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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Jon Rahm proud to belong on golf's major tours after clinching DP World Tour Championship in Dubai

As a 'really ambitious person', new world No 4 will seek to work out how to make 2018 better

Jon Rahm hit the big time in golf in 2017, with the Spaniard having risen to No 4 in the world. Karim Sahib / AFP
Jon Rahm hit the big time in golf in 2017, with the Spaniard having risen to No 4 in the world. Karim Sahib / AFP

Everybody knows Jon Rahm is good. He most probably does, too. But still, even the world’s best golfers need a little positive reinforcement sometimes.

“I think more than proving to anybody else, it's proving to myself that I belong here,” Rahm said on Sunday, after he sealed a one-shot victory at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. “I think that was more important.”

This year, his full rookie season as a professional, Rahm has emerged as one of the most significant players in golf. Having turned 23 only last week, he clinched his third professional victory and his second on the European Tour.

Rahm posted a flawless five-under-par 65 to reach 19-under and win by a single stroke from Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

Justin Rose, the overnight leader and the favourite going into the day in both the tournament and the Race to Dubai, led then bogeyed three of five holes from the 12th to finish tied-fourth. Consequently, he missed out on two titles.

As a result, Rahm nabbed one. At the 14th hole on a frantic final day at the Earth course, he holed for birdie to join clubhouse leader Lowry, Rose and playing partner Dean Burmester in a four-way tie at the summit. Two holes later, Rahm leapt from the pack with what proved a decisive birdie.

“After the lucky bounce on 16, I took advantage of it,” he said. “You can rarely have a straight putt from ten feet for birdie on this golf course, but somehow I had it today on 16.”

As Rose was wilting in the desert, Rahm bloomed, first with a “great up-and-down” on the par-3 17th, and then a par on 18. Out in the penultimate group in the European Tour’s season finale, he had to then wait as Dylan Frittelli, needing eagle to tie, found the water off the tee. Another Rolex Series victory secured, Rahm had made another monumental splash.

“There’s sometimes when you believe things and you want things to happen, but when you actually achieve them, it's something unbelievable,” he said. "Winning the DP World Tour Championship is one of them.

"It changes the whole perspective. It's the last tournament of the year. There's no more. There's no next week. There's 2018. To get it done the last week, I don't know if it shows anybody else or not, but it does prove to myself that I belong to be here.

"I belong to be on the European Tour and I belong to be on the PGA Tour. It's a great week for me mentally in that sense.”

His name belongs on the trophy alongside some pretty heavy hitters.

“I'm extremely honoured and humbled to join my name to the winners of this event: Lee Westwood, Robert Karlsson, Alvaro Quiros, Henrik Stenson, Rory [McIlroy], Matthew [Fitzpatrick],” Rahm said. “I mean, they are all great players. Some of them European Tour legends.

"It's just great to just join that and get my chance to put my name on that great trophy. It's a great feeling.”

After feeling slightly nervous on the first tee - Rahm had not been in contention since the Dell Technologies Championship in Boston in September - he soon found his groove. As the final few throes of the tournament unravelled, crucially he did not.

“I was never too stressed,” Rahm said. “I never got ahead of myself. Kept my composure and kept playing and hoped to have a birdie opportunity, which I did on 14. And I knew that was going to take care of the rest.”

Rahm will now take care to rest for the remainder of 2017, but as a “really ambitious person”, the new world No 4 will then seek to work out how to make 2018 even better.

“I know it's going to be hard to top my first year because it's a really, really good first year,” he said. “In fact, it's a really good year in general, period. Hopefully I can keep playing like this."

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