Dubai: Pure heart. That’s what Spain’s Jon ‘Rambo’ Rahm brandished when completing a fairytale double-triumph at the Jumeirah Golf Estates on Sunday in a final hole finish which was not for the faint-hearted.
Needing a birdie on the par-four 18th at the Greg Norman-designed Earth Course, the 25-year-old golfer from the little town of Barrika, in Basque County, held his nerves to confidently roll in a putt from three feet to deny England’s Tommy Fleetwood.
Rahm not only won the $8 million DP World Tour Championship featuring Europe’s top 50 golfers, he also topped the Race to Dubai, once again, at the expense of a luckless Fleetwood.
He finished on 19-under with the long-haired Englishman on 18-under and France’s Mike Lorenzo-Vera, who led for all of three days, a stroke back in 17-under.
Rahm’s accumulative financial rewards for his efforts were a cool $5 million — the highest purse in European golf.
Fleetwood, who had an up-and-down tournament most of the week, came into title contention following three well-struck birdies in a four-hole run from the 12th.
A stunning 40-foot birdie putt at the 17th put him level with Rahm on 18-under and set the clubhouse target.
But with Rahm well in control of his emotions and skills, that was the best the 2018 champion could hope for. “Well, today, man, I feel like I’ve had two different days completely,” said the Spaniard.
“Those first seven holes, I felt like I couldn’t miss a shot. Felt really, really confident, as it showed, everything was rolling. Putting was unbelievable.
“Then just one errant tee shot and a three-putt kind of took everything a turn for the worst.
“(But) in those last three holes, that was key,” he added.
“I stood on the 16th hole after three-putting and I told myself, I heard Jack Nicklaus talk about it, about his win at The Open at Muirfield. He said he was on the 16th hole as well and told himself: If you finish 3, 4, 4, which there’s birdie, par, par, you win the tournament.
“I told myself on 16 before I hit the tee shot, “If you finish 4, 3, 3, you win the golf tournament, no matter what anybody else does,” Rahm added.
“That’s kind of what I said to myself, too, and that’s what I did.
Sunday’s victory enabled Rahm to overtake Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger at the top of the Race to Dubai standings and also become the first Spaniard since the great Seve Ballesteros to win the European Tour’s Order of Merit. He also leapfrogged to third in the world rankings behind America’s Brooks Koepka and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.
Fleetwood was philosophical in defeat and said: “I feel fine. Couldn’t have done much more, really.
“Proud, really, of the way I played the last few holes. Proud of the end of the season, and these two weeks make the season just seem in a different light than it did would weeks before we started.
“Fair play to Jon. That’s a cracking birdie down the last when you have to make it. I’m absolutely fine.”
1 Jon Rahm (ESP) -19
2 Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) -18
2 Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA) -18
4 Rory McIlroy (NIR) -12)
5 Danny Willett (ENG) -11
6 Sergio Garcia (ESP) -10
6 Tom Lewis (Eng) -10
6 Thomas Pieters (BEL) -10
9 Matthew Fitzpatrick -9
10 Jason Scrivener -8
Race To Dubai Standings
1 Jon Rahm (ESP) 5,898.3
2 Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 5,414.8
3 Bernd Weisberger (AUT) 4,905.9
4 Shane Lowry (IRE) 3,813.6
5 Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG) 3,588.0
6 Rory McIlroy (NIR) 3,363.5
7 Matt Wallace (ENG) 2,851.1
8 Lois Oosthuizen (RSA) 2,814.0
9 Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 2,798.7
10 Erik Van Rooyen (RSA) 2,766.0