Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

'Confident and in control' Jon Rahm shows no nerves as his Dubai double seals bumper $5m payday

Spaniard victorious in Race for Dubai after holding off Fleetwood charge to win DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates

With the bank balance having just swelled by a cool $5 million (Dh18.4m), Jon Rahm was asked would he be treating himself to something extra nice.

The Spaniard had three shiny new presents in front of him on Sunday already: trophies for winning the DP World Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai, not to mention the Rolex for becoming European No 1 for the very first time.

The victory in Dubai – his second in three years – brought with it the expanded $3m winner’s cheque, while there was the additional $2m for topping the Race.

Not a bad way to end the week. “I didn't even think about that, honestly,” Rahm said not long after his eventually gutsy one-shot win at Jumeirah Golf Estates. “I don't do this for the money. It's obviously a great thing, but it never crossed my mind.

“Nothing extravagant, honestly. I'm not like that. Last time I thought I was making a big purchase, I bought an Xbox.”

For the first seven holes around Earth course, Rahm looked like he was playing on the computer. Joint-leader overnight alongside Mike Lorenzo-Vera, he quickly reeled off five birdies to open a six-stroke advantage.

But four bogeys in the next six brought the field back into play. So much so, that Rahm needed to get up and down from the greenside bunker on 18 for birdie to avoid a play-off with Tommy Fleetwood, his Race rival.

With three foot remaining, Rahm sank the putt to climb to an unassailable 19-under par.

“Somehow, I can't explain how, it was about as calm as I can be,” he said. "I had my mission in mind and like, ‘You need to get this up-and-down, yes or yes.’ And it came out perfect, leaving me three feet straight up the hill.”

Famous for some on-course fury, Rahm later corrected himself. “Maybe ‘calm’ is not the word, but ‘confident’,” he said. “I felt really in control of myself, and really confident in myself. My heart was probably still beating really, really fast. But I was relaxed."

Yet a conflicting round certainly tested him.

“I feel like I've had two different days completely," Rahm said. "Those first seven holes, I felt like I couldn't miss a shot. Then just one errant tee shot and a three-putt took everything in a turn for the worst.

“Even when I kept myself there with a birdie on 10 and 14, I still made some mistakes. It made me prove myself and show some more determination and grit and heart just to win.

“You dream of making birdies on 18 to win a tournament. How I was playing early on, I was hoping not to need that. But it happened, and I came through when I needed it. Really proud of myself for that.”

Rahm, who jumps two places to world No 3, will take considerable pride from winning the Race. Third in the standings coming into the week, he finished 484 points ahead of Fleetwood, with pre-tournament leader Bernd Wiesberger pushed back into third.

In the end, a fourth victory this season hauled Rahm to the summit. He now sits alongside compatriot Seve Ballesteros as the only Spaniards to be European No 1.

“I've thought about it all week,” said Rahm, who turned pro in 2016. “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.

"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.

"It's just hard to put that in perspective to know that since Seve, I'm the next one to get it done. I can put the words, but it just doesn't feel like it's true. It's hard to believe.”

Fleetwood, whose brilliant 65 was built upon five birdies in his closing seven holes, was out in front of Rahm, in the penultimate group. Having posted 18-under, he waited around to see if a play-off would ensue.

Lorenzo-Vera had an eagle attempt on the last to jump to 19-under, but two-putted for third place. It left Fleetwood as Rahm’s only challenger.

Yet Rahm held firm.“Fair play to Jon. That's a cracking birdie down the last when you have to make it,” said Fleetwood, Race champion in 2017. “Jon's time, Jon's moment. He's played unbelievable this year.”

Updated: November 24, 2019 06:56 PM

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