‘Stars align’ as Rahm caps break­out sea­son with rookie-of-the-year award

The National - News - - SPORT - JOHN McAU­LEY

Even be­fore his Dubai de­but of­fi­cially got un­der way, Jon Rahm had col­lected an­other ac­co­lade.

The Spa­niard, com­pet­ing this week for the first time at the DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship, was pre­sented yes­ter­day with the Euro­pean Tour’s rookie-of-the-year tro­phy at Jumeirah Golf Es­tates, a nod to what has been an in­cred­i­ble break­out sea­son.

Hav­ing turned 23 only last week, Rahm ar­rives at the Earth course fourth in the soon-to-be con­cluded Race to Dubai, as the world No 5 and with two vic­to­ries al­ready un­der his belt.

His first win came in San Diego in Jan­uary, while his suc­cess in Europe ar­rived at July’s Dubai Duty Free Ir­ish Open, one of the eight el­e­vated events on the sea­son-old Rolex Se­ries. Aside from that, he has two other run­ner-up fin­ishes, two thirds and a fur­ther five top sev­ens. It has been quite some 2017. It had just got­ten that lit­tle bet­ter.

“Well, it’s a very, very sat­is­fy­ing feel­ing,” said Rahm upon re­ceiv­ing the award from Keith Pel­ley, the Euro­pean Tour’s CEO. “It’s just a huge hon­our to be sit­ting here in this po­si­tion at this time of the year. It’s some­thing I’m re­ally proud of.”

Not sur­pris­ingly, Rahm con­cedes that “not in a mil­lion years” did he ex­pect to be so suc­cess­ful, so quickly. The for­mer world No 1 am­a­teur did not turn pro­fes­sional un­til af­ter the US Open last year, but in the in­terim has be­come one of golf’s stand­out play­ers. Un­der­stand­ably, he was at a loss to ex­plain how.

“I don’t know,” Rahm said. “I feel like ev­ery star, planet or any­thing that needs to be aligned for me to ac­com­plish all this has been aligned. It’s just, who knows?

“I’ve got my­self in a lot of sit­u­a­tions where I could get some­thing done ev­ery week, a lot of tournaments, so that’s why I fin­ished a lot of high fin­ishes. I would just say prepa­ra­tion.”

Rahm’s prepa­ra­tions have not ex­tended to next year yet, since as a mem­ber now of both main cir­cuits, he has strug­gled to de­cide his 2018 sched­ule. What­ever tran­spires, he hopes sim­ply for more of the same. Es­pe­cially since Rahm says he thrives in full glare of the spot­light, com­ing down the stretch.

“I like feel­ing the weight on my shoul­ders,” he said. “I like feel­ing that special emo­tion when ev­ery­thing just mat­ters so much. That’s what you prac­tice for. That’s when you know you are in con­tention in a tour­na­ment.”

First, though, Rahm will at­tempt to round off an in­cred­i­ble year with an­other trin­ket. New to the Earth course, he has watched the DP World “many, many times” on TV. Hav­ing seen it up close on Tues­day, he likes what he sees.

“It re­ally suits me, es­pe­cially off the tee, be­cause I can free-wheel a lit­tle bit,” Rahm said. “I can get to the tee and hit it as hard as I can. Those ex­tra yards are al­ways an ad­van­tage, but es­pe­cially on a course like this where po­si­tion to the green is very im­por­tant.

“That’s prob­a­bly why ball-strik­ers like Rory [McIl­roy] and [Hen­rik] Sten­son have had huge suc­cess here. Hope­fully I can end the year the same way I started it.”

Getty

Jon Rahm will make his UAE de­but when he tees off at Jumeirah Golf Es­tates this week

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