Jon Rahm is fond of Ireland. Not just the country, its people, and the customs. But more importantly, playing the nation’s golf courses.
Two weeks ago on the west coast of Ireland, Rahm cruised to a four shot victory at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Along the ocean confines of Lahinch Old Course, Rahm shot four rounds in the 60’s, including a 64 and 62 on the weekend to capture his second Irish Open.
The momentum has continued two weeks later in the opening round of the Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club. On a day where the elements claimed several golfers hopes, most notably Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, Rahm exemplified steadiness. His first round 68 puts him two behind clubhouse leader J.B. Holmes, in prime position to be in contention come the weekend. Having won in Ireland twice previously, Rahm can rely on this experience when he inevitably faces the pressure of capturing his inaugural major championship.
“A lot of positives to take from it,” said Rahm. “If I ever have doubt, which I shouldn’t, I can always remind me that I’ve been able to win twice here. That’s the reason why I can get it done.”
Rahm’s Fast Start Propels Him to Top of Leaderboard
For Jon Rahm, a fast start often correlates with his probability to win a golf tournament. This opening 18 at the Open Championship is no exception. Rahm cruised to a front-9 31 which consisted of five birdies and zero bogeys. Birdieing the last three holes on the opening 9 put the Spaniard in the solo lead.
But like so many golfers today, Royal Portrush shows its punitive side on the Back 9. Rahm would bogey two of the last four holes, putting him two back of the 18-hole leader J.B. Holmes, who shot a five-under 66.
Rahm’s start is a drastic improvement compared to his previous Open Championship appearances. Last year at Carnoustie, the 24-year-old failed to make the cut. Rahm’s two other Open Championship tournaments found him finishing a disappointing 59th and 44th respectively. Given the windy and rainy conditions expected this week at Portrush, Rahm hopes that this will enable his stellar play. Reminiscent of the days growing up in Europe playing links golf.
“It’s the closest I’ll ever feel to playing at home without being at home,” stated Rahm.
Jon Rahm Hopes to Follow in Similar Footsteps to Seve Ballesteros
The opening round of any major championship provides golfers a chance to jockey into position. You can put yourself out of contention, like Tiger Woods did with a seven over 78, or be in the mix, like Jon Rahm.
Amidst difficult conditions, Rahm continued his positive play. Converting 71 percent of his fairways and 67 percent greens in regulation, these are telling signs that the Spaniard will be in the mix come Sunday afternoon.
Rahm has demonstrated his winning persona on the PGA and European Tours, with three and seven victories respectively. But on golf’s grandest stages, notably the major championships, the young golf star has fallen short of expectations. In 2018, Rahm had two fourth-place finishes in majors, along with two missed cuts. This year, two top-10s in majors and a missed cut.
A fragile mental state predicates inconsistency. There have been numerous instances where Rahm was in position to win, only to fall short due to frustration and a lack of focus. But in his Thursday round, Rahm showed that he can follow up a bad hole with a great one. After bogeying the 11th, Jon put it in the past, birdieing the par-5 12th.
When in contention, Rahm can show a ferocity that can intimidate his competition. His performance at last year’s Ryder Cup, beating Tiger Woods in singles play, highlighted how bright a future the Spaniard can have in the game of golf. And with a major win this week in Ireland, he can add his name to the annals of Spanish golf history, led by three-time Open winner Seve Ballesteros.
“I don’t think I have the talent to do what he did, to play the way he did,” Rahm said. “If it looks pretty or not, as long as I win the event. So, however you can get it done.”