It’s all about timing with Jon Rahm when it comes to Rolex Series events. The Spaniard is always involved in the business end of those big-money tournaments on the European Tour. Three of them have fallen to him already and No 4 is a distinct possibility.
Heading into the final round of the season-ending DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, the 25-year-old shares the lead on 15 under par with Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera.
On paper, a potential last-day shoot-out between the pair is a non-contest. Rahm, after all, is bidding to land his sixth European Tour title in just his 40th event while Lorenzo-Vera, on the other hand, is trying to break his duck on his 194th appearance on the circuit.
Even if Lorenzo-Vera, pictured inset, finishes ahead of Rahm at the end of the final circuit over the Greg Norman-designed Earth Course, it might not be enough to claim that maiden victory. Rory McIlroy, bidding to land this title for a third time, is lurking ominously on 13-under, with Tommy Fleetwood also still in the mix two shots further back.
Victory for Rahm, coupled with Austrian Bernd Wiesberger not finishing in the top two, which looks unlikely given that he’s down in a tie for 24th after 54 holes, would also see him finish the season as European No 1. The only other Spaniard to have achieved that feat is Seve Ballesteros.
“Gives me goosebumps to think about that,” admitted Rahm after coming home in four-under 32 for a 66. “As a Spanish player, any time you join or you have the chance to put your name on a list where there’s only one name and that name is Seve, it’s pretty impactful. It’s really emotional for all of us.
“To think even Sergio [Garcia] or Miguel Ángel [Jimenez] or Ollie [Jose Maria Olazabal] couldn’t get it done. It’s hard to believe that I have the chance to be the second.”
Three shots ahead at the start of the day, Lorenzo-Vera, who has finished runner-up four times, hadn’t put a foot wrong – in fact, he looked to be relishing the challenge as he birdied the sixth, seventh, ninth and 14th – before finding water with his tee shot at the last then missing a short par putt.
The winner will pick up the biggest first prize in golf of £2.7 million. “It is in my mind for sure,” admitted Lorenzo-Vera of that. “I mean, maybe tomorrow you shoot six-under and then you put your family out of any trouble for the rest of your life. So, of course, it’s going to add some pressure. Hopefully I’ll be shaking for the good reasons.
What had he learned from his previous chances to taste victory? “That you don’t control anything except your mind,” he added. “That’s the only thing you can control tomorrow, so I just hope for the same game plan and let’s see if the golf wants to give me something.”
It’s been a roller-coaster ride for McIlroy so far this week, having shot scores of 64-74-65. The latter was illuminated by an eagle-3 at the seventh, where he hit a majestic shot with a 5-wood on to the green. “I’ve hit a couple of nice fairway wood shots this week and been able to take advantage of them with a couple of eagles,” said the world No 2.
He was too far behind Wiesberger in terms of points coming into this event to be a factor in the Race to Dubai title race, but a fifth win of the year would be a nice sign-off, nonetheless. “You’ve got Tommy and Jon up there and Mike’s holding steady at the top,” added McIlroy. “I’m going to have to go out there and shoot a similar score tomorrow to do what I did today to really have a chance.”