Jon Rahm holds on to win the ‘Dubai Double’ with final hole birdie for victory at the DP World Tour Championship
Jon Rahm birdied the 72nd hole during a dramatic final day in Dubai to win the DP World Tour Championship and finish the year as European No.1.
Rahm, who saw a six stroke lead disappear after a blistering back nine by Tommy Fleetwood, managed to edge out the Englishman with an up-and-down for birdie on the par-five 18th at Jumeriah Golf Estates.
Rahm and Fleetwood were just two of five players who could end the year as Race to Dubai Champion, and Rahm’s victory saw him overtake Bernd Wiesberger at the top of the standings with his second European Tour victory in a row.
“I feel like I’m going to start crying,” Rahm said immediately after his win. “It was such an up and down day. I had a six shot lead and I came down eighteen needing a birdie to win. It was hard, I tried to battle out there.
“I kind of lost the swing a bit and then once we got to 16… I told myself John you’re on 16, one shot lead, if you finish 4-3-4 you win the tournament.
“I played three great holes. I mean hard to believe, besides the putt, the first three shots here on 18 was about as calm as I’ve been all day because I also told myself on 18 ‘OK you’ve got a chance. How many times do you dream of having a birdie at the last to win a tournament and you can make this a possibility’ so I hit the best driver of the week, a great 4-iron that the wind didn’t take and an outstanding bunker shot and I made the putt. Hard to believe.”
His win was Rahm’s sixth European Tour title, and it comes not only with a prize of $5,000,000, but a place in the history books as only the second Spaniard behind Seve Ballesteros to be European No.1.
“It’s still something I can’t really process right now. Seve’s such an icon for all of us, especially in Spanish golf, and such an icon for me,” Rahm said. “Anytime you can join your name to a list where the only name in Spanish golf is Seve Ballesteros, it’s a pretty big deal.
“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. 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.”
Rahm started the final round tied at the top of the leaderboard with Mike Lorenzo Vera but quickly pulled ahead with back-to-back birdies on the first two holes before adding three more from the fifth that included putts of 50-feet and 30-feet on his way to opening up a six stroke lead.
But after a wayward drive and a subsequent drop left him unable to save par at the eighth, he dropped his second shot of the day just a hole later with a three putt at nine, and suddenly his lead was just three.
He bounced back with a birdie at the 10th, but missed the green at the 13th and failed to get up and down. Playing partner Mike Lorenzo Vera then holed his putt for birdie, closing the gap down to two shots.
Both players followed up with birdies at the par-five 14th, but Rahm instantly gave the shot back a hole later to see his lead cut to just one. Up ahead, Tommy Fleetwood had just had his third birdie of the back nine to move to five-under for the day, and just two behind with three to play.
Fleetwood then piled on the pressure with a birdie at the 17th, and nearly holed out for eagle on the last but had to settle for a final-hole birdie to set the clubhouse target at 18-under.
By the time Rahm reached the 18th tee, he knew he had to birdie to win or par the closing hole to get in to a playoff, and sent a huge drive down the middle of the fairway.
He went for the green in two but instead found the green-side bunker, and expertly hit out to around four-feet before sinking the putt for a four-under 68, to end the tournament one shot ahead on 19-under.
Speaking afterwards about losing such a big early round lead, Rahm said he’d never had to grind out a win like that.
“At some point, you’re bound to have some bad stretch of golf. Unfortunately for me it happened from 8 to 15 in the final round instead of earlier in the tournament,” Rahm said.
“I’ve cruised to a win before, luckily enough. But I’ve never had to grind out after losing a lead like that. So it was meant to be to happen like this.”
Lorenzo Vera was unable to do better than a par at the last, leaving him in solo third place at -17, with Rory McIlroy in fourth on -12 after a tough day on the course that left him signing for a one-over 73.
Danny Willet closed out with a 69 to end up in fifth, with Sergio Garcia, Tom Lewis and Thomas Pieters behind him on -10.
Bernd Wiesberger, who led the Race to Dubai heading in to the final event of the season, finished in 28th place on 2-under.