Spain’s Jon Rahm held off a thrilling challenge from Tommy Fleetwood to win the DP World Tour Championship and emulate his hero Seve Ballesteros by claiming the Race to Dubai crown.
Rahm enjoyed a six-shot lead after seven holes of the final round but eventually had to birdie the 18th to complete a closing 68 and finish 19 under par, a shot ahead of Ryder Cup team-mate Fleetwood.
Fleetwood birdied five of the last seven holes to fire a brilliant closing 65 in pursuit of a second consecutive win after his victory in Sun City, but could only look on as Rahm held his nerve to get up and down from a greenside bunker on the last.
Rahm is just the second Spanish player after Ballesteros to finish the year as European number one and the 25-year-old was emotional as he contemplated that achievement.
“I’ve thought about it all week,” said Rahm, who has won six of the 15 regular European Tour events he has played. “I’ve thought about it the last two hours. I’ve thought about it as soon as I made the putt. But it still hasn’t processed in my mind.
“It’s really so hard to believe that some of the greatest champions in European golf and Spanish golf haven’t been able to accomplish what I have in just three years. That’s what I can’t really put my mind into.
“Sergio (Garcia) has been a great Spanish champion for years, a major winner. Ollie (Jose Maria Olazabal) is a two-time major winner. Miguel Angel (Jimenez) has done a great job, as well.
“So many great players throughout the history of Spain that have had a chance and they didn’t get it done. It’s just hard to put that in perspective to know that since Seve, I’m the next one to get it done.”
Rahm began the final round tied for the lead with France’s Mike Lorenzo-Vera, but birdied five of the first seven holes at Jumeirah Golf Estates to open up a six-shot lead.
Bogeys on the next two holes gave the chasing pack renewed hope and although Rahm responded well to birdie the 10th, he bogeyed the 13th as Lorenzo-Vera made birdie and Fleetwood picked up shots on the 12th, 14th and 15th.
Rahm looked to have weathered the storm with a birdie on the 14th but surprisingly three-putted the next from no great distance and up ahead Fleetwood birdied the 17th and 18th to move into a tie for the lead.
After a perfect drive Rahm pushed his approach into a greenside bunker, but hit a superb shot to three feet and holed the birdie putt and sealed a victory worth USD 5million (£3.9million), made up of a first prize of USD 3million (£2.3m) and a bonus of USD2 million (£1.6m) for winning the Race to Dubai.
Fleetwood finished second on the money list ahead of long-time leader Bernd Wiesberger, the Austrian finishing in a tie for 28th when outright second was required to deny Rahm.
“I’m proud of the end of the season and these two weeks make it seem in a different light,” said Fleetwood, who finished a shot ahead of Lorenzo-Vera.
“Fair play to Jon. That’s a cracking birdie down the last when you have to make it. There’s always going to be a little bit of disappointment there, but I got myself back in it and I am very proud of the way I played on that back nine.”
Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre was crowned rookie of the year after a tie for 14th left the 23-year-old 11th on the Race to Dubai, three places ahead of nearest rival Kurt Kitayama.