MADRID, April 15 (Reuters) - World number four Jon Rahm won the Spanish Open to claim his third European Tour title on Sunday after holding his nerve against fellow Spaniard Nacho Elvira and Irishman Paul Dunne in a tight finale.
Rahm began the day third on the leaderboard, two shots behind Dunne, who had set the pace in the first three rounds, and one behind Elvira.
He signed off, however, with an impressive five-under 67 to win by two shots, finishing with a 20-under-par total of 268, as Dunne and Elvira both carded final-day 71s.
Basque Country native Rahm returned to Spain less than a week after finishing fourth in the Masters.
He was hunting a first national title as a professional to add to his two previous European Tour wins in Dublin and Dubai last year.
He becomes the sixth Spaniard to win the Spanish Open since it became part of the European Tour in 1972, joining some illustrious company including Seve Ballesteros, Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
“When I made the decision to come straight from Augusta it wouldn’t be to just show up and walk around, I wanted to win this tournament,” Rahm told reporters.
“I’ve been blessed to be national champion from 16 to all ages in Spain. To round my amateur and pro career together in this way and win the last one I had to win and join that prestigious list of Spanish winners, it’s hard to explain how good it feels and how satisfying it is.”
The 23-year-old sneaked ahead overall after the fourth hole before Elvira got his nose in front with an eagle on the fifth. Rahm, who had birdied three of the opening seven holes, bogeyed the ninth to open up a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard.
Rahm and Elvira were both tied at 19 under on the 15th and a playoff beckoned, but Elvira hit the water with his first shot on the penultimate hole, leading to a double bogey.
Rahm narrowly escaped the water on the 17th and made it into the clubhouse in a strong position with a birdie on the final hole, embracing his grandmother after completing the round.
That left Elvira or Dunne needing an albatross on the 18th to force a tie but that was too tall an order with Dunne getting a birdie to pip the Spaniard to second place.
“It’s been amazing,” added Rahm. “It’s truly been the hardest Sunday I’ve ever had in any tournament that I’ve won because the crowd wanted it so much and I wanted it so much.” (Reporting by Richard Martin Editing by Toby Davis and Clare Fallon)