 25-year-old from Spain would not be denied, holing an amazing chip from 31 feet at the par-3 16th to thwart his American rival and overtake Northern Ireland star Rory McIlroy for the top spot in the rankings.
"Luckily, I pulled out probably the best short game shot I will ever have. That was unbelievable," Rahm said. "For that to go in, that was exactly what I needed."
Jack Nicklaus, the 18-time major winner who hosts the event at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, called the shot "spectacular" as he congratulated Rahm with a fist bump at the 18th green.
Rahm fired a three-over par 75 in the final round - after a two-stroke penalty turned his masterful chip at 16 into a bogey instead of a birdie - to finish 72 holes on nine-under 279, still enough to defeat Palmer by three strokes.
England's Matthew Fitzpatrick was third on 283 after a closing 68 while Australia's Jason Day and England's Matt Wallace shared fourth on 284.
Rahm, who won a US PGA event for the fourth year in a row, was given a two-stroke penalty after television slow-motion cameras showed his ball moved when he pushed down on the grass behind it shortly before his incredible chip, although it didn't change the lie and was unperceptible to Rahm himself.
"I did not see or feel anything," Rahm said. "If it did, I'll take it. I did not see anything. It's not going to take anything away from that shot. It's not going to take anything away from today."
The tournament was the sixth of the season for the US PGA, all without spectators, since the tour returned in June from a three-month coronavirus pandemic shutdown.