At one point on the back nine Sunday during the final round of the DP World Tour Championship, Jon Rahm held a four-stroke lead over Tommy Fleetwood and Mike Lorenzo-Vera. That the 25-year-old Spaniard would close out the tournament and grab the $US3 million first prize – the richest in European Tour history – seemed a foregone conclusion. In turn, Rahm would overtake Bernd Wiesberger and win the Race to Dubai title and its additional $2 million bonus.
But with that much money on the line, it wasn’t going to be quite so simple. A pair of bogeys from Rahm on the 13th and 15th holes at the Earth Course at the Jumeirah Estates in Dubai brought the chasers back into the mix. Specifically, Fleetwood would close out a back-nine 31 for a final-round 65, getting into the clubhouse at 18-under for the tournament.
That was the same number that Rahm was on when he stepped to the tee on the par-5 18th. His tee shot found the fairway, giving him a chance to go for the green in two. But he pushed his approach into the right greenside bunker. To cash the big cheques without needing extra holes, Rahm had to get up-and-down for birdie from the sand. Splashing a roughly 20-yard bunker shot to a makable birdie for a tour pro under ordinary circumstances wouldn’t be too taxing, but with so much on the line, this was no gimmie.
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“It’s definitely not the easiest [shot], with a downhill lie, but a really good lie in the sand,” Rahm said afterwards. “All I really had to do was get it on the downhill part of the green and it would release. But it’s easier said than done.”
Give Rahm credit for coming through in the clutch. The final hole birdie closed out a Sunday 68 that made him just the second Spanish golfer to earn the title of European Tour No.1, joining one of Rahm’s idols, Seve Ballesteros.