Dubai — Jon Rahm became the first Spaniard after the legendary Seve Ballesteros to become the European No 1 when he won the DP World Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai yesterday.
At the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates, the 25-year-old started the day with five birdies in his first seven holes to pull clear of the field, then prevailed in a dramatic finish after he overcame a ferocious late charge by England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who made five birdies in the last seven holes.
Starting the final round tied for the lead with France’s Mike Lorenzo-Vera at 15-under par, the world No.5 Rahm shot a 68 to finish on 19-under par. Fleetwood, who could have got the double himself with a win, closed with a seven-under par 65 which fell short by one shot.
The win fetched him a cheque of $3 million, the biggest ever in the history of competitive golf, while the Race to Dubai win meant he also secured the $2 million from the Bonus Pool.
“It’s more of a reflection of a great year than just a good week,” said Rahm, who is expected to climb to No3 in the world rankings when they come out today.
“Today, I feel like I’ve had two different days completely. Those first seven holes, I felt like I couldn’t miss a shot.
“Then just one errant tee shot and a three-putt, and everything took a turn for the worst.
“After the bogey on the 15th, it made me kind of show some more determination and grit and heart just to win. In those last three holes, that was key.”
On becoming only the second Spaniard to be crowned European No1, Rahm said he was having trouble believing it. “I’ve thought about it all week. I’ve thought about it the last two hours. I’ve thought about it as soon as I made the putt. But it still hasn’t processed in my mind,” he added.
“It’s really so hard to believe that some of the greatest champions in European golf and Spanish golf haven’t been able to accomplish what I have in just three years. That’s what I can’t really put my mind into.
“So many great players throughout the history of Spain like Sergio (Garcia) and Ollie (Jose Maria Olazabal) have had a chance and they didn’t get it done. It’s just hard to put that in perspective to know that since Seve, I’m the next one to get it done.
Fleetwood, who started the day four shots behind the leaders, was satisfied with his result.
“I feel fine. Couldn’t have done much more, really. You know, some of the shots they hit coming down the stretch, it started looking like I could get back in it or might have a chance,” said the 28-year-old from Southport.
“Proud 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.
“But fair play to Jon. That’s a cracking birdie down the last when you have to make it. It’s Jon’s time, Jon’s moment. I am just happy with my week.”
Lorenzo-Vera (70) had to be satisfied with a third-place finish at 271 and will have to wait for his first win on the European Tour. Northern Ireland’s world No2 Rory McIlroy ended a disappointing day with a 73, but that was good enough for sole fourth place at 276. McIlroy’s final round of the season may not have gone as per his expectation, but he was happy with the way he played through 2019, in which he won four times.
“I’ll look back at 2019 very fondly. There’s been a lot of good golf played. Probably some of my most consistent golf — four wins and I guess this is my 19th top-10,” said McIlroy. Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre (69) won the Rookie of the Year title after he finished tied 14th at six-under par. His closest challenger, USA’s Kurt Kitayama (73), was 48th in the 50-man field. — AFP.