x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 November 2017

DP World Tour Championship: 'Stars align' as Jon Rahm caps breakout season with rookie-of-the-year award

Spaniard has risen to world No 5 and won twice this year ahead of the European Tour season-ending event in Dubai. 

Jon Rahm, right, is presented with the Rookie of the Year award by European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley. Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images
Jon Rahm, right, is presented with the Rookie of the Year award by European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley. Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images

Even before his Dubai debut officially got under way, Jon Rahm had collected another accolade.

The Spaniard, competing this week for the first time at the DP World Tour Championship, was presented on Tuesday with the European Tour’s rookie-of-the-year trophy at Jumeirah Golf Estates, a nod to what has been an incredible breakout season.

Having turned 23 only last week, Rahm arrives at the Earth course fourth in the soon-to-be concluded Race to Dubai, as the world No 5 and with two victories already under his belt. His first win came in San Diego in January, while his success in Europe arrived at July’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, one of the eight elevated events on the season-old Rolex Series.

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Aside from that, he has two other runner-up finishes, two thirds and a further five top sevens. It has been quite some 2017. It had just gotten that little better.

“Well, it's a very, very satisfying feeling,” said Rahm upon receiving the award from Keith Pelley, the European Tour’s chief executive. “It's just a huge honour to be sitting here in this position at this time of the year. It's something I'm really proud of.”

Not surprisingly, Rahm concedes that “not in a million years” did he expect to be so successful, so quickly. The former world No 1 amateur did not turn professional until after the US Open last year, but in the interim has become one of golf’s standout players. Understandably, he was at a loss to explain how.

“I don't know,” Rahm said. “I feel like every star, planet or anything that needs to be aligned for me to accomplish all this has been aligned. It's just, who knows? I've got myself in a lot of situations where I could get something done every week, a lot of tournaments, so that's why I finished a lot of high finishes. I would just say preparation.”

Rahm’s preparations have not extended to next year yet, since as a member now of both main circuits, he has struggled to decide his 2018 schedule. Whatever transpires, he hopes simply for more of the same. Especially since Rahm says he thrives in full glare of the spotlight, coming down the stretch.

“I like feeling the weight on my shoulders,” he said. “I like feeling that special emotion when everything just matters so much. That's what you practice for. That's when you know you are in contention in a tournament.”

First, though, Rahm will attempt to round off an incredible year with another trinket. New to the Earth course, he has watched the DP World “many, many times” on TV. Having seen it up close on Tuesday, he likes what he sees.

“It really suits me, especially off the tee, because I can free-wheel a little bit,” Rahm said. “I can get to the tee and hit it as hard as I can. Those extra yards are always an advantage, but especially on a course like this where position to the green is very important.

“That's probably why ball-strikers like Rory [McIlroy] and [Henrik] Stenson have had huge success here. Hopefully I can end the year the same way I started it.”