Nassau, Bahamas — Jon Rahm turned a potential shootout into a Bahamas breeze Sunday, closing with a 7-under 65 for a four-shot victory in the Hero World Challenge.
Starting the final round in a three-way tie with Tony Finau and Henrik Stenson, Rahm took the lead when Finau made bogey on the par-3 eighth hole, and the 24-year-old Spaniard never trailed the rest of the day at Albany Golf Club.
Finau was the last challenger until the 14th hole, when he went from a sandy area to a bunker and over the green, leading to double bogey. Rahm made birdie on the hole, and suddenly had a five-shot lead without much trouble to get in the way.
Rahm ends his year with three victories, just like in 2017, his first full year as a pro.
And in some respects, it was a fitting end.
Even with his individual trophies, no moment for Rahm will top facing Woods in the Sunday singles at the Ryder Cup and beating him on the 17th hole, putting the first point on the board for Europe that day. And then Rahm ended his year with Woods handing him the trophy from his holiday event.
“That Sunday with Tiger is still the most emotionally, most important moment of my golf career,” Rahm said. “It means so much to play against Tiger. A couple months later, to win his event, it’s really special.”
Even with a runaway victory, there was a small measure of drama on the final hole.
Justin Rose, needing to finish in a three-way tie for second to return to No. 1 in the world, closed with a 65 and was in position to go back to the top of the ranking until Finau rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt for a 69 to finish alone in second.
Brooks Koepka, who did not play this week, remains No. 1. Rose has one more event left in two weeks at the Indonesia Masters.
Finau, meanwhile, cracked the top 10 for the first time in his career at No. 9.
The tournament host was never in the picture until it was time to hand out the trophy. Woods got off to another rough start, rallied on the back nine and had to settle for a 1-over 73 to finish 17th against the 18-man field.
He finished 19 shots behind, the biggest gap this year from the winner over 72 holes.
“Overall, it was a long week, but one that I hope the players enjoyed,” Woods said.
That starts with Rahm, who previously won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour and the Spanish Open on the European Tour. He fell behind briefly when Finau rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 second, only to fall back into a share of the lead when a 4-foot par putt lipped out at No. 4.
Rahm took a two-shot lead to the back nine with a 4-hybrid to 12 feet on the par-5 ninth that set up a two-putt birdie, and he held his own until Finau’s double bogey. Rahm, making his first trip to the Bahamas for this event, figured out early that the key to scoring at Albany were the five par 5s and two reachable par 4s. He made birdie on all seven of those holes Sunday.
Stenson was only one shot behind when he made the turn, but the Swede made only one birdie on the back nine and finished alone if fourth. Patrick Cantlay was 12 shots better than Saturday, closing with a 64 to tie for fifth with defending champion Rickie Fowler.
Cameron Smith overcame a slow start and closed with a 2-under 70 to successfully defend his title in the Australian PGA Championship with a two-stroke victory over Marc Leishman.
Smith became the first player since Robert Allenby in 2001 to win the Australian PGA in successive years. Greg Norman (1984-85) also won back-to-back, while Kel Nagle and Norman von Nida were among to successfully defend when it was match play.
Smith finished at 16-under 272. Leishman, trying to win on home soil for the first time, shot 69.
Next up for Smith is trying to get a victory on the PGA Tour and continue his rise in the world ranking. The victory Sunday enables him to crack the top 30.
“I would love to get into the top 20 by the end of next year, it’s definitely the next goal,” Smith said. “That’s the next big step for myself, to get myself in there and get myself in a lot of situations where I can win golf tournaments. That’s what I want to do.”