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Rahm steals show at Hero World Challenge

On a hot and sunny day but with just enough wind, second-year pro golfer Jon Rahm, of Spain, defeated a field that included 14 of the world’s top 20 golfers, walking away with the overall title at the 2018 Hero World Challenge. The Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Tour event wrapped up on Sunday at the Albany Golf Course at Albany in southwestern New Providence.

After being in a three-way tie at the end of the third round with American Tony Finau and Swedish golfer Henrik Stenson at 13-under par, Rahm used a seven-under par in the final round to seal the victory. He finished 20-under par over the course of the four days to cart off the $1 million winner’s prize. Rahm had four birdies on the front nine in the fourth and final round on Sunday. He birdied holes three, six, seven and nine. An ecstatic Rahm had three birdies on the back nine on holes 11, 14 and 15, to secure the win.

After recording two bogeys in the third round on Saturday, Rahm did not record a bogey on Sunday. He said the key for yesterday’s great round was to hit the ball decisively and not look at anyone else.

“Based on how yesterday went, you know, I decided today I was going to be very decisive, meaning that any shot that I decided, any club that I picked, just really be really committed,” he said. “There are many ways to hit the ball when it’s this windy. There’s many ways to play golf, so I just decided to just pick one shot and stick to it and be really true to it, and it really worked out today. I also executed most of them almost perfectly, but really, I think that was because of how decisive I was, and then the second thing is I really wasn’t looking at anybody else. I just stuck to myself, focused on what was going on with me, inside of me, stayed really in the present, never got ahead, never got really hung up on the past. You know, I think those two things made me execute every shot as best as I could just because my mind wasn’t distracted. I was very clear, I let everything just flow through me and today happened, arguably the best ball-striking day I’m ever going to have, even better than Friday. I just made a few more putts on Friday,” Rahm said.

After he finished the final hole yesterday, he was greeted with hugs and kisses from his fiancé, Kelley Cahill. Rahm, 24, capped off a year that includes helping the Europeans win the Ryder Cup, defeating Tiger Woods and the Americans in the process. He had nothing but high praise of the Albany Golf Course, speaking of its quality. This was the first time he played at Albany.

“It’s great. The golf course is in unbelievable good shape. When you look down the tee box, it just looks pure everywhere. The greens are about as good as you’re going to putt on. Even though they’re Bermuda, the grain wasn’t taking it much. It was great. I think we got lucky, it wasn’t the windiest of weeks. We got some wind every day, but toward the end it died down. It was just beautiful to be out there. It was hot, but the wind kept us cool. 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 said.

In his first two full seasons as a pro, Rahm now has three career PGA Tour wins. He said he hopes to keep winning, and hopefully it will measure up to what Woods has done in 20 years. Rahm is a huge fan of Woods. He said when he played against him at the Ryder Cup, he got emotional. He said it was the most important moment in his short pro career thus far.

Rahm said: “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… it’s a great feeling.”

Finau finished second to Rahm with a tournament score of 16-under par. He had a difficult Sunday as he slipped off the lead. He had two bogeys and a double bogey and finished the day three-under. His double bogey was on hole 14.

“I made a six there (hole 14), one bad swing can do that on any hole, and that’s what happened. I hit about a 20-, 25-yard pull there and just ended up being hosed. I didn’t get any kind of shot toward the greens there. I tried to chunk and run something out there in the middle of the green, but, you know, again, even if I make a four there, I’m going to have to do something pretty dang special,” said Finau. He congratulated Rahm on the victory, saying Rahm played incredible golf and deserved to win.

England’s Justin Rose, the second-ranked golfer in the world, finished third. He shot seven-under in the final round like Rahm. Overall, he shot 15-under par in the tournament.

Rose came away with an eagle putt at hole 15, a par five hole. He had six birdies to go along with the eagle. He had a bogey at hole four. Rose took some time to speak about his desire to be at number one again.

“It’s not a huge goal for me, but when you have these opportunities you want to take them. Obviously, any time you get to number one, you want to stay there, it’s a nice feeling. I have other goals next season rather than just focusing on the number one spot. The number one spot is always a by-product of achieving probably your other goals, to be honest, but yeah, you know, these weeks, it’s always nice to rack up a few more weeks at the top spot, so they’re important,” Rose said.

Woods, the tournament host, managed to get out of 18th spot to finished one place higher. He ended the tournament one-under par after finishing the final round one-over par. He drew a crowd to every hole he contested. When he even par hole 18 in the final round, he was greeted with loud cheers by the fans in the box and around the ropes.

He said the round did not start off well for him.

“The round wasn’t very good. It was quite awful, actually. Somehow, I turned it around and got rolling a little bit, got to even par for the day somehow. I made a mistake there on 17, but overall it was a long week, but one that I hope the players enjoyed and I hope all the people who were involved and came out, enjoyed it,” he said.

Woods was very humble as he reflected on the year. He was glad he was able to compete consistently.

“This entire year has been amazing… just been so blessed to have the opportunity. To come from where I came from last year at this point to have an ability to actually play and compete again in the game and do it consistently is quite amazing,” Woods said.

Next year, the Presidents Cup is slated for December 9-15, at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Black Rock, Victoria, Australia. That is the weekend after when the Hero World Challenge is normally played here in The Bahamas. Woods said he and his team have their work cut out for them on how to make the two tournaments work, as they will have to get close to 50 people to travel from The Bahamas to Australia.

Last year’s Hero World Challenge winner, American Rickie Fowler, finished tied for fifth this year. He finished three-under par in the final round and 13-under par overall.

The total prize purse of the event was $3.5 million, and Rahm took home the winner’s share of $1 million.

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Simba French

Simba joined The Nassau Guardian in 2012 as a technical producer for Guardian Radio 96.9 FM. He joined the Editorial Department as a sports reporter in 2018. Simba has covered a wide range of sports stories, including the 2018 CARIFTA in Nassau, Bahamas. Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism

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