DUBAI • Until yesterday, no other Spaniard had won the European Tour's order of merit title except for Seve Ballesteros in 1991.
As such, Jon Rahm found it hard to "process in my mind" after matching the late golf great's achievement to claim the DP World Tour Championship and season-long Race to Dubai title at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
He held off a ferocious final-round charge by fellow contender Tommy Fleetwood to secure a one-shot win at the Tour's season finale, overcoming a nervous back nine to end on four-under 68 and a 19-under 269 total.
Rahm opened up a six-shot advantage after seven holes before the Englishman made a late charge, finishing with a final-round 65 to set the clubhouse target at 18 under.
Needing a birdie at the final hole to beat 10th-ranked Fleetwood's score, he produced a sublime bunker shot to within three feet before rolling home to secure the Harry Vardon Trophy.
On emulating Ballesteros, the 25-year-old Rahm said: "I've thought about it all week. I've thought about it the last two hours. I thought about it as soon as I made the putt. But it's a thought in there, it still has not been internalised.
"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. It just doesn't feel like it's true. It's hard to believe.
"Seve was such an idol for us. To put my name there, it's hard to believe. I can't believe some of the things I have accomplished."
However, it was not his compatriot he was thinking about as he was on the 16th hole, but rather "The Golden Bear" Jack Nicklaus.
Recalling the 18-time Major winner's comments, Rahm said: "I heard him talk about his win at the Open at Muirfield (in 1966).
"He said he was on the 16th hole and told himself, 'If you finish three, four, four, which was birdie, par, par, you win the tournament.'
"I told myself on 16 before I hit the tee shot, 'If you finish four, three, four, you win the golf tournament, no matter what anybody else does.' You dream of making birdies on 18 to win a tournament."
With the victory, Rahm, who has now won three times on the European Tour this year, is projected to move up two places to world No. 3.
While he mainly plays on the PGA Tour, he has six career wins from just 15 starts on the European circuit and he will earn US$3 million (S$4.1 million) for his win in Dubai as well as a US$2 million bonus for topping the year's money list.
Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera, who started the day with a share of the lead, slipped two behind when he took two chips to get out of rough on his way to bogeying the third. He recovered with two birdies on the back nine to sign for 70 and a 271 total, sealing a third-place finish.
World No. 2 Rory McIlroy ended fourth, seven shots off the lead, with a sluggish round of one-over 73.