Rahm fittingly ends year with win at Hero World Challenge
December 02, 2018
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Jon Rahm's interview after winning Hero
NASSAU, Bahamas – News and notes from Sunday’s final round of the Hero World Challenge, with Spain’s Jon Rahm cruising to a four-shot win to end his year on a high note.
RAHM'S BIG WIN
It was the Wednesday at East Lake, the eve of the TOUR Championship. Jon Rahm was on the practice green, putting on a Bermudagrass surface that has always given him fits. Next to him is Tiger Woods. Rahm, being 24 years old and having idolized Tiger, decided to ask for some advice.
“Can you please teach me how to putt on Bermuda?”
“He kind of laughed and told me it’s all about feel,” Rahm recalled. “I was like, OK, whatever, right.”
On Sunday, Rahm was again next to Woods on the putting green. This time it was during the trophy ceremony after Rahm claimed Tiger’s Hero World Challenge with a 7-under 65 to finish at 20 under. Tiger remembered the conversation they had had two months earlier at East Lake.
“That’s a pretty good performance for somebody who can’t putt on Bermuda greens,” Tiger said.
Replied Rahm: “My man, you should look at my stats because it was all ball-striking.”
Indeed, Rahm did not win his final start of the 2018 calendar year because of his prowess with the putter. It was from tee-to-green that he excelled – he was third in the 18-man field in fairways hit (39 of 5) and tied for fourth in greens in regulation (52 of 62). On Sunday, locked in a tight front-nine battle with Tony Finau, Rahm hit 12 of his last 13 greens as he pulled away for his third worldwide victory of the year – and sixth since he turned pro.
“Arguably the best ball-striking day I’m ever going to have – even better than Friday,” Rahm said of his final round, comparing his closing 65 to his second-round 63 that was the lowest round of the week.
Perhaps it’s fitting that Rahm won the event run by Tiger’s foundation. It was just a week after their exchange at East Lake when they met again. It came in the Sunday’s Singles at the Ryder Cup in Paris, when Rahm found himself facing Woods in the fourth match out.
Plenty of thoughts when through Rahm’s mind in those 12 hours prior to the match. He spoke to his mental coach, spoke to European captain Thomas Bjorn, spoke to teammate Tommy Fleetwood, all in hopes of finding a way to beat Woods. He concluded that he simply couldn’t make any mistakes for Tiger to pounce on. He had to play flawless golf.
Result? Rahm beat Woods 2 and 1. It was the first full point for Europe on a day in which they took back the Ryder Cup. Just before Rahm’s final putt, somebody in the gallery yelled out, “Do it for Seve” in Spanish. Seve Ballesteros is the reason Rahm is playing golf. The emotions started to spill out.
So there was Rahm crying in front of Woods. A win over one idol inspired by his late Spanish hero.
“Because of that, I don’t think there’s anything I can do in the game anytime soon that’s going to mean more than that,” Rahm said.
Sunday’s win in the Bahamas was pretty nice, though. Big things await for Rahm going into 2019. It could be a breakout year, a year in which he reaches the next level. Maybe he doesn’t even need those Bermudagrass lessons anymore.
KEY MOMENT: The tournament outcome was still in doubt when the final group reached the drivable 298-yard par-4 14th. Jon Rahm was two shots ahead of Tony Finau. But then Finau produced his worst swing of the week, pulling his driver 20 yards left and into the sand near a bush. With a tricky lie, he chipped into the greenside bunker. On his next shot, his ball ran through the green to the other side. He then chipped back and two-putted for double bogey. Meanwhile, Rahm birdied the hole. The three-shot swing basically sealed the deal. “That was the killer for Tony,” Rahm said. But Finau said Rahm was simply not going to be denied. “Even if I make a 4 there, I’m going to have to do something pretty dang special,” Finau said. “Hat’s off to Jon this week. He played incredible golf and deserved to win.”
FINAU’S FINE: Even though he came up short, Finau was fairly chipper after signing for his 3-under 69 that left him in solo second at 16 under. “I found out a lot this week,” Finau said. “I put new irons in and I put a putter in with more loft. Obviously it worked.” Finau played with PING’s Blueprint forged irons and hit 72 percent of his greens this week, tied for fourth-best in the field (he also led the field in fairways hit with 80 percent). After a disappointing Thursday performance on the greens, in which he needed 30 putts, Finau then added 2 degrees of loft to his putter and performed more better. “These are the types of tournaments you’re willing to take that risk and I did – and I think it’s going to pay off.”
ROSE STILL NO. 2: FedExCup champion Justin Rose had a chance to move back in front of Brooks Koepka and reclaim the No. 1 spot in the world rankings for the third time this season. But thanks to Tony Finau’s birdie at the 18th, which moved him into solo second and left Rose – who shot a 65 after a sizzling back-nine 31 -- in solo third, Koepka remains No. 1 for now. “It’s not a huge goal for me, but when you have these opportunities, you want to take them,” said Rose, who was No. 1 two weeks ago after winning the Turkish Open. “Obviously anytime you get to No. 1, you want to stay there. It’s a nice feeling. I have other goals next season rather than just focusing on the No. 1 spot. The No. 1 spot’s always a by-product of achieving probably your other goals, to be honest.”
TOUGH WEEK FOR TIGER: Just two players failed to shoot par/better on Sunday – Tiger Woods, who shot a 1-over 73; and Hideki Matsuyama, who shot a 75. Woods was one of four players who failed to break par on Saturday and was one of three players who failed to shoot par/better on Thursday. “Overall it was a long week,” Woods said. For a wrap-up of Tiger’s season, click here.
BIRDIES FOR CHARITY: Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay donated $500 for each of their birdies this week for California wildfire victims. Rahm made 25 in winning the tournament; Cantlay made 22 in tying for fifth (8 of those came on Sunday when he posted the day’s low round, an 8-under 64). That results in a total charity of $23,500 this week.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Xander Schauffele's eagle chip for Shot of the Day