Jon Rahm set for Race to Dubai battle with Shane Lowry
Offalyman narrowly leads the order of merit rankings heading into Dunhill Links
Shane Lowry plays the ninth hole at St Andrews in the fog during a practice round. Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
Jon Rahm admits he is making life difficult for himself as he tries to end the season as European number one for the first time.
Rahm could have overtaken Open champion Shane Lowry at the top of the Race to Dubai with victory in last week’s BMW PGA Championship, but had to settle for second place behind Danny Willett at Wentworth.
All three men are in the field for this week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and Rahm trails Lowry by just 26.7 points, but after defending his title in next week’s Spanish Open Rahm will not play again on the European Tour until the season-ending event in Dubai.
“Obviously I want to win the Race to Dubai, but I think what I’m doing with my schedule, taking six weeks off up to Dubai is going to put me a little bit back, especially with all these people around me playing,” Rahm told a pre-tournament press conference at St Andrews.
“Hopefully I can play good this week and next week and put myself in a good position to have a chance in Dubai. Hopefully I can be on top instead of Shane at the end of the year. I’d be really happy about that.
“It would be a good finish to a good year. I’ve been consistent all throughout, played solid, and hopefully I can win one of the last three starts on the European Tour again.”
Rahm is making his debut in the Dunhill Links and will partner his father Edorta in the pro-am event played over the Old Course at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.
“It’s great to be able to do something for him,” Rahm added. “When I thought about it last year I thought it fit the schedule since I’m defending in Spain and I wanted to play Wentworth.
“So it was sort of a Christmas present for him and he’s been looking forward to it for a long time. I heard he was non-stop practising last week. He plays a lot of golf, but this is going to be a little bit of a different experience.”
Rory McIlroy is also making the event a family affair and said he would rather win the team event with his father Gerry than claim a first professional win in Scotland.
“With the history that I’ve had at this tournament, from getting my Tour card in 2007 to having a few chances to win and not quite getting the job done, it obviously would be really nice to win at St Andrews at some point,” said McIlroy, who recovered from an opening 76 at Wentworth to record his 16th top-10 finish in 21 events this season.
“But I’m taking the team part of it almost as serious as the individual part. It’s my dad’s 60th birthday next week and I said to him, ‘What do you want for your birthday?’ and he said, ‘I’d love to play the Dunhill one more time’.
“This is his birthday present. His last hurrah, I think. Hopefully we have a good week and make it to Sunday.
“Whenever he gets to play here it’s his favourite week of the year and he loves it and enjoys it and embraces it. He knows a lot of the other amateurs that are playing. He obviously knows a lot of the other pros. He’s in heaven this week, which is great.”