(Reuters) - Spain’s Jon Rahm conjured up wise words from Jack Nicklaus before emulating compatriot Seve Ballesteros by winning the DP World Tour Championship and the European Tour’s season-long Race to Dubai on Sunday.
In an exciting finish to a season that has visited 31 countries, Rahm faltered in the final round before coming through at the end to secure a one-shot victory over Englishman Tommy Fleetwood.
Rahm opened up a six-shot advantage after seven holes at Jumeirah Golf Estates before Fleetwood made a late charge, finishing with a 65 to set the clubhouse target at 18-under.
Needing a birdie at the final hole to beat Fleetwood’s mark, Rahm produced a sublime bunker shot to within three feet before rolling home to secure the Harry Vardon Trophy with a four-under-par 68.
In the process, he collected $5 million — $3 million for the tournament victory and another $2 million for winning the Race to Dubai points race.
The 25-year-old Rahm became the second Spaniard after the late Ballesteros to win the Race to Dubai crown or its predecessor, the Order of Merit.
“Man, you dream of making birdies on 18 to win a tournament... and I came through when I needed it and really proud of myself for that,” said Rahm, who is projected to jump from fifth to third in the world rankings.
“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.
“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.”
After five birdies in the first seven holes, Rahm seemed set for a victory stroll, but he followed up with four quick bogeys and seemed to be frittering victory away.
That was when he thought of something 18-times major champion Nicklaus once said.
“I stood on the 16th hole after three-putting, and I told myself, I heard Jack Nicklaus talk about it, about his win at the (1966 British) Open at Muirfield,” said Rahm.
“He said he was on the 16th hole as well and told himself: ‘If you finish three, four, four... you win the tournament’.
“I told myself on 16 before I hit the tee shot, ‘If you finish four, three, three, you win the golf tournament, no matter what anybody else does’.”
Rahm said that the $5 million up for grabs had not even entered his mind.
“I didn’t even think about that, honestly. I don’t do this for the money. It’s obviously a great thing, but it never crossed my mind,” he said.
“Now with that said, it’s a pretty cool feeling, I’m not going to lie. I just turned 25. It’s unbelievable that I’m going to have that coming my way.”
Enough for a nice wedding next month, one would presume, when he marries fiancee Kelley Cahill, who he met when they were students at Arizona State University.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis and Christian Radnedge