Saturday 24 February 2018

Rahm hopes 'fire of the Spanish' can blaze trail towards Ryder Cup place


Jon Rahm: will play in Irish Open. Photo: Getty Images
Jon Rahm: will play in Irish Open. Photo: Getty Images

James Corrigan

When a PGA Tour millionaire makes his European debut here in France, the local media invariably like to tease and ask if he has "tried frogs legs yet".

And so it was with this particular powerhouse of the American circuit, who, at just 22, has scaled the world's top 10.

Except Jon Rahm is not from the US and this is no ordinary maiden bow on the European Tour - as the inquisitor was soon to discover.

"Yes, I've eaten frogs legs many times," he replied. "We have them in Bilbao, too." Bubba Watson, he is plainly not.

Rahm is the boy wonder who left his Spanish village four years ago and who has returned to Europe with the Ryder Cup in his sights.

It is wholly appropriate that his first start on his home circuit is happening at Le Golf National, near Versailles, as it is here where he intends to appear against the US in 15 months' time.

"It has been my dream for so many years," he said. "You don't need to ask me if my mind drifted to the Ryder Cup in today's practice round as my mind first drifted to the Ryder Cup 10 or more years ago.

"I played at this course when I was 14, in the European Young Masters. We knew the 2018 Ryder Cup might be here and I told myself then, 'I want to be here then, playing for Europe'. For that to be a realistic goal is like a dream come true in itself.

"And to be here playing my first tournament as a European Tour member...well, I find it hard to believe.

"When I left college last year I thought it would take me many, many years to be in this position."

All it has taken is one incredible year, in which he has netted £4.3m in prize-money alone. It was 12 months ago this week when Rahm, having left Arizona State University just a few weeks before, had teed it up as pro for the first time, on an invite at the Quicken Loans National.

Granted, he was regarded as the best amateur in the world and everyone expected great things. But still, that third place on his PGA Tour opener stunned the game.

Rahm shocked even himself, admitting: "My mindset was on the six PGA Tour events I was able to play (on invitations) and getting the minimum amount of money to get my card.

"I didn't know that, after my first three events, I would have got it. I didn't know that I'd win at Torrey Pines and that would get me into the world's top 50 and all World Golf Championships and the Majors.

"I've kept on amazing myself and I've felt that if I stopped to think about what I was doing, I was going to miss something."

Two top-threes in the WGCs have put him in the hunt to win the Race To Dubai and he is planning his charge to an unprecedented feat.

Rahm will play in the Irish Open next week and then, after an emotional return to Barrika, the 1,500-strong Basque town where grew up, he will arrive at the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale as one of the favourites.

If there is one blemish to his make-up, it is clearly his temperament. On his way to missing the cut at the US Open two weeks ago, Rahm threw a club, kicked a club, hurled a bunker rake and punched a sign.

"It is the fire of the Spanish," he said. "I do not want to lose it, but I do want to control it. The passion that burns might be useful in the Ryder Cup, no?" Indeed, it will be. And Europe will see it here first. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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