JON Rahm was left overwhelmed after he claimed his first Race to Dubai, earning $5m in the process.
But it was not the life-changing sum in prize money – including the biggest single sum for winning a golf tournament anywhere in the world that stunned the Spaniard.
It was the fact that in all the commotion of his second win at Greg Norman’s Earth Course – pocketing the $3million for winning the DP World Tour Championship for a second time in Dubai – he had not realised he had become just the second Spanish player to be crowned European No. 1 and win the Harry Vardon Trophy.
When Sky TV’s Tim Barter pointed it out in his interview after holing the winning putt, Rahm, who is very focused on matching his hero’s Ballesteros’ achievements and records, was genuinely shocked to learn he had finished ahead of Tommy Fleetwood on the Race to Dubai.
“Really?” Rahm reacted. “Oh man I do not believe it.”
Even later when facing the world’s media, the new champions was still struggling to come to terms with his new found status.
Jon Rahm said: “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.”
“Sergio has been a great Spanish champion for years, a major winner. Ollie, two-time major championship winner. Miguel Angel Jimenez 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.
“Man, you dream of making birdies on 18 to win a tournament.
“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.
“I’ve thought about it (winning the Race to Dubai) all week. I’ve thought about it the last two hours.
“I’ve thought about it as soon as I made the putt. But it still hasn’t processed in my mind.
“It’s a thought in there it still has not been internalised.
“It’s really so hard to believe that some of the greatest champions in European 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.”
The Spaniard held off a determined late charge from Lancashire’s Fleetwood to seal his second DP World Tour Championship title in three years – and his fourth Rolex Series victory – at Jumeirah Golf’s Earth Course.
At one point, Rahm had been on cruise control, racking up a six-shot lead after just seven holes thanks to four birdies as shock 36-hole leader Michael Lorenzo-Vera finally stumbled.
But 25-year-old Rahm dropped consecutive shots on the eighth and ninth and his lead was further eroded on the back nine as Fleetwood finished with five birdies in his final seven holes to sign for a 65
That set the clubhouse target at 18-under.
It meant Rahm, who had posted two birdies and two bogeys after the turn, then had to birdie the last hole for victory to avoid a winner-takes-all play-off with Fleetwood to decide both the tournament and the Race to Dubai.
He duly held his nerve with a superb bunker shot to four feet before rolling in the putt for a 68 to finish on 19-under.
Jon Rahm has now won six times in 40 European Tour appearances – two DP World Tour Championships, two Dubai Duty Free Irish Opens and his home Open de España on two occasions – achieving that milestone in 15 fewer events that the legendary Ballesteros.
Runner-up Fleetwood finished second in the Race to Dubai after winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge a week earlier, at Sun City (see below).
Lorenzo-Vera posted a closing 70 to finish third on 17-under to move into a career-best 19th position on the Race to Dubai.
World No. 2 Rory McIlroy could not replicate the fireworks of his third round 65 as a 73 left the FedEx Cup winner seven strokes back in fourth place on 12-under.
Yorkshire’s defending champion Danny Willett was a further shot back in fifth after a 69.
Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, who had led the Race to Dubai going into the season finale, posted a round of 72 to finish in tied 28th position on two-under.
He slipped to third position in the final rankings, with Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Sheffield’s Matthew Fitzpatrick completing the Race to Dubai top five, each earning a share of the $5million bonus pool.
•For the final scores in the DP World Tour Championship click here.
Fleetwood’s praise for Ryder Cup team-mate
DP World Tour Championship runner-up Tommy Fleetwood praised Ryder Cup team-mate Rahm as his bid to win a second Race to Dubai in three years came up short.
The 29-year-old, who took his young son Franklin to the practice ground while Rahm played the 18th, said: “I couldn’t have done much more, really.
“You know, some of the putts I hit, some of the
shots I hit coming down the stretch, it started looking like I could get back
in it or might have a chance.
“I’m proud, really, of the way I played the last few holes. Proud of the end of the season, and these two weeks make the season just seem in a different light than it did would weeks before we started.
“Fair play to Jon. That’s a cracking birdie down the last when you have to make it.
“There’s always going to be a little bit of disappointment there, but for the most part, I got myself back in it, and I am very proud of the way I played on that back nine.
“You know, it’s Jon’s time, Jon’s moment, he’s played unbelievable this year. I’m just happy with my week.”
Fleetwood had reignited his hopes of a second European No. 1 crown with victory in a play-off against Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult at the Nedbank – his first win since Abu Dhabi two years ago in January – a week earlier.