Rahm Lands Jackpot With Dramatic Last-Gasp Victory in Dubai
JON RAHM birdied the 72nd hole to snatch a dramatic last-gasp victory from the jaws of defeat at the DP World Tour Championship. At one point he led the field by six strokes but he stumbled horribly on the back nine and needed to get up and down from a greenside bunker at the last to beat Tommy Fleetwood by a shot. He finished with a 68 and a 19-under-par total.
And with the win came much gold. He picked up $3m for winning the tournament, a further $2m bonus for finishing the season as the winner of the Race to Dubai, pipping Fleetwood, and the victory took him to third in the world rankings. The Spaniard has had a fabulous season, but this win clearly meant a great deal to him.
“I feel like crying,” he said "It was such an up and down day. I lost my swing out there for a while. I told myself if I finished four, three, four then I would win. How many times do you dream of making a birdie at the last to win? I was six shots ahead but that’s golf. I used a lot of mental energy out there. I had no idea this win would take me to number three in the world. I cannot believe some of the things I have accomplished.”
He becomes only the second Spaniard after Seve Ballesteros to finish the season as Europe’s number one. "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," he said. "That's what I can't really put my mind into. Sergio [Garcia] has been a great Spanish champion for years, Major winner. Ollie [José María Olazábal], two-time Major Championship winner. Miguel Ángel [Jiménez] has done a great job as well. Alvaro Quiros has won this event. So many great players throughout the history of Spain that have had a chance and they didn't get it done. 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.
"Seve wasn't the calmest out there, he had some passion. So did Ollie, they both do and there's nothing wrong with that. Some of the greatest champions in all sports are passionate people that show frustration when they have it and they show their happiness when they do have it, as well. I don't think it's a bad thing. In fact, I believe it's a good thing because that's what got me through today on the last few holes."
Mike Lorenzo-Vera finished third after three-putting the 18th. He began the day level with Rahm on 15 under but couldn’t live with the Spaniard’s astonishing start.
At the start of the day, Rahm’s only challenger for the Race to Dubai title was Tommy Fleetwood, but Rahm was in no mood to be caught. He opened with a birdie and followed it with another at the second. The big Spaniard parred the next two. But then began an amazing run, with him holing huge putts at the fifth and sixth to move to 19 under par, at which point he led Lorenzo-Vera by four shots. The putts he holed at the fifth and sixth were huge, the sort that let you know that this is your day.
Rory McIlroy was unable to buy a putt and any hopes he had disappeared act the par-five seventh when he pulled his approach into the bushes and did well to escape with a bogey six. It took him back to 13 under par on a hole where he had been looking to pick up shots on the leader. Fleetwood, winner of the Nedbank Challenge seven days earlier, was also labouring at 12 under par in fourth place.
Jason Scrivener finished with a 65 and a 72-hole total of eight under par. What Fleetwood and McIlroy would have given for such a round. Fleetwood picked up a birdie at the eighth to move to 13 under, level with McIlroy in joint third place, but he needed help from Rahm. And it didn’t look like it was going to happen.
Today is going to take a long time to sink in. Looking forward to reflecting during my upcoming week off. Thank you @DP_world and @ROLEX for staging an amazing finale to the #RacetoDubai ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/bE9JWfeVbM— Jon Rahm Rodriguez (@JonRahmpga) November 24, 2019
Rahm’s dream start continued at the par-five seventh. He struck his drive into the rough on the right and had to lay up. His third shot was no better than average but he drained yet another putt. Five birdies in the opening seven holes, 20 under par. Lorenzo-Vera dropped a shot on the same hole, which meant Rahm led by six shots.
Rahm’s first test came at the eighth hole, where he drove into a bush and had to take a penalty drop. He left himself a 30-footer to save his par but this time it didn’t drop. It took him back to 19 under. Playing partner Lorenzo-Vera hit a glorious approach at the same hole and holed the putt for a birdie to reduce the deficit to four. And when he missed a shot putt at the ninth, Rahm was just three ahead. There have been times in the past when Rahm has struggled to keep his temper in check - he now needed to find a way to keep his cool.
Nobody should be surprised by Rahm’s performance. He has more top-10 finishes in Rolex Series events (eight) than any other player and has finished on top of the pile in Europe despite only playing in 13 events this season - and four of those were majors.
Danny Willett continued his resurgence. The defending champion, who won the BMW PGA Championship, earlier this year, is fully fit once again and is playing with the freedom that saw him win The Masters before it all went horribly wrong. At 10 under par he was comfortably inside the top 10 and a birdie at the 14th took him into fifth place, which is where he finished.
Rahm missed another fairway at the 10th and angrily slammed his driver into the ground. He was struggling to keep his emotions under control but he found a great lie and hit his approach to 15 feet and rolled the putt in for yet another birdie. Fleetwood closed the gap when he holed a long birdie putt at the 12th but was still five behind Rahm, and he picked up another at the par-five 14th.
Rahm missed the par-three 13th to the right and then watched as Lorenzo-Vera struck his tee shot to five feet. The Spaniard hit a poor chip and, all of a sudden, a two-shot swing was on the cards. Rahm failed to save par and dropped back to 18 under and when Lorenzo-Vera converted, the gap was down to two, with Fleetwood a shot further adrift. The Englishman wasn’t finished with this yet and joined Lorenzo-Vera on 16 under when he birdied the 15th.
But Rahm and Lorenzo-Vera both birdied the 14th hole. Rahm 19 under, Lorenzo-Vera 17 under, Fleetwood 16 under. And still it wasn’t over. Rahm had a birdie chance at the 15th but raced it beyond the hole and missed the return. He was now only one ahead. Fleetwood is on the crest of a wave after his performance at Sun City and he continued his amazing run on the back nine with a wonderful birdie putt at the 17th. Incredibly, he was now one behind Rahm, with the par-five 18th to come. He couldn’t, could he?
Rahm, after his stunning start, was now struggling to keep it together but a par at the 16th meant he was still one in front with two to play. At one point, Fleetwood trailed Rahm by seven shots but when he birdied the 18th, incredibly, he was tied for the lead after a round of 65. He now had to wait to see if he had done enough.
The Spaniard parred the 17th and strode to the last hole knowing that a birdie would tie it all up for him. He struck a huge drive but put his approach into the greenside bunker and splashed out to four feet. He duly holed it for a final round of 68 and a one-shot victory. Lorenzo-Vera parred the last to finish third, which is worth more than $500,000 to him. McIlroy had a miserable final round of 73 to finish on 12 under par.
Bernd Wiesberger, who began the week leading the Race to Dubai, could only manage a final round of 72 for a two-under-par total and finished third in the standings.
Rookie of the Year honours went to Scotland’s Robert MacIntrye, who finished ahead of American Kurt Katiyama after a thrilling battle that went right down to the wire. “It will mean a lot to my family,” MacIntyre said. “I am delighted. I didn’t expect a season like this in my first year. I knew my game was good enough but I didn’t know if it would turn up. I want to make it into the top 50 in the world by April next year. I aim to keep shooting for the stars and see where it takes me. I am now going to go out and enjoy this with my friends and family.”
RAHM's TaylorMade Golf: "WHAT'S IN THE BAG"
- M5 10.5° driver
- M5 15° fairway
- M5 19.0° fairway
- P750 4-PW irons
- MG Hi-Toe 52° and 56° wedges
- MG2 60° with TW11 grind wedge
- Spider X copper putter
- TP5 golf ball (#10)
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