Mexico Open at Vidanta final round preview: Rahm digs deeps to stay two shots clear

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Jon Rahm's quest for a first victory of 2022 - and a first since his US Open triumph last June - is on track in the Mexico Open at Vidanta.

The Spaniard made a slow start in the third round, allowing the pursuers to overtake him through the turn, but they stumbled on the back nine and Rahm stood firm. He signed for a Saturday 68 and his 54 hole total of 15-under 198 leaves him two clear of Cameron Champ and Kurt Kitayama. "A little bit of a slow start compared to the rest," he admitted afterwards. "But I made birdies on 6 and 7, making a good par putt on 8 was important. "Even though I made a bogey shortly after, that was a huge confidence booster. I think I just stayed patient enough all day. I kept giving myself chances and doing what I had to do. Luckily, I made the one on 18, I think that was a big one." It doubled his advantage and leaves the chasers with a tough task. Rahm, however, was looking forward to taking a lead into Sunday.

"It's been a little bit of a while," he said. "The crowd loves me so far, I can tell. You know, they want me to win, so hopefully I can do it for them. "But so far I'm proud of the way I've played and hopefully I can play as solid as I have tee to green, keep hitting fairways, keep hitting greens, and like I said, just roll a few birdies and hopefully extend that lead."

Jon Rahm - leader on 15-under

As Dave Tindall detailed at the start of the week, Rahm has had short game problems this season. But not this week.

He ranks first for SG Off the Tee and Tee to Green, in keeping with his seasonal stats, but he is top 20 for Around the Greens and Putting - a vast difference and a big reason why he is leading. He is 6-for-11 at converting a 54 hole lead or co-lead, 3-for-5 with a solo lead, and 2-for-2 if the lead is greater than one shot. (He would surely have added to each tally when leading last year's Memorial by six before being forced to withdraw.)

"I played really good golf," he said. "Tee to green was really, really good. The only hiccup was the tee shot on 10 and it wasn't even that bad. "Maybe making a few more putts, right? That one on 18 was the first one outside 10 feet I saw roll in. If I can just keep that going and make putts like I did the first two days, I think tomorrow I'll give myself a really good chance."

Kurt Kitayama - tied second on 13-under

Once based on the DP World Tour, he claimed two wins there, in the Oman Open and Mauritius Open, that he said: "Honestly, really similar to this week. Island feel, similar grass with the Paspalum, windy." He might have added, of the Oman win, that, also like this week, it came on a Greg Norman design. A first year member on tour he's mostly struggled but he was third in the Honda Classic and in the top three all week. "I was right there," he said. "Even though I didn't pull through, try to use that experience to help. It helped a lot, you know. The more I keep playing, the more I get comfortable out here.

"It's nice to be in the hunt going into Sunday. Just really excited to get it going tomorrow. A lot going through your head at this time, so I'm sure there will be a lot going on tomorrow "I was making a lot of birdies in the practice round, that's always a nice indication of how you feel out there, like at least you can make a lot of birdies."

Cameron Champ - tied second on 13-under

Consistent all week (67-66-67), his three wins on the PGA Tour all came from being in the top four after 54 holes. "My game has felt good," he said. "I'm in great spirits in the head, in life. So tomorrow, like I said, I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing. "I feel like I haven't had everything quite there. My iron game, you know, I've hit a few shaky shots, but I've just been able to get around and score, putt and chip well. "But this place, I love it here, it suits me well. I love the wind. Just excited for it."

Chasers

Davis Riley, Patrick Rodgers and Nate Lashley share fourth on 12-under. Rookie Riley has some good vibes. He was a winner on the Greg Norman-designed Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio on the Korn Ferry Tour and also won in Central America on that circuit, in Panama. He's also spinning off a recent near-miss at the Valspar Championship, when he held a two-shot 54 hole lead before finishing second. "I really turned a page there at the Valspar having a chance to win," he said. "You don't know you can do it until you finally do it and to finally have that good opportunity was pretty cool." Rodgers has contended for the title at El Camaleon in Mexico three times and was a winner in Colombia on the second tier. He said: "The win in Bogota was really special. Something about maybe being out of the country or being in a spot that's slightly unfamiliar just helps me focus on the task at hand." Lashley was slightly more realist than optimist. "Jon's playing so well that it all kind of depends on him," he said. "You never know. But he keeps playing the way he does and it's going to be probably hard to catch him."

The article Mexico Open at Vidanta final round preview: Rahm digs deeps to stay two shots clear appeared first on Planetsport.com.

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