Thursday 5 December 2019

Resilient Rahm finishes strong to claim $5m Race to Dubai prize

Sealed with a kiss: Jon Rahm poses with his fiancee Kelley Cahill after winning the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Sealed with a kiss: Jon Rahm poses with his fiancee Kelley Cahill after winning the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Spain's Jon Rahm took another giant step in his meteoric career when he birdied the 18th to clinch the DP World Tour Championship, the Race to Dubai and a $5 million (€4.54m) payday.

The two-time Dubai Duty Free Irish Open champion (25) holed 142-feet of putts and made five birdies in his first seven holes to lead Frenchman Michael Lorenzo-Vera by four strokes, Tommy Fleetwood by eight and Rory McIlroy by nine.

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"He looks like a hammer and he was hitting me with a hammer on my head in the beginning with his putter," said the colourful Lorenzo-Vera, who had to settle for third overall as the big Basque recovered from a mid-round stumble and a scorching Fleetwood finish to claim a lucrative double.

With McIlroy a non-factor as he limped to a 73 to finish seven shots adrift in fourth, the season-ending finale looked like a victory procession for Rahm.

But he added some drama to proceedings by making sloppy bogeys at the eighth and ninth before then playing the first six holes of the back nine in level par.

Leader

As joint overnight leader Lorenzo-Vera closed to within one stroke behind playing the 18th and Fleetwood drew level after making five birdies in his last six holes en route to a final round 65, Rahm looked to Jack Nicklaus for inspiration down the stretch.

After three-putting the 15th, he remembered how the Golden Bear had gathered himself for the last three holes of his Open win at Muirfield in 1966 and finished par-par-birdie to win at Jumeirah Golf Estates for the second time in three years.

"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," said Rahm, who parred the 16th and 17th before holing a four-footer for birdie and victory after finding a greenside bunker at the 620-yard 18th.

On his rollercoaster day, he added: "I feel like I've had two different days completely. Those first seven holes, I felt like I couldn't miss a shot. I felt really, really confident. Everything was rolling.

"My putting was unbelievable. Then just one errant tee shot and a three-putt kind of took everything in the wrong direction.

"It would have been a very different day if I don't three-putt nine and 15. But it happened. And it made me show some determination and grit and heart just to win."

Set to move from fifth to third in the world, Rahm won $3million for winning the tournament and another $2m from the $5m Bonus Pool by becoming only the second Spaniard to win the Race to Dubai, emulating six-time Order of Merit winner, Seve Ballesteros.

As for McIlroy, he was not too crestfallen after his 73.

"You know, I'll look back at 2019 very fondly," McIlroy said, recalling his four wins and 19 top-10 finishes from 25 events this year.

"It's been a learning year, as well. I learned some things that I want to take forward into next year, as well, but first and foremost, I'm looking forward to a couple of months off and reflect on everything and get myself ready for next year."

Open champion Shane Lowry tied for 12th on seven-under after a 70, picking up $886,355 (€804,000) yesterday - $86,355 for his finish plus another $600,000 from the Bonus Pool for claiming fourth in the season-long race.

"It was one of those weeks where I didn't really have it," said Lowry, whose Race to Dubai hopes faded with that opening 73.

"But overall I am happy enough with the week. Obviously, it would have been really nice to be up there contending to win the Race to Dubai, but it is what it is now. I am done and I am happy enough."

The tournament also featured an Irish cameo, with Waterford caddie Greg Milne a big part of Robert MacIntyre's triumph in the race for the Rookie of the Year award.

The Scottish left-hander (23) tied for 14th on 11-under, earning over €2m as he claimed 11th in the Race to Dubai in his first season on

Meanwhile, on the PGA Tour, Tyler Duncan needed two play-off holes to secure a maiden Tour win at the RSM Classic in Georgia.

The American birdied four of his last seven holes to take the clubhouse lead on 19-under before compatriot Webb Simpson birdied two of his last four to force a play-off.

Both parred the first play-off hole in four, but it was Duncan who held his nerve with a birdie second time around to secure the title.

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