A little over a week ago, Jon Rahm won the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and with that he also won the European Tour’s season-long Race to Dubai, thereby becoming the recipient of the Harry Vardon Trophy for being the Tour’s leading money-winner for 2019. In old money, he had finished top of the Order of Merit, which is what the prize used to be called when it was claimed by the late Seve Ballesteros. Rahm is now only the second Spaniard to have achieved this feat – and he knew it.
He knew very well indeed what was going on as he closed in on doing for the first time what Seve had done six times during his illustrious career. “I’ve thought about it all week,” Rahm said when it was over. “I’ve thought about it the last two hours. I thought about it as soon as I made the putt [to win] but it still hasn’t processed in my mind. It’s really hard to believe that some of the greatest champions in European golf and Spanish golf haven’t been able to accomplish what I have.” It’s something that was beyond José Maria Olazábal and looks likely to be the same way for Sergio Garcia, two Spaniards who, like Seve (five times) but unlike Jon to date, have won major championships.
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By winning the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai Jon Rahm reached six European Tour victories in 15 fewer starts than Seve 😲 pic.twitter.com/YD3BFSNnFI— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) November 25, 2019
Rahm, who turned 25 last month, does indeed seem to know his golf history. In the final round at the Jumeirah Golf Estates, he had led by six shots at one point during the afternoon but when he bogeyed the 15th his advantage had been cut to one and he appeared to be leaving the door open for the fast-finishing Tommy Fleetwood. At that point, Rahm’s mind went to something that happened nearly 30 years before he was born.
“Jack Nicklaus said that at the Open at Muirfield [in 1966] he told himself that if he finished 3-4-4 [par-birdie-par] he would win. And he did it. That is kind of what I said to myself, too. ‘Finish 4-3-4 [par-par-birdie] and you win the tournament’, and that’s what I did.” The up-and-down he made from a greenside bunker on the final hole was performed with an aplomb Ballesteros would have relished.
(A historical aside: for that aforementioned Open Championship, the 17th hole at Muirfield measured 528 yards. Nicklaus reached the green with a 3-iron off the tee and a 5-iron second shot. Downwind, admittedly, and with the small (1.62-inch) ball that was permitted in the Open until 1974, but just think about that for a second. With the equipment of 1966!)
Rahm’s financial reward was $3 million for winning the tournament and $2 million for winning the Race to Dubai. And what might be Jack Nicklaus’s financial recompense for a career on the PGA Tour during which he won 73 times? That would be $5.7 million, less than Jon Rahm made this past season alone playing golf on the European Tour.
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