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Rahm finishes off ‘9 out of 10’ year with Hero runner-up

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NASSAU, Bahamas – As Jon Rahm debated whether to proceed with his media obligations or wait until play had completely finished Saturday afternoon at the Hero World Challenge, a nearby television showed Henrik Stenson hitting the fairway at Albany’s par-4 18th hole.

The shot made up Rahm’s mind for him. Rahm had closed with a 6-under 66 to finish at 17 under, but Stenson was a shot better and unlikely, Rahm said, to bogey the last.

“I’ll just do it now,” Rahm conceded, before explaining.

“It would take a bad shot from Henrik, who's clearly playing beautiful and hitting really, really good iron shots all week. I saw two days of that, so I'll be surprised if that second shot goes outside 20 feet, to be honest.”

Stenson hit his approach outside of that but was still able to two-putt for the victory and deny Rahm a chance at back-to-back Hero titles.

Hero World Challenge: Full-field scores | Full coverage

The young Spaniard, though, gave it a run, going birdie-eagle-birdie on Nos. 14-16 to take the outright lead. Rahm thought he held the lead two holes later when he hit a safe shot from 168 yards into the final green, leaving himself 30 feet short of the hole.

Only he was wrong. Two groups behind, Stenson, playing in the final pairing, had eagled No. 15 to pull one shot ahead of Rahm. Instead of an easy par, Rahm actually needed a birdie at the last.

“I wish I would have had a scoreboard on 18 to know that I was one back because I definitely played it 20 feet short of the pin thinking I was at least tied for the lead, so I wanted to give myself a chance,” Rahm said. “But had I known I would have been a little bit more aggressive. It is what it is. I still hit a good shot, I just mis-hit it a tiny bit and came up shorter than I wanted it.”

Still, Rahm had no reason to hang his head. He’s slated to marry fiancée Kelley Cahill next week in Spain, and Rahm’s runner-up finish at Hero was his fourth finish of solo second or better in his past five starts. That stretch includes two wins. 

He finished 2019 with three victories, four other top-3 finishes and nine other top-10s in 24 worldwide starts.

“It was the best year I've had,” said Rahm, who didn’t win a major, however. “I'm not going to give it a 10 because I don't think anybody would give it a 10, but close to a nine out of 10.”