Thinking about how Jack Nicklaus won the Open Championship at Muirfield in 1966 helped Spaniard Jon Rahm land a £3.9 million pay-day as he landed both the DP World Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai.
The 25-year-old looked to be coasting to both titles after covering the opening seven holes on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in five-under to move to 20-under-par and six shots clear of the field in the season-ending event. However, two sloppy bogeys before the turn, coupled with a back-nine charge from 2017 Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood, left Rahm needing a birdie at the 620-yard par-5 last to win this event for a second time and also become just the second Spaniard after Seve Ballesteros to be crowned as Europe’s No 1.
After a big drive, he only had a 4-iron for his second but pushed that into a bunker. It needed a Seve-like touch to seal the deal and Rahm delivered exactly that, leaving himself with a four-footer that was duly converted. “I feel like I’ve had two different days completely,” he admitted afterwards. “Those first seven holes, I felt like I couldn’t miss a shot and my putting was unbelievable. Then just one errant tee shot and a three-putt kind of took everything in the wrong direction. I kept myself in there with a birdie on 10 and a birdie 14, but I still made some mistakes.
“It would have been a very different day if I don’t three-putt nine and 15. But it happened. And it made me show some determination and grit and heart just to win.”
Rahm, who has now won four Rolex Series events and six European Tour titles in just 40 appearances on the circuit, added: “I stood on the 16th hole after three-putting and remembered Jack talking about his in that Open (at Muirfield). He was on the 16th hole as well and told himself, ‘If you finish 3-4-4 (par-birdie-par), you win the tournament’.
“So I told myself before I hit the tee shot: ‘If you finish 4-3-3, you win the golf tournament, no matter what anybody else does.’ And that’s what I did. I played three really solid holes.”
Rahm finished 484 points ahead of Fleetwood in the rankings, with long-time leader Bernd Wiesberger having to settle for third spot after finished 17 shots behind the winner in joint-28th. It was a touch of class, though, from Wiesberger as the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open champion masked his own disappointment to be one of the first to congratulate Rookie of the Year Bob MacIntyre as he came off the 18th green.