Rahm completes Dubai raid as Fleetwood wins the Race to Dubai
JUSTIN ROSE suffered an extraordinary collapse to hand the Race to Dubai title to England's Tommy Fleetwood as Spaniard Jon Rahm raced through the field to win the DP World Tour Championship on an amazing final day. Rose was 19 under par when he reached the turn and in complete control of his game, his emotions and, seemingly, the tournament. But it all went wrong on the back nine as he frittered shots away at the 12th, 14th and 16th holes to tumble down the leaderboard.
Rahm took full advantage, a final round of 67 taking him to 19 under par and giving him a two-shot victory to add to the Irish Open and Farmers Insurance titles he won earlier in the season. It meant he finished third in the Race to Dubai - not bad for a man who only played 12 tournaments. Shane Lowry and Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished second on 18 under.
"I couldn't be prouder of what I have achieved today," said Rahm. "I played some great golf today, and not just the birdies, there were some great par saves too. Three wins this year is something I can't get my head around."
Fleetwood had a miserable afternoon but did enough to take advantage of Rose's faltering finish to end the season as the European Tour's number one golfer by 58,000 points.
On another day of sensational scoring, Ireland's Shane Lowry finished with a 63. He had 10 birdies to reach 18 under par. It seemed that everybody was holing birdie putts for fun - with the exception of Fleetwood. The Southport golfer began the day two shots adrift of Rose and closed the gap to one with a birdie at the opening hole, but that was as good as it got. This was his 23rd start of the year and he began to look like a tired golfer. He birdied the seventh and 11th but also dropped shots at the sixth, 10th and 12th holes to fall back to 13 under par after 13 holes, six behind Rose. His only hope was for the wheels to come off for Rose, and, incredibly, that is precisely what transpired.
Rose came from nowhere by winning the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open and his magnificent form continued in Dubai. He opened with rounds of 66, 70 and 65 and carried on where he left off in the final round with birdies at the second, third, fifth and seventh to reach the turn in 32. He was 19 under par.
South Africa's Dylan Frittelli, who has played some marvellous golf this season, birdied the second, third and fifth holes. He then hit a magnificent approach to the par-five seventh and holed the putt for an eagle to join Rose at 19 under, before immediately handing a shot back at the next.
As they reach the turn, Rose led on 19 under with Lowry in the clubhouse on 18 under, Frittelli on the same mark and Sergio Garcia also on 18 under. The Spaniard birdied the first four holes and picked up further shots at the seventh, ninth, 12th and 15th. Suddenly, he had a real chance to win. But it all came undone for the Masters champion at the last hole when he put his second shot into a water hazard. His race was run, but a round of 65 was a commendable effort. Garcia finished third/fourth in the Race to Dubai and you have to wonder why he decided not to play in either the Turkish Airlines Open or Nedbank Challenge.
And so it seemed that it was all going to come down to Rose and Frittelli. Rose made his first mistake at the 12th, but the South African was unable to take advantage and also dropped a shot. Suddenly, Lowry found himself tied for the lead. Minutes later, they were joined by Dean Burmeister. The South African dropped a shot at the third, but birdies at the first, 2nd, fifth, 8th, 10th and 14th moved him to 18 under. And it wasn't long before there were four men tied at the top when Rookie of the Year Jon Rahm made his fourth birdie of the day at the 14th hole.
We were set for a thrilling finish to an incredible week
Rose had dropped just four shots all week and was swinging the club quite beautifully. But he faced a crisis at the par-five 14th when his second shot found the water. He still had 160 yards to go as he hit his fourth shot and he put the ball 12 feet from the hole, with a chance to escape with an unlikely par but he missed and, all of a sudden, he was one behind on 17 under. Playing partner Frittelli birdied the same hole to join Lowry, Rahm and Burmeister on 18 under. At that point, Rose was fifth and Fleetwood was back in the driving seat in the Race to Dubai.
But when Fleetwood dropped yet another shot at the 17th, Rose was back in control.
Rahm took the lead on his own for the first time when he reached 19 under par with a birdie at the 16th. This wasn't in the script at the start of the day, but Rahm is not a man who reads scripts.
Rose's woes continued at the 16th when both he and Frittelli found a fairway bunker and were unable to find the green in two. Frittelli hit a brilliant third to save his par and, not to be outdone, Rose followed him but then missed his short par putt to fall back to 16 under. Up ahead, Rahm missed the green at the par-three 17th but nearly holed his approach to remain in front on 19 under with the par-five 18th, and another birdie opportunity, to come.
Aphibarnrat joined the group on 18 under with a birdie at the last for a round of 67. And as the pressure began to tell, Burmeister dropped a shot at the 17th. Fleetwood's disappointing final round concluded with a bogey at the last for a round of 74 and a 72-hole total of 277, 11 under par.
Rose found a bunker at the 17th but very nearly holed his second shot, and so he came to the final hole knowing that he required an eagle to have any chance of pipping Fleetwood. Frittelli, meanwhile, dropped a shot at the 17th to fall back to 17 under, two behind Rahm.
Up ahead, Burmeister duffed his second at the final hole and the ball trickled into a water hazard. It was not the finish he had been looking for, but he did save his par. Rahm nearly reach the par five in two but hit a poor chip and had to settle for a par. Only Frittelli could catch him with an eagle but his hopes disappeared when he hit his drive into a stream and he had to settle for a par.
Rose hit his final drive into heavy rough on the left but produced a fantastic shot that finished inches short of the green. If he could hole his third shot he would pip Fleetwood but it narrowly missed the cup. He came home in 38, two over par and finished with a round of 70. At 17 under, he finished in a tie for fourth place, but it wasn't good enough.
After a year that featured 48 events, Fleetwood was crowned Race to Dubai winner. He came into the week with a lead of 256,738 points and for much of the final round it looked like it wasn't going to be enough. He won twice, contended in the US Open and nearly beat Dustin Johnson in a WGC event in Mexico. “A year and a half ago I was absolutely nowhere in the game, I was a bit lost. This is a different pressure to Wentworth last year [the BMW PGA Championship] when I didn’t want to play because I was scared I would not get it off the first tee. his is what you practise for and this is what you play for." He has come a long way in a short time.
"It is amazing, especially for it all to come down to the last shot," said Fleetwood. "It wasn't pretty today. It's a funny old game. I made a great start but then I struggled. Down the last few holes it was out of my control. You want the grandstand finish but it doesn't always work that way. I am so grateful to the people around me, who have been such a big part of what I have achieved. I really wanted to do this and would have been gutted if I hadn't achieved it."
Lowry was pleased with his performance. He said: "The course is there for the taking. The greens are the best you will find anywhere. I've scored my best round of the season on my last round of the season, and it could have been even better. My iron play has been great in the past few weeks and I have started holing some putts. I am happy with my performance and am now looking forward to a bit of a break
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