Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 6 December 2019

Jon Rahm has Seve Ballesteros and DP World Tour Championship glory in his sights

Spaniard leads at Jumeriah Golf Estates along with Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera

Predictably, becoming European No 1 would mean a lot to Jon Rahm.

But, as a self-confessed Seve Ballesteros fanatic, getting the job done on Sunday in Dubai would carry even greater significance.

“Gives me goosebumps to think about that,” Rahm said on Saturday, when put to him that a second win at the DP World Tour Championship would make him the second Spaniard to seal the European Tour’s Order of Merit. Seve being the other.

“I've said it many times, as a Spaniard, any time you join or you have the chance to put your name on a list where there's only one name and that name is Seve, it's pretty impactful,” Rahm said. “It's really emotional for all of us.

"To think even Sergio [Garcia] or Miguel Angel [Jimenez] or Jose [Maria Olazabal] or many other great players couldn't get it done. It's hard to believe I have the chance to be the second.”

Rahm had spent most of his third round in second place on the leaderboard, behind early front-runner Mike Lorenzo-Vera. However, the Frenchman’s bogey on 18, and a 66 from Rahm that included seven birdies, means the two sit at the summit on 15-under. Rather ominously, Rory McIlroy lurks two back, in third.

Like McIlroy, Rahm is a previous winner of the event, coming on debut in 2017. He could also join the Northern Irishman in being crowned Race to Dubai champion, although Tommy Fleetwood, third on the seasonal list, is only four back. Bernd Wiesberger, leader coming into the grand finale, is way back on 2-under, tied-24th. He shot a 73.

In contrast, Rahm is in rude health.

“Playing pretty solid,” he said. “Really confident with every part of my game right now. But a lot of people are playing well. Hopefully I can keep this going tomorrow for 18 more holes and be the last man standing.”

On Saturday, Lorenzo-Vera was the last man in. Seeking a first victory on tour, the Frenchman displayed remarkable resolve throughout to stay in front all day, courtesy of four birdies from the sixth.

His drive on 18 found the creek, though, prompting a closing bogey and a slip back alongside Rahm.

Not only is Lorenzo-Vera attempting to become a first-time winner on circuit and the first wire-to-wire winner in tournament history, but there's a cool $3 million (Dh11m) cheque up for grabs, too.

“It is in my mind for sure,” he said. “Maybe tomorrow you shoot 6-under and put your family out of any trouble for the rest of your life. So of course it's going to add some pressure.

“But I don't know, I'll really try to focus on the game. We'll see. Hopefully I'll be shaking for the good reasons.”

Landing a Rolex Series event, at the tour’s season-ending tournament, does call for cool heads.

“That's one of the things I think about the most: to win in Dubai,” Lorenzo-Vera said. “Only big names do it. That would be really awesome for me, for my confidence and my career to achieve that tomorrow.”

For Fleetwood, confidence can be gleaned from last week, when he ended a 22-month wait for a trophy by triumphing at the Nedbank Golf Challenge. In South Africa, he came from six back on Sunday to win in a play-off. This time, the gap is four.

“Absolutely, there's no better example than last week,” Fleetwood said following a 70 caused by his putt running cold.

Another brilliant final round could give him another Race to Dubai gong, to go with his first from two years ago.

“It makes things a little bit more difficult; there's a couple more scenarios,” Fleetwood said. “There's one tournament going on and then there's the Race to Dubai. It's just an extra challenge, that's all.

“I'm obviously used to the situation, and can look at that as a positive. At the end of the day, I've just got to hit golf shots. Got all the experience, so got to hit golf shots now. That's what I'm trying to do.”

Updated: November 23, 2019 09:10 PM

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