Sun, Dec 15, 2019

Jon Rahm went to the 18th hole on Sunday at the DP World Tour Championship needing to make a $5 million birdie. 

If he made birdie, he would beat Tommy Fleetwood by one stroke and win $3 million for winning the event and another $2 million for winning the season-long Race to Dubai. After his second shot ended up in a greenside bunker, he had maybe the most clutch up-and-down of his career for that unholy sum of money.

“Somehow, I can’t explain how, it was about as calm as I can be, honestly,” said Rahm afterward. “Felt really, really confident. I had my mission in mind and I’m like, ‘You need to get this up-and-down, yes or yes.'”

As it turns out, yes.

Rahm needed that birdie to extricate himself from a tie for second with Tommy Fleetwood, who shot a 65 and finished 18 under for the week. Rahm’s final-round 68 bumped him to 19 under, and with a few more zeros in his bank account.

“Man, you dream of making birdies on 18 to win a tournament,” said Rahm. “And how I was playing early on, I was hoping not to need that, but it happened, and I came through when I needed it and really proud of myself for that.”

Rahm went out in 33 on Sunday in Dubai — after opening the week 66-69-66 — but stumbled a bit on the back side of the course. Bogeys at Nos. 13 and 15 and this Fleetwood bomb ahead of him had the wheels wobbling just a bit.

But a perfect 4-3-4 par-par-birdie finish for Rahm was good enough for his second World Tour Championship in three years. It touches off what has been an underrated elite late summer and fall stretch for the Spaniard. Look at his finishes here since the U.S. Open in June.

Event Finish

U.S. Open

T3

Andalucia Masters

T2

Irish Open

1

Open Championship

T11

WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational

7

The Northern Trust

3

BMW Championship

T5

Tour Championship

T13

BMW PGA Championship

2

Dunhill Links MC
Spanish Open 1
World Tour Championship 1

That’s seven (!!) top-three finishes in just 12 starts. One of the biggest storylines for me going into 2020 is whether Rahm can maintain this momentum and challenge Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy atop the Official World Golf Rankings.

But for today, the story is about what Rahm has already accomplished.

With his sixth European Tour victory and first Race to Dubai, the only hole in his 25-year-old resume is a major championship. Every single thing about his career trajectory says that’s coming next, it’s coming soon and it’s coming in bunches. Many major-less players could have said the same, I suppose, and Rahm still has to go out and actually do it. On Sunday, he became just the second Spaniard other than Seve Ballesteros to win the Race to Dubai (formerly the order of merit) on the European Tour.

“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,” said Rahm. “That’s what I can’t really put my mind into.

“Sergio has been a great Spanish champion for years, major winner. [Jose Maria Olazabal is a] two-time major championship winner. Miguel Ángel has done a great job, as well. Alvaro Quiros has won this event, as well. 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 mean, I can put the words, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s true. It’s hard to believe.”

Sunday’s victory in Dubai — his 10th overall as a pro — is yet another marker on Rahm’s journey to becoming the best player in the world, a multiple-time major championship winner and one of the best Europeans to ever tee it up. The fun part will be seeing whether he can actually get there.

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