Fifteen days after his preparations were seemingly thrown into disarray, Jon Rahm produced a grandstand finish to claim his first major title in the 121st US Open while Rory McIlroy’s challenge faded on the back nine.
The Spaniard birdied the final two holes at Torrey Pines to complete a closing 67 and finish six under par, a shot ahead of South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen.
Oosthuizen, who also finished runner-up in last month’s US PGA, bogeyed the 17th and needed to eagle the last for the second day running to force a play-off, but was unable to hole out from 69 yards having missed the fairway with his drive.
McIlroy’s bid for a first major title since 2014 unravelled in the closing stages, the Northern Irishman having been part of a four-way tie for the lead following a birdie on the fourth.
McIlroy three putted the 11th and ran up a double bogey on the 12th to effectively end his chances, a closing 73 leaving him in a tie for seventh.
Shane Lowry’s closing round of 79 – which included a double bogey and five bogeys – was a disappointing end to the week for the Offalyman who finished in a tie for 65th at 13 over par and now sets his sights on defending his Open Championship title at Royal St George’s next month.
But this was redemption for Rahm after a tough couple of weeks. He had just completed a sensational third round of 64 in the Memorial Tournament to establish a six-shot lead when he was told beside the 18th green that he had tested positive for Covid-19.
That necessitated a period of self-isolation until two days before play began at Torrey Pines, where he won his first PGA Tour title in 2017 and also proposed to his wife.
And although Rahm received results of two negative tests on Friday and Saturday to allow him to leave isolation early, it was hardly the ideal way to get ready for golf’s toughest major.
Crucially, the 26-year-old handled the situation with an admirable sense of perspective, defending the PGA Tour’s decision to strictly enforce their rules and noting that he still had the positive memories of his form at Muirfield Village to draw upon.
“I’m a big believer in karma and after what happened a couple of weeks ago I stayed really positive, knowing big things were coming,” Rahm said.
“I didn’t know what it was going to be but I knew we were coming to a special place, I knew I got my breakthrough win here and it’s a very special place for my family.
“The fact my parents were able to come, I got out of Covid protocols early, I just felt like the stars were aligning.”
Rounds of 69, 70 and 72 meant he started the final round three shots off the lead but he made the ideal start with birdies on the first and second before making what would prove his only bogey of the day on the fourth.
A wild drive on the ninth looked in danger of being out of bounds, but Rahm was entitled to a free drop away from a fence and, after hitting his second shot down the fairway, spun his approach to within a few feet of the hole to set up an unlikely birdie.
A run of seven straight pars on the back nine meant Rahm still trailed Oosthuizen by a shot as he reached the last two holes, but he holed a curling birdie putt from 25 feet on the 17th and a similar putt on the par-five 18th after finding a bunker with his approach.
Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau had taken the lead with his second birdie of the day on the eighth, the American coming agonisingly close to making a hole-in-one.
However, DeChambeau imploded on the back nine with two bogeys, a double bogey on the 13th and a quadruple-bogey eight on the 17th, eventually signing for a closing 77.
Earlier in the day, Phil Mickelson’s “unique opportunity” to complete the career grand slam in his home city of San Diego came to an unusual end, almost two hours before the final group was due to tee off.
Mickelson began the week with renewed hope of winning his national open for the first time, but ended it by hitting his approach to the 18th around 70 yards beyond the hole and completing a 75 to finish 11 over par.
The 51-year-old was disappointed not to have played better, but remains confident he can replicate the form which made him the oldest ever major winner in last month’s US PGA Championship.
“There’s some opportunities coming up with the way I’ve been playing that I’m optimistic that I can compete and contend,” the six-time major winner said.
“There’s nothing more fun for me than to be in it on the weekend. I’ve actually been playing well enough to have chances, and we have some good tournaments coming up the next couple of months.
“Afterwards I’ll look back and reminisce when the season’s over and I’ll still have that Wanamaker trophy I’ll be looking at, and I’m still looking to add a friend to it along the line.
“That win was very meaningful to me because I’ve been putting in a lot of work the last couple of years and getting nothing out of it, and so to have a moment like that is something that makes it worthwhile.”
