Rahm Wins 2018 Hero World Challenge
It’s been quite the PGA TOUR offseason for Jon Rahm following the end of the 2017-18 FedExCup playoffs. Two months after playing on his first Ryder Cup team and beating Tiger Woods 2 & 1 in a Sunday singles match to help clinch the 2018 Ryder Cup for Europe, Rahm hoisted what is affectionately known as the ‘Tiger Trophy’ for winning the Hero World Challenge on Sunday at Albany, Bahamas.
Playing in his first Hero World Challenge, Rahm carded a final-round 7-under-par 65 and is the first Spaniard to win the tournament which benefits Woods’ TGR Foundation.
Rahm, who turned 24 in November, posted an overall score of 20-under 268 to win by four strokes over fellow Hero World Challenge rookie Tony Finau. He collected a $1 million prize from the tournament’s $3.5 million purse. It is his sixth career professional victory. The Sunday at the Ryder Cup was the best moment of my golf career. I started crying when I was shaking his hand because that meant so much to me to play against Tiger Woods,” Rahm said. “Even though I won, I think he respects me a little more as a golfer just because of how I handled myself that day.
“A couple months later, to win his event, his foundation’s event along with Hero, this is really special. I grew up watching all those events and watching Tiger win how many times in a row. I learned a lot from that guy and we owe him – every golfer on the PGA TOUR owes him a lot because everything we play for is because of him.”
Rahm’s young career is suddenly developing a close, personal connection to PGA TOUR events hosted by Woods and operated by Woods’ TGR Live organization. Rahm thinks of his fellow countryman, Seve Ballesteros, and Woods as his two golfing heroes and inspirations.
In 2016, Rahm tied for third in his professional debut on the PGA TOUR at the Woods’ hosted National at Congressional CC. Woods was so impressed with Rahm’s performance that he sought him out to congratulate him on that Sunday after Rahm had finished his round.
The Hero World Challenge offers Official World Golf Ranking points and, with his win, Rahm projects to move up two spots in the world rankings to No. 6. Finau projects to move from No. 14 to No. 9, which would mark the first time in his career Finau is within the world’s top 10.
Albany resident and World No. 2 Justin Rose finished the tournament with a 7-under 65 to take third place at 15-under 273.
2014 and 2016 Hero World Challenge runner-up Stenson shot a 1-under 71 on Sunday to place fourth at 14-under 274. 2017 Hero World Challenge champion Rickie Fowler closed with a 3-under 69 to finish in a tie for fifth with first-round co-leader Patrick Cantlay at 13-under 275.
Rahm, Finau and Stenson began the final round in a three-way tie for the lead at 13-under. Rahm made birdies at Nos. 3, 6, 7 and 9 to give him a two-shot lead over Finau and Stenson at the turn. Finau’s bogey at No. 8 dropped him to 15-under and gave Rahm a solo lead that he would never relinquish.
“Arguably, the best ball-striking day I’m ever going to have,” Rahm said. “It’s truly one of the most enjoyable walks I’ve had all year for four days, not just because I played well. It’s just really, really fun to be around here.”
Rahm continued on in talking about how his past studies of Woods helped shape his mindset for his final round. From afar, Woods has been a mentor to Rahm and his influence on his golf game is profound.
“I heard Tiger say once in an interview…Tiger was talking, he said once he got in the lead, his goal was to never go back to the field. To have the field catch him. That’s the same thing I thought today. As soon as I got in the lead, my mind was still forward of myself, keep doing birdies and just keep going on. I didn’t know what kind of a lead I had until I got to 16 and I was still rifling at the pin.
“I think I’ve seen every video on YouTube about Seve and Tiger. Every shot that’s ever to be seen on the internet, I’ve probably seen it. It’s because I love the game of golf so much. If you ever see Kelley (Rahm’s fiancée), ask her because when we started dating I still did that. She had no idea about golf and I would just get the laptop and just make her watch all the highlights of Tiger. I’ve seen Tiger’s final round at Pebble (Beach) in 2000 about 150 times.”
“I also use it as a learning curve because you can learn from all these great things that all these great players have done and use them for yourself.“
Woods completed play in the 72-hole event with a 1-over 73. Proceeds from the Hero World Challenge benefit the TGR Foundation, Tavistock Foundation and the Bahamas Youth Foundation.