Jon Rahm wins $5m prize as Rory McIlroy reflects on 2019 as a learning year
Spain's Jon Rahm took another giant step in his meteoric career when he birdied the 18th to clinch the DP World Tour Championship, the Race to Dubai and a $5million payday.
The two-time Dubai Duty Free Irish Open champion (25) holed 142-feet of putts and made five birdies in his first seven holes to lead Frenchman Michael Lorenzo-Vera by four strokes, Tommy Fleetwood by eight and Rory McIlroy by nine.
"He looks like a hammer and he was hitting me with a hammer on my head in the beginning with his putter," said the colourful Lorenzo-Vera, who had to settle for third overall as the big Basque recovered from a mid-round stumble and a scorching Fleetwood finish to claim a lucrative double.
With McIlroy a non-factor as he limped to a 73 to finish seven shots adrift in fourth, the season-ending finale looked like a victory procession for Rahm.
But he added some drama to proceedings by making sloppy bogeys at the eighth and ninth before then playing the first six holes of the back nine in level par.
As joint overnight leader Lorenzo-Vera closed to within one stroke playing the 18th and Fleetwood drew level after making five birdies in his last six holes in his final round 65, Rahm looked to Jack Nicklaus for inspiration down the stretch.
After three-putting the 15th, he remembered how the Golden Bear had gathered himself for the last three holes of his Open win at Muirfield in 1966 and finished par-par-birdie to win at Jumeirah Golf Estates for the second time in three years.
"He said he was on the 16th hole as well and told himself: If you finish 3, 4, 4, which there's birdie, par, par, you win the tournament," said Rahm, who parred the 16th and 17th before holing a four-footer for birdie and victory after finding a greenside bunker at the 620-yard 18th.
On his roller coaster day, he added: "I feel like I've had two different days completely. Those first seven holes, I felt like I couldn't miss a shot. I felt really, really confident. Everything was rolling.
"My putting was unbelievable. Then just one errant tee shot and a three-putt kind of took everything in the wrong direction. It made me show some determination and grit and heart just to win."
Set to move from fifth to third in the world, Rahm won $3million for winning the tournament and another $2million from the $5million Bonus Pool by becoming only the second Spaniard to win the Race to Dubai, emulating six-time Order of Merit winner, Seve Ballesteros.
As for McIlroy, he was not too crestfallen after his 73.
"You know, I'll look back at 2019 very fondly," he said, recalling his four wins and 19 top-10 finishes from 25 events this year.
"It's been a learning year, as well. I learned some things that I want to take forward into next year, as well, but first and foremost, I'm looking forward to a couple of months off and reflect on everything and get myself ready for next year."
Open champion Shane Lowry tied for 12th on seven-under after a 70.