Thursday 19 July 2018

Rahm determined to follow in Seve's Irish Open footsteps

Jon Rahm during yesterday’s Pro-Am ahead of the Irish Open at Ballyliffin Photo: Getty
Jon Rahm during yesterday’s Pro-Am ahead of the Irish Open at Ballyliffin Photo: Getty

Brian Keogh

It speaks volumes about Jon Rahm that his mental coach was once a bomb disposal expert for the Basque police for 14 years when ETA were at their height.

But whatever you think about the big Basque golfer's volcanic personality, it's a quality that links him with the man he'd love to take a giant step towards emulating this summer.

Seve Ballesteros didn't just win three Open Championships and two Masters titles, he also won the Irish Open three times in four years between 1983 and 1986 and Rahm has made no secret of the fact that he wants to successfully defend the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this week.

His propensity for emotional outbursts is a quality that shows he's made from the same volcanic material as his idol. But it's harnessing that power that his mental coach Joseba del Carmen believes is the key to success.

Rather than trying to defuse Rahm, he believes his role is to "channel" Rahm's frustration to improve his performance.

"Your emotions are basic," De Carmen told Spanish newspaper 'El Pais' after Rahm (23) finished fourth behind Patrick Reed in the Masters. "Your emotions are your radar... a GPS that tells you which way you have to go. The more you try to contain them, the more damage you do."

It's fair to say that Del Carmen knows a thing or two about realising tension at work. But he also knows that an emotional Rahm is also a dangerous Rahm for the opposition.

"We can't forget who we are or where we've come from," he said.

"Rahm is different, like Seve."

His latest emotional blow-up came in the final round of the Open de France last Sunday when a trigger-happy photographer caused him to slice his tee shot on the 12th into deep rough.

The world No 4 ended up making a triple-bogey seven, finishing three shots behind winner Alexander Noren.

But when asked about his emotional stability in Ballyliffin yesterday, he argued that he was not going to change now and wasn't an angry man but merely a frustrated golfer.

"I'm not going to change who I am," he said. "I mean, it's not like I have anger problems. Who doesn't get frustrated playing this game, right? It's just how it is.

"I think everybody would have been upset in that situation. I mean, I do get mad, but move on. That's how it is. It's golf."

Stunning

Rahm will have to wait another fortnight to challenge for his first Major at Carnoustie, but he believes he has the game to take a step closer to Ballesteros's Irish Open record in Ballyliffin.

"I think it's one of the most beautiful golf courses I've ever played, truly," he said. "It's absolutely stunning. The views from the 14th tee and the 7th tee are probably some of the prettiest sights you'll get in golf."

Beauty aside, he sees keeping the ball in the fairway as the biggest challenge facing the big hitters on what Graeme McDowell and Pádraig Harrington have described as a huge strategic test.

But that's not going to stop him trying to follow in the footsteps of the great Ballesteros.

"Of the Spanish players, Seve is the only one who has won it three times," he said. "So if I could join the likes of players like him, that would be amazing."

Irish Independent

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