Dustin Johnson holds off Jon Rahm to win WGC Match Play crown
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 31/03/17 3:31pm
Dustin Johnson's dominance of world golf continued as he held off a valiant comeback from Jon Rahm to clinch the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play title in Texas.
Johnson appeared set to cruise to victory when he stormed into a five-up lead after only eight holes in the final, but Rahm staged a dramatic fightback to take the power-hitting contest to the final hole of a long week at the Austin Country Club.
But the world No 1 held his nerve to match Rahm's par at the last to seal a one-up win and become the first player to win all four current World Golf Championship titles.
Johnson will now head to the Masters on the back of three consecutive tournament victories following his recent successes at the Genesis Open and the WGC-Mexico Championship - the first golfer to achieve that on the PGA Tour since Rory McIlroy's golden run in 2014.
After being taken the distance for the first time in the event by Hideto Tanihara in the morning semi-finals, Johnson looked likely to make short work of the final as Rahm's all-round game deserted him in the early stages.
Both parred the first two holes before Rahm carved his drive into thick rough at the third and could not stave off a bogey, and he compounded the error by three-putting the next green.
Rahm then lipped out from four feet on the fifth after Johnson had holed from similar range, and the Spaniard failed to match the top seed's birdie at the long sixth before he stopped the rot with a welcome half in pars at seven.
But another bogey followed at the eighth which gifted Johnson his fifth win in six holes, although the American then bunkered his approach to the ninth and could not get up and down to match Rahm's par-four.
Johnson gave another hole away when he three-putted from inside 30 feet at the 10th, but he restored his four-hole lead at the long 12th when Rahm missed another birdie chance from short range.
Rahm responded by smashing his drive onto the green at the par-four 13th and two-putting for a winning birdie, and he pulled another hole back at 15 after clipping an 80-yard wedge in close before Johnson's 10-foot putt for a three slid past the cup.
Still needing a big finish to extend the match, Rahm produced the putt of the final at the 16th as he rolled in a birdie chance from 32 feet after pulling his drive into the trees and being unable to go at the green in two, and both players nailed clutch par putts at the penultimate hole.
Rahm took the aggressive approach at the 356-yard closing hole and launched his drive over the back of the green, while Johnson split the fairway with a safe iron only to misjudge his second and come up short.
But Rahm was distracted by a door slamming in the background as he played his pitch, and his ball stopped rolling agonisingly short of the ridge and left himself a slippery, downhill putt from 30 feet for his third.
He hit a good putt, but did not allow quite enough break and Johnson lagged to within three feet from the fringe and calmly holed the winning par putt to secure his place in the WGC history books.
Meanwhile, Bill Haas earned third place with a 2&1 win over Tanihara in the consolation match, although it was the Japanese player who provided the big highlight as he made a superb hole-in-one at the seventh with a perfect eight-iron from 201 yards - just the fourth ace ever seen in the event.