The Rise And Rise of Jon Rahm
IT ALL began for Spain’s Jon Rahm at a primitive driving range on the outskirts of Bilbao. Born with a foot deformity, Rahm spent much of his early life in hospital. He was introduced to golf when his parents started playing the game and, very quickly, Rahm was hooked.
His first club was Larabella, a course that was an hour’s drive from the family home. Eventually his parents rented a home by the 10th tee so that the young Jon could focus on his game. He spent hours honing his short-game skills while learning to hit the ball as hard as he possibly could.
Growing up, he represented Spain in the European Boys' Team Championship and European Amateur Team Championship to winning success, in addition to being part of the European side at the Palmer Cup. Heading across the Atlantic to begin his college career, Rahm honed his English language skills by memorising rap lyrics!
In 2015 he finished fifth at the Phoenix Waste Management Open as an amateur. He had served notice on the world that he was a special talent. A very special talent. He quickly reached the summit of the world amateur rankings. Rahm attended Arizona State University on a golf scholarship. While there he won 11 college golf tournaments. Only Phil Mickelson, with 16, has a better college record.
Rahm won the Ben Hogan Award in 2015 and 2016, the first player to win it twice. His total of 60 weeks spent atop the ranking is the all-time record. He won the Mark McCormack Medal in 2015 as the leading player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, which qualified him for the following year's US Open and Open Championship and finished his collegiate career by winning the Pac-12 Conference championship and an NCAA Regional Championship before finishing tied for third in the national championship. He 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, which meant that he forfeited his exemption into the 2016 Open. The Spaniard wasted little time making his mark in the professional ranks. His first event as a pro was the 2016 Quicken Loans National, where he finished tied for third place, enough for Rahm to regain entry into The Open, as the Quicken Loans National was part of the Open Qualifying Series. Rahm finished tied runner-up in the Canadian Open, securing Special Temporary Member status for the remainder of the season. And he would gain sufficient points as a non-member to earn a PGA Tour card for 2017.
His first victory came at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in 2017. The then 22-year-old Spaniard hit his second shot to the par-five final hole to the back of the green and looked on in disbelief as the ball tracked towards the hole, closer and closer. And then it disappeared into the hole for an eagle that secured his first PGA Tour title and he screamed before chest bumping his caddie, Adam Hayes - something he now says that he doesn’t remember doing.
That win took him from 137th to 46th in the world rankings, and also gained him entry into The Masters, Players Championship, US PGA and WGC events. In March, Rahm played in his first WGC at the WGC-Mexico Championship, where he shot rounds of 67-70-67-68 (−12) to finish in a tie for third, two strokes behind winner Dustin Johnson.
At the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play he was runner-up to Johnson. On his way to the final he beat Kevin Chappell, Shane Lowry, Sergio Garcia, Charles Howell III, Soren Kjeldsen and Bill Haas. At the end of that week he had risen to 14th in the rankings.
And so it continued.
Rahm finished tied for 27th place in his first Masters and then finished fourth at the Wells Fargo Championship and was joint runner-up in the Dean and DeLuca Invitational, results that propelled him into the top 10 in the world rankings for the first time.
His first European Tour appearance came the French Open, where he tied for 10th and the next week he headed to Ireland and put on a masterclass in winning the Irish Open by six.
Rahm finished the 2017 PGA Tour season in fifth place in the FedEx Cup before heading back to Europe to win the season-ending DP Word Tour Championship in Dubai. He was named European Tour rookie of the year despite only playing in four regular events.
In February 2018 he won the Career Builder Challenge after a sudden death playoff with Andrew Landry, a success that hoisted him to second in the world rankings. He had won four times in 38 professional starts. He then returned to Europe and won the Open de Espana before playing a key role in Europe’s stunning Ryder Cup victory over the USA at Le Golf National. He finished the year by claiming the Hero World Challenge.
The 2019 season saw Rahm go from strength to strength. He and Ryan Palmer won the Zurich Classic in April and in June he finished third at the US Open at Pebble Beach. He then returned to Europe and won the Irish Open again despite trailing Robert Rock by five shots going into the final round. He also won the Open de Espana for the second successive year and secured the Race to Dubai with victory at the DP World Tour Championship, after which he was named European Tour Player of the Year.
He climbed to the top of the world rankings for the first time in 2020 after victory at the Memorial Tournament. He then won the BMW Championship, the second event in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, holing a massive putt on the first playoff hole to defeat Dustin Johnson.
This year has been a highly eventful one for the Spaniard. He was leading the Memorial Tournament by six shots after 54 holes when he was told that he had failed a Covid test. Weeks later he returned to action and birdied the last two holes to win the US Open at Torrey Pines. It was his first major, and there will surely be many more to come. He followed that by finishing in a tie for third at The Open at Royal St George’s and was preparing to head to Tokyo to take part in the Olympic Games when he was told that he had failed another Covid test, forcing him to miss the Games.
Most recently, he formed a sensational partnership with Sergio Garcia in the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, reminsicent of the legendary duo of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal. That is one to watch during the next match in Italy in 2023.
It has been quite a ride for the world number one so far.
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