Final scores from the 121st U.S. Open, Torrey Pines (South), San Diego (USA unless stated, Par 71)
278 Jon Rahm (Spa) 69 70 72 67
279 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 67 71 70 71
281 Harris English 72 70 71 68
282 Brooks Koepka 69 73 71 69, Guido Migliozzi (Ita) 71 70 73 68, Collin Morikawa 75 67 70 70
283 Daniel Berger 71 72 72 68, Paul Casey (Eng) 71 75 67 70, Branden Grace (Rsa) 72 70 74 67, Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 70 73 67 73, Xander Schauffele 69 71 72 71, Scottie Scheffler 72 69 70 72
284 Russell Henley 67 70 71 76, Francesco Molinari (Ita) 68 76 69 71
285 Patrick Cantlay 70 75 71 69, Mackenzie Hughes (Can) 73 67 68 77, Kevin Streelman 71 69 72 73, Matthew Wolff 70 68 73 74
286 Sergio Garcia (Spa) 71 74 73 68, Brian Harman 72 71 71 72, Dustin Johnson 71 73 68 74, Patrick Reed 72 73 74 67, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa) 71 74 71 70, Jordan Spieth 77 69 68 72, Justin Thomas 73 69 71 73
287 Chris Baker 74 71 69 73, Bryson DeChambeau 73 69 68 77, Rikuya Hoshino (Jpn) 69 74 73 71, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 77 68 69 73, Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 69 76 74 68
288 Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa) 72 70 70 76, Joaquin Niemann (Chi) 75 69 71 73, Patrick Rodgers 70 71 77 70, Dylan Wu 70 73 74 71
289 Lanto Griffin 76 69 69 75, Sung Jae Im (Kor) 72 72 69 76, Robert MacIntyre (Sco) 71 73 72 73, Edoardo Molinari (Ita) 70 76 72 71, Adam Scott (Aus) 70 75 71 73
290 Adam Hadwin (Can) 70 72 75 73, Si Woo Kim (Kor) 71 75 70 74, Wade Ormsby (Aus) 72 74 73 71, J. T. Poston 72 73 71 74, Ian Poulter (Eng) 74 71 68 77, Chez Reavie 76 68 72 74
291 Dylan Frittelli (Rsa) 73 72 72 74, Tom Hoge 72 71 76 72, Rick Lamb 71 75 74 71, Lee Westwood (Eng) 71 72 71 77
292 Richard Bland (Eng) 70 67 77 78, Rafael Cabrera (Spa) 68 76 74 74, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 72 73 74 73, Bubba Watson 72 67 77 76, Gary Woodland 74 71 73 74
293 Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) 70 75 72 76, Kevin Kisner 73 73 72 75
294 Akshay Bhatia 73 73 73 75, Stewart Cink 73 72 74 75, Charley Hoffman 72 71 75 76, Taylor Montgomery 70 76 74 74, Jhonattan Vegas (Ven) 75 69 74 76
295 Phil Mickelson 75 69 76 75, Greyson Sigg 71 74 75 75
296 Marc Leishman (Aus) 74 70 75 77
297 Matt Jones (Aus) 72 71 79 75, Shane Lowry (Irl) 72 74 72 79, Troy Merritt 75 71 73 78
298 Wilco Nienaber (Rsa) 72 74 80 72, Kyle Westmoreland 71 73 78 76
303 Fabian Gomez (Arg) 70 76 78 79, Jimmy Walker 74 72 77 80
HSE working to amend booster system as people receive multiple appointments
The Health Service Executive (HSE) is working to amend the coronavirus vaccine system, as multiple channels offering third jabs has caused challenges for the booster campaign, HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor has said.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ms O’Connor explained that the booster vaccine was available through vaccination centres, general practitioners and pharmacies.
Some people had gone to their local pharmacy to get their booster vaccine and then had received an appointment at a vaccination centre, she said. She called on people to cancel their vaccination centre appointment if they had received their booster through their GP or pharmacy.
Ms O’Connor’s comments come after Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Tuesday that there were 87,000 no-shows for boosters last week, and the chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP committee, Dr Denis McCauley, described the non-attendances as “very disrespectful”.
Ms O’Connor said the priority for the HSE was to get as many people fully vaccinated as possible.
When asked about the lower levels of people in the 60-69 age cohort who have received their booster vaccine, Ms O’Connor said that not everyone in that age group would have had their second vaccine more than five months ago. That was “a natural limiter”.
Ms O’Connor said people possibly were apprehensive or busier, now that many were back at work or were preparing for Christmas, but the vaccine was important as was the booster.
To date more than a million people have received their booster vaccine, she added, and appointments will be offered to people aged between 50 and 59 from Thursday.
“We will also have walk-in centres open to people to get their vaccine and as ever we encourage everybody to avail of the vaccine. It’s really important, especially with a new variant, that we try to protect as many people as possible,” Ms O’Connor said.
Meanwhile, Dr McAuley told Newstalk Breakfast that there were very few no-shows to booster appointments at GP surgeries, because people know their GP personally.
Now was not the time for “messing”, he said in relation to people failing to attend their appointments at vaccine centres.
“If you get a vaccine appointment, make sure that you go there rather than getting your hair done or going shopping – or if it is a work thing, stay on the helpline to get a new appointment.
