Moynihan continues ascent; Rahm overtakes Molinari, Rory

Eamonn Darcy called time on his career at the weekend but Gavin Moynihan is looking to pick up the tour baton after finishing tied 11th in the Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open.

Twenty-four hours after the Delgany legend bowed out after 46 years on tour with an emotional, bogey-free 67 in the Costa Blanca Benidorm Senior Masters, Moynihan (24) reaffirmed his return to form on the paradisical Indian Ocean island.

"It was another very solid week," said Moynihan, who finished seven strokes behind American Kurt Kitayama on 13-under par after a closing 70. "There are a lot of positives to take to the next few weeks.

"I still have some work to do on my putting but overall, my game has been very solid for the last six weeks, which is the most pleasing thing."

Moynihan's hot run of form — he's 47-under par for his last four events — has transformed what looked like a lost year into a hugely positive one.

Tied eighth in the 54-hole Andalucia Valderrama Masters, he went on to finish fourth at the Second Stage of the European Tour Qualifying School and 23rd at the six-round Final Stage to regain his tour card.

American Kitayama (25) secured his maiden European Tour title in just his second start as a European Tour member, closing with a 68 at Four Seasons Golf Club Mauritius at Anahita to win by two strokes from India's S Chikkarangappa and France's Matthieu Pavon on 20-under par.

In the Australian PGA Championship, Cameron Smith held off Marc Leishman to successfully defend his title at RACV Royal Pines Resort in Queensland, carding a 70 to finish two shots clear of his World Cup partner on 16-under.

As for the great Darcy (66), he received an emotional send-off from his peers as he retired from tour golf in style, closing with a bogey-free 67 in his final competitive round on Saturday to come within a shot of matching his age.

“In my last competitive round, I had a challenge, which is the way it should be, because over the last few years it hasn’t been a real challenge for me," said Wicklowman, who played with fellow Ryder Cup hero Philip Walton in his final round.

"I haven’t set goals like I used to. Today I had a goal and I nearly did it.

“I think I was inspired that this was it, this was my last round, and I wanted to go out in style. The game has been so good to me and thought it would be fitting to shoot a nice score.

“It was emotional coming up the last, and it was great to see such a crowd at the end – it was like the old days.

“I’ve been thinking about retiring for a while after my injuries. I thought it was time to call it a day and leave it to the younger guys."

Jon Rahm

Jon Rahm

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods went an entire season without a withdrawal for the first time since 2013,  rallying after an outward 40 to shoot 73 and finish 17th on one-under in the 18-man Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.

“This entire year has been amazing,” Woods said. Just been so blessed to have the opportunity. To come from where I came from last year at this point to have the ability to actually play and compete again in the game and do it consistently is quite amazing.”

He added: “I know that I can win because obviously I just proved it. It's just a matter of getting everything kind of peaking at the right time. As I was alluding to earlier with Steve is that the will and the want and the desire hasn't changed, it's just a matter of is the body willing to do it.

“There are days or weeks that they don't cooperate, so that's just part of the injuries I've gone through and aging. The older athletes just don't perform as consistently as they once did. I've been out here for 20-some odd years.”

As for his 2019 schedule, he said: “I'm not going to play as many as I did this year. I played in too many this year, and that was from adding an event because I missed the cut at L.A. to qualifying to get into Akron. Who knew that I could make it through all the Playoff events. So all those events told a lot. I won't be playing as much as I did last year.”

Spain's Jon Rahm (24) shot a seven-under 65 to win the $1 million prize by four shots on 20-under par from Tony Finau, who birdied the last for a 69 to deny Justin Rose (65) the second place finish he needed to return to world number one.

Rahm, who moves ahead of Francesco Molinari and Rory McIlroy to sixth in the world, hopes his win is a stepping stone to Major glory, as it was for Pádraig Harrington and others.

"This is really special," said Rahm, whose season featured a dramatic singles win over Woods in the Ryder Cup.

"Jordan Spieth won this event and went on two majors the next year, so I hope that's something that turns out for me as well."

Rahm third win of the year was his sixth in 60 professional appearances. It’s not quite Woods’ six in 23 starts but he’s clearly one of the game’s more precocious winners when one considers that it took 22-time winner McIlroy 120 events to get to that number.

He spent considerable time expressing his admiration for Woods and Seve Ballesteros on Sunday night.

On his singles win over Woods in Paris, he stressed how much he had prepared mentally to get that win:

Let me tell you, for those 24 hours from -- the 12 hours from when I learned I was going to play Tiger, I was in the players' room a little down because we had a 10-6 lead, but I hadn't really contributed. Played good, but didn't get points. Kind of felt like I was letting the team down.

I knew I was going to tee off fourth and I see the sheet. I see Rory-J.T. Paul Casey-Brooks. Rosie-Webb Simpson.

I'm thinking, oh, I know Tiger's usually back, usually likes playing last. And I see Jon Rahm-T.W. I'm like, great. To me, the greatest golfer of all time that I've been able to see, he just won at East Lake, he's 0-3, I was 0-2. I'm like, he really wants to win this for sure and I'm not playing my best. So that was my first train of thought. I'm like, great.

It was a lot of effort talking to my mental coach, Thomas Bjorn and Tommy Fleetwood, because Tommy had played him a couple times. A lot of work to set myself to what I wanted to be even though I was not hitting it good. A lot of work to create a strategy that would work.

I went to bed that night, woke up, and all the way from the hotel to the golf course I was talking to a mental coach all 30 minutes of what I wanted to do and basically we ended up with a plan of -- Thomas Bjorn said it best: Tiger just does not make mistakes. That's what he said. He's going to try to capitalize on your mistakes and he's going to hole a ton of putts, so don't be surprised.

So I kind of went with the mindset of I'm going to have to beat this guy at his own game. I'm not a person known for not making mistakes, but I'm going to have to play as flawless as I can and it's what I set my mind so.

Also, he's for sure the one non-European who had the biggest crowd. It is Tiger Woods. Got pretty close to major history with 80 wins and he had a lot of support. Yeah, I mean, I was really just trying to not make a single mistake.

Then on the last putt right before I hit it, somebody in Spanish yelled, "Do it for Seve," at the top of his lungs. Knowing how much Seve means to me, having the five-footer to beat Tiger Woods, earning the first full point for the Europeans when it was looking kind of dark, there was a lot going on in my mind.

Also, the Sunday of the PGA my grandpa had just passed that Sunday as soon as I finished. When they mentioned Seve, I knew he would be up there. In my mind I'm like, I know he's up there with my grandpa, I know my grandpa's telling him everything about golf even know Seve knows a little bit. I kind of got calm and thought, I'm just going to make it for them. There's no way them two are going to allow me to miss this putt.

And then when I hit it and it went in, I mean, it's all that feeling, right? I tried to stay as balanced as possible, I never got mad even after missing the putt on 16. Making the putt to beat Tiger Woods, my all-time hero, man, it was hard.

And then when I turned around, I had to apologize because I didn't see he was coming to me and he came to me with a smile. He said, "Man, don't even worry, you played great, and I started crying in front of Tiger and kind of -- it was such an emotional moment.

Because of that, I don't think there's anything I can do in the game anytime soon that's going to mean more than that. Growing up watching Tiger, he was just telling me, he was showing in 2001 when he won this event, he was like, "How old were you?" I'm like, we're assuming this was in December, so since I'm from November, I just turned 7 years old. I saw him win a great deal of events, grew up with a dream of someday beating him, and to do it on the Sunday of a Ryder Cup, it was -- with all that I said before, it was extremely special. There's not many things that are going to be better than that in golf for me."