Jon Rahm Was Destined To Win A Major - And There Will Be More To Come
THERE were many who questioned whether Jon Rahm would ever win a major. This has nothing to do with his ability but plenty to do with his temperament. The Spaniard would be the first to admit that he possesses a pretty volcanic temper and at times he struggles to keep it under control when things don’t go his own way.
But this is a man who was born to greatness. He was the number one golfer in the world amateur rankings for a record 60 weeks and now finds himself as the professional game’s No1, a position he first achieved after winning the Memorial Tournament last year and reclaimed after winning the US Open at Torrey Pines.
He competed in the 2015 Phoenix Open as an amateur, finishing tied for fifth place and was the low amateur at the 2016 US Open, finishing his final tournament as an amateur in a tie for 23rd place at 7-over-par. After the US Open, Rahm turned professional. The next week he played in his first event as a pro at the Quicken Loans National, where he finished tied for third place. He then finished tied runner-up at Canadian Open, securing Special Temporary Member status for the remainder of the season.
His first victory in the paid ranks came at the Farmers Insurance Open in 2017 when he holed a 60-foot for an eagle on the 72nd hole. The tournament was played at Torrey Pines, scene of his dramatic victory in the 2021 US Open. Later that year he won the Irish Open by six strokes and ended the season in sixth place in the FedEx Cup standings. He completed the 2017 season by winning the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and was later named European Tour rookie fo the year.
In 2018 he won the Career Builder Challenge and later added the Open de Espana. He was a key member of the European Ryder Cup team that thrashed the USA at Le Golf National and closed out his year by winning the Hero World Challenge.
The following year he won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in partnership with Ryan Palmer and finished third in the US Open at Pebble Beach before winning the Irish Open once more. He would also claim the Open de Espana again and also take the Race to Dubai title with another victory at the DP World Tour Championship.
Last year he reached the top of the world rankings for the first time after winning The Memorial. He also won the BMW Championship, holing a 66-foot putt to defeat Dustin Johnson in a playoff.
At the start of 2021 he signed a contract to use Callaway clubs and led The Memorial by six shots after three rounds before being told he had failed a Covid-19 test and was forced to withdraw. He was devastated but shrugged it off to bounce back and win the US Open.
And he revealed that Nick Faldo and Padraig Harrington had helped him find the right mindset to land his first major at a thrilling US Open at Torrey Pines. It was an epic victory that rewarded patience and composure, two qualities not always associated with the combustible Spaniard. Rahm now sits at the top of the world rankings after outlasting most of the leading names in the game.
Two weeks earlier, Rahm had the sympathy of the sporting world after events at The Memorial. As he headed into isolation, the words of comfort from European Ryder Cup captain Harrington, who was the first person outside Rahm's family to make contact. "It was right away when I was in the isolation trailer," Rahm revealed. "He told me a story in which he was leading by five after 54 holes, signed the wrong scorecard, and got disqualified. He said he got a lot more from that instance, he learned a lot more than he would ever learn from the win."
The next day Faldo also reached out. "Nick Faldo texted me the next morning and told me a story of how he was winning a tournament," Rahm added. "He was leading by six with six holes to go and got disqualified, as well, and how he learned from that and got a win the week after."
These messages helped put Rahm in the correct frame of mind for a major, that given his affection for San Diego, he had long earmarked as the most likely to herald his breakthrough on the most elevated level of golf's stratosphere. "I believe from the biggest setbacks we can get some of the biggest breakthroughs, and that's why I stayed so positive," he said. "That's why I kept telling Kelley [his wife], when she was devastated about what happened and my family and everybody around me, something good is going to come."
He felt it again in a four under par final-round 67 in which for long periods he could not buy a putt. Then he curled in exhilarating efforts for birdies on the last two greens to snatch the trophy and prompt dramatic fist-pumping celebrations.
"I had in mind Padraig and Nick when I was out there on the golf course a couple times knowing that they won shortly after, and I knew it was my day," the 26 year old said.
Little did Rahm know the twists and turns his life would take after finishing eighth at that US PGA at Kiawah Island. Now it seems Covid, from which he suffered only mild symptoms, may have turned out to be a blessing. "I feel like it relaxed me a little bit," Rahm said. "Ever since the Sunday at the PGA, I felt a bit of a shift on the golf course mentally. I still had that grit, but almost like each miss bothered me less. I couldn't tell you why.
"I set out myself to be an example for my son that he would be proud of. I've done some stuff in the past on the golf course that I'm not proud of, and I wish I could eliminate it. I'm not saying it's going to be smooth sailing until the end of my career, but I feel like that Sunday of the PGA changed things a little bit," he added. "My mental game was really good, and it was the same thing at Memorial. Mentally, I was really, really well, and that's what allowed me to play such good golf.
“In the past I've got frustrated in the US Open. I've made a lot of birdies and a ton of bogeys and double bogeys."
Rahm's victory means Europe will have at least one reigning major champion at Whistling Straits in September.
More immediately we can all reflect on a sensational US Open. At one stage all of the top six players in the world, as well as Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy, were in the hunt for the title. One by one Torrey Pines weeded out the chasing pack, with Louis Oosthuizen the last to succumb by driving into a penalty area off the 71st tee. At the last he found a lie that in the rough that prevented an attempt to find the par-five green in two and gave the title to Rahm.
"Torrey Pines was a superstar," England's Paul Casey noted after finishing tied seventh. "But you can still set it up badly if you're not careful, and they didn't. It was a great championship."
McIlroy finished on the same one under par mark as Casey after a closing 73. The Northern Irishman seemed much closer to finding his best form when he most needed it. His three putts at the 11th were costly and he suffered dreadful luck with the lies he found around the green when he double bogeyed the next.
Rahm was always going to claim a major and there will be more to come. He spoke with eloquence, passion and perspective in his winning speech, acknowledging that Covid has done far worse things than preventing him from winning a PGA Tour title. And he achieved something that proved beyond Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal by becoming the first Spaniard to win a USGA title.
"In my little way, I made Spanish history and hopefully proved a lot of people wrong as well," he concluded.
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