“Be respectful of the mass vaccination centres. These are people who are working very hard and it is very disrespectful to have over 80,000 people not turn up in one week. It is not appropriate. You wouldn’t do it to your GP so why are you doing it to these healthcare workers.”
There was also a concern that some people were waiting to see what happens with the Omicron variant before getting their booster. Dr McCauley said that the booster would greatly reduce the chances of picking up the virus or having to go into hospital
Dr McCauley said there needed to be “a call to arms” for people to get vaccinated and he warned that when more information about Omicron emerged, booster appointments could be harder to come by.
All you need to know on getting the Moderna vaccine as a booster
People due to receive their Covid-19 booster vaccine in coming weeks will primarily be offered the Moderna dose at HSE vaccination centres.
The HSE is reported to have large supplies of Moderna due to expire next month, so that will be the main vaccine administered over coming weeks to the over-60s, over-50s, healthcare workers, and younger people in vulnerable groups – though it will be restricted to people over 30.
Anecdotally there are indications some people may be reluctant to take the Moderna vaccine. This may be due to Irish stocks about to expire shortly and/or confusion about its efficacy. This follows the company’s chief executive Stéphane Bancel warning last week the Moderna jab may not be as effective against Omicron as it had been with the Delta variant.
The HSE has confirmed recipients will have no choice on what vaccine they are given.
What type of coronavirus vaccine is the Moderna jab?
It is a new kind of synthetic “mRNA vaccine” – the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is from the same stable. They provide excellent protection against severe illness and hospitalisation – and have played a critical role in reducing Covid-19 deaths since being approved. A downside, however, is that the Moderna version must be kept at -20 degrees.
Should people be worried about receiving a soon to be out-of-date vaccine?
|Total doses distributed to Ireland||Total doses administered in Ireland|
In short no, as they retain the ability to boost antibody production within currently approved time spans – though inevitably potency wanes over time. The Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen (Johnson&Johnson) vaccines were put on the market with emergency use authorisation of up to six months.
This compares with a shelf life of two to three years for most vaccines and other medicines. This is an “inevitable consequence of getting the vaccines out of the door as quickly as possible”, chief scientist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Gino Martini told the journal BMJ.
Months later, these “emergency” expiry dates remain in force for these vaccines. For approved Covid-19 vaccines, the initial shelf lives were based on data available at the time of submission for regulatory approval.
The long-term shelf life has not been extended for any of the vaccines. A shelf life extension would require supporting evidence from relevant stability studies. Vaccine manufacturers are monitoring batches of vaccines with the aim of providing a longer shelf life; probably the usual two years.
What about the Omicron threat?
While Moderna said existing vaccines including its mRNA version will probably be less effective against the Omicron variant, most experts believe they will continue to provide significant protection against severe disease and hospitalisation. It should be stressed, however, definitive indication has yet to emerge. That will be a matter of weeks, if not days.
Moderna has confirmed it is developing an Omicron-specific booster though manufacturing the new vaccine would take time. Tens of millions of doses could be available in the first quarter of 2022, but scale-up would not happen until the second quarter – provided it is shown such boosters are required.
What is the latest indication on the benefits of mixing vaccines?
Evidence supporting a mixing of vaccine doses has hardened over recent months. A study this week shows combining a first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine with a second dose of either the Moderna or the Novavax jabs results in far higher levels of neutralising antibodies and T-cells compared with two doses of the AstraZeneca jab.
This finding also has important implications for lower-income countries that have not yet completed their primary vaccination campaigns as it suggests you do not need access to mRNA vaccines – and therefore ultra-cold storage facilities – to trigger an extremely potent Covid-19 vaccine response.
The study also bolsters confidence that using the Moderna vaccine as a booster dose in people who have previously received the AstraZeneca jab should result in high levels of neutralising antibodies and T-cells.
It follows separate data published last week suggesting the Pfizer and Moderna booster jabs can dramatically strengthen the body’s immune defences.
Woman (90s) dies following single-vehicle crash in Co Clare
A woman in her 90s has died following a single-vehicle crash in Co Clare in the early hours of Tuesday.
The incident occurred at about 12.30am at Annagh, Miltown Malbay. The woman, who was the driver and sole occupant of the car involved in the crash, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Her body was removed to Limerick University Hospital, where gardaí say a postmortem will take place at a later date.
The road has been closed to facilitate an exam by Garda forensic collision investigators, and local diversions are in place.
Gardaí have appealed for witnesses – particularly road users who may have camera footage – to come forward. Anyone with information can contact Kilrush Garda station (065 908 0550), the confidential line (1800 666 111), or any Garda station.
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