30 Mar 2017

Jon Rahm – Young blood

IT’S been a meteoric rise from former amateur star to US PGA Tour winner – and now Jon Rahm is coming home to compete on the European Tour with a view to becoming a Ryder Cup regular. The Spaniard hit the headlines in January this year with his breakthrough victory at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

Rambo

Then he played his way into contention on his first World Golf Championships start at the Mexico Championship last month, finishing third, and he took on the best player in the world in Dustin Johnson in the Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, and took him to the final hole. Worldwide Golf charts the making of Rahm – or ‘Rahmbo’ has he’s affectionately known on Tour – from a small town in the Basque region of northern Spain to the upper echelons of professional golf, with his Masters debut just around the corner.

Jon Rahm had a 100 per cent record going into the final of the WGC-Dell technologies Match play but was in danger of getting blown away on the front nine standing at five down after eight holes against world number one Dustin johnson before he mounted a stunning fightback to take the match down to the final hole.

“Unfortunately for me, I had the hottest player on earth. But it shows me that I can compete with someone like DJ and any other player, even if I had probably one of my worst front nines possible.” – Jon Rahm

Back in 2012, a young Jon Rahm had his eyes set on life in Madrid and furthering his education in his homeland’s capital. Rahm’s golfing potential hadn’t gone unnoticed but awareness from overseas was almost non-existent and it seemed that the opportunity to earn a golf scholarship in the United States had passed him by.

Tim Mickelson

That was until Tim Mickelson, golf coach at Arizona State University (ASU) and brother of five-time Major winner Phil, received a tip-off from a Spanish friend about Rahm’s enormous potential.

Mickelson put his trust in his friend’s opinion and offered Jon a scholarship to ASU – without ever having seen him swing a club.

Limited English

Rahm and his parents accepted the offer and a couple of months later Rahm arrived in America as a 17 year old speaking very little English but ready to start a new chapter in his life.

Fortunately, for both Jon and Tim there was another player on the ASU golf team who could speak Spanish and Jon, being a quick learner, soon picked up English by listening to rap artists Eminem and Kendrick Lamar.

 

Ben Hogan Award

It was a tough juggling act to adapt to a new way of life while managing to work on his golf game, his education and a new language. But Rahm kept his head down and despite having to work on his studies his golf game improved remarkably. He received the Ben Hogan Award as the best college player at both Junior and Senior level and left ASU last year, second on the all-time winners’ list behind its most famous alumni – Phil Mickelson.

At the time of Rahm’s graduation both he and Tim Mickelson had decisions to make. Mickelson was coming to the end of his five-year spell as a coach at ASU and Rahm was looking to turn professional.

Low Amateur

The duo looked at each other’s situation and decided to join forces as agent and golfer. Rahm took to the professional game with ease in June 2016, shortly after winning Low Amateur honours with a share of 23rd place at the US Open.

His debut as a pro saw him finish in a share of third at the Quicken Loans National at Congressional CC and the following month he finished runner-up at the RBC Canadian Open.

Jon Rahm and Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain looking relaxed during day two of the World Cup of Golf at Kingston Heath Golf Club

World Cup of Golf

These results saw him earn enough money to clinch his playing rights for 2017 and he capped his 2016 campaign by coming eighth at the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf, alongside Rafa Cabrera Bello. By the end of January Rahm’s name was on everybody’s lips. The 22-year-old had become the latest first-time winner on the US PGA Tour with a superb three-stroke victory at Torrey Pines – sealing the win with a sensational 60-foot eagle putt at the last.

2018 Ryder Cup

The victory moved Rahm’s standing in the game to a new level. Sensing that he was ready to compete with the best players in the world he joined the European Tour on the eve of the WGC-Mexico Championship with a clear goal in mind – making Thomas Bjørn’s 2018 Ryder Cup Team.

“It means a lot to become a Member – I’m European after all,” says Rahm. “I’ve always wanted to play in The Ryder Cup and be a European Tour Member. I know I’ve taken a different approach to my professional life compared to other Europeans who went to college in the United States but I thought it was my best shot so I took it.”

“I knew at one point that I was going to be a European Tour Member. I just didn’t realise that it would happen so early on in my career.”

European Tour

Rahm was a keen follower of European golf prior to his move Stateside and he wants to make his mark on the European Tour as so many of his compatriots have done before him.

“The first golf I ever watched was the Volvo Masters in 2007 at Valderrama. Justin Rose was playing the third and he holed out for a hole-in-one,” said Rahm. “There are so many great events and I have memories of watching them all – Miguel Angel Jiménez winning the French Open, Pablo Larrazabal winning the French Open and then defeating Sergio Garcia in a play-off at the BMW International in Germany a couple of years later –so many great events and wonderful memories.”

 

spain’s jon rahm proudly raises the trophy after his breakthrough win at the farmers insurance open at torrey pines.

Torrey Pines 

“Every golfer’s dream is to play in The Ryder Cup. It’s the major team event we all aim for as professionals and you get to share it with 11 other guys, the captains and caddies. I think that if you win the Cup, it creates a bond for life, which is something I want to be a part of. Thomas Bjørn did text me after my win at Torrey Pines and said he wants to chat. I think I know what that will be all about and I want him to know how much it would mean to me to play in The Ryder Cup. It’s an ultimate life goal of mine and I will work very hard to try and get it.”

Rocket

Rahm has rocketed up the list in the last three months and is now comfortably in the top 50 on the Official World Golf Rankings – meaning guaranteed eligibility for the four Majors and the World Golf Championships, so he can pick and choose his schedule to suit him.

While nothing in golf is a certainty, it looks as if Jon Rahm is here to stay as European Golf’s brightest new talent.

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