Having won five of his last ten tournaments, Jon Rahm is the hottest golfer on the planet right now. And with the Major season just around the corner, and a Ryder Cup on the horizon, the 28-year-old Spanish star is hoping he can maintain his impressive form in the important months that lie ahead
With two wins at the back end of last year and three titles already in the bank by the middle of February, do you feel like you’re playing some of the best golf of your career right now?
It’s been a heck of few months that’s for sure. My swing has been feeling really good, and my body is feeling great, and when everything is firing at the same time then I know that I can shoot some good scores. Golf is a game of fine margins, but right now the margins seem to be tilted a little bit in my favour, so I’m in a good place and I’m feeling in command of my game. It’s important to acknowledge moments like these, as they don’t come around all that often, so I’m just trying to ride the wave as long as I can.
Do you feel like it’s a question of just maintaining this form or do you think there are more improvements to come?
In my mind I feel like I can get a lot better. I feel like that’s the mentality I should have. Again, I work very hard to do what I do. I could find mistakes in every single round I’ve played. Very few times I would say I’ve played a flawless round, but that isn’t possible in a game like golf.
Even though there have been a massive number of positives – my wedge game, in particular, has been very good these last few weeks – I know I can get better. Again, it’s my job to try to do the best I can, but so far I think I’m doing a pretty good job.
What is the difference between a good round and a great round for you these days – is it just about getting the putts to drop?
Yeah, I feel like I’m striking my driver and my irons great, and I’m hitting it close with my wedges, so often it comes down to putting – reading the greens, getting the pace right and hoping that you get you feel for the surfaces. We play alot of different types of courses, with different speeds, so it’s a question of getting comfortable early on and trusting your stroke. Sometimes the hole looks as big as a bucket and you don’t feel like you can miss, and then are times when it feels the opposite, and you just keep finding the edge. Usually, it evens itself out somehow.
It seems like you have to shoot very low scores to win on tour these days. Does that put extra pressure on you at the beginning of the week, knowing that you’re probably going to have to shoot four 68s or sometimes better to be in a with shout?
I mean, I shot a combined 54-under in two tournaments this year and won by a combined three shots. It’s competitive out here. Even if you have a decent few rounds, there’s every chance that someone is going to come out and shoot a 63 or a 64 and make a charge. No lead seems to be big enough these days. We’re not shooting these scores because the courses are easy. It’s just that average level of player keeps gets higher and higher. I would like to know in years past if you shoot 27-under how many of them you win by one shot. Not many. Most of the time you’re winning by a comfortable margin, so it goes to show how good everybody is getting. It’s a really good time for spectators and fans of the game. Because what’s more fun than to seeing people making eagles and birdies and having an exciting game?
Rory McIlroy has spoken about how it can be almost easier mentally to chase wins from behind than leading from the front. What’s your reaction to that and how does it feel when you’re chasing a tournament as opposed to when you’ve been trying to stay in front?
There’s a definite difference. When you’re chasing, to an extent it’s almost easier because you have one option – and that is to make birdies and play aggressively. When you’re leading, yes, you want to make birdies, but you don’t want to make stupid mistakes that are going to cost you a bogey. So, it’s obviously a little bit more difficult. I enjoy the chase and being chased – it’s why we compete out here.
While it’s great to have a lead and hold on to it, those comeback wins are fun, no question. When you go on a roll and get those birdies and then, all of a sudden, bam, you’re leading the tournament and you close it out – there’s no feeling like it. But, overall, if I had to choose, I would rather lead, if that doesn’t sound contradictory!
Before your win at the Genesis Invitational took you back to world no.1, you were ranked no.3, behind Scottie Scheffler and Rory. Was that a source of frustration given your four previous victories?
Earlier last year clearly Scottie was in the best form, and then Rory was that player, and I feel like right now it’s me, and probably has been since August. It’s all down to the OWGR’s new points system, which I think is pretty laughable right now, as it has been changed to reflect that quantity of higher-ranked players at an event rather than the quality of players on show. I understand what they are trying to do with the depth of field but having the best players in the world automatically makes the tournament better. I don’t care what their system says. I think they have made a mistake. I think some aspects of it might be beneficial, but I think they have devalued the value of the better players.
Would you rather win a tournament when you have the No.1 player in the world there or because you have the 30th or 6th there? I think it’s more valuable if you’re beating the best players in the world. I think a lot of people would agree and I think it should reflect that. Quantity has been overvalued against quality.
It’s obviously a contentious subject, but would you be happy to see players who are currently on the LIV circuit able to play alongside you on the European Ryder Cup team?
I always try to think from the point of view of what’s best for golf and what’s best for the fans, and everyone wants to see the best players playing in the Ryder Cup. There are some people that have made the European team what it is today – Seve being one of them, but we’ve also great talismen like Faldo and Monty, and I think Sergio [Garcia] is one of them too, and Ian Poulter likewise. Sergio is the greatest Ryder Cup player in history, statistically speaking, so when you’ve been part of the team, and you’ve made the team what it is, to not be allowed to be involved in any way, I don’t necessarily agree with it. Plus, it’s Europe against the US, it’s not the PGA Tour or the European Tour against LIV. So, to me, you should give those players the opportunity to be part of the team.
Having said that, we can’t have a situation where one team allows LIV golfers to play and one not – there has to be a level playing field. I don’t know what the answer is, but none of what I’ve seen so far seems to be for the greater good of the game as far as the fans are concerned.
You switched into Callaway’s new Paradym driver from the Rogue driver during the off-season. It’s clearly been working well for you, along with all your other Callaway equipment, but what specifically is it about the Paradym that are you enjoying the most?
I’ve loved every driver I’ve had from Callaway since I joined the family tour staff in January 2021. Driving is the strongest part of my game, so if anything can make it better, I’m going to try to make it better, and that’s certainly the case with the Paradym driver.
It’s a different look to what Callaway has done in the past, but I can’t tell you how good it feels at impact – it feels amazing. Even when I mishit it, the feeling at impact is still so good and I don’t know why. I can’t really get into the engineering and technology that goes into it, but I can imagine that it’s very, very hard to find ways to improve performance for someone who has been hitting the ball pretty well off the tee for the last two years, but Callaway has done that. The only logical conclusion for me is that they have managed to enlarge the size of the sweet spot, so it’s more forgiving on shots that aren’t hit out of the centre of the clubface, which is a great thing, even for good players. I don’t necessarily need the extra distance – although I’m getting that too – but it’s the consistency of strike that’s most important, so when I get that on slight mis-hits, it’s going to really help my game.
Your win at the Genesis Invitational took your career tally of PGA Tour wins – including Majors – to ten, done more than Seve [Ballesteros]. How does it feel to have eclipsed his achievement and how much of an inspiration has Seve been in your career?
Seve never played full-time PGA Tour, so the fact that he had four tournament wins in addition to his five major championships, is pretty spectacular. I’ve been fortunate to tie a lot of things he’s done, so for me to surpass some of those things is incredible. My dad started playing golf after going to watch the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama and Seve’s captaincy, so that’s basically why I’m here, and that’s why I take representing golf in Spain so seriously and why Seve’s legacy is so important to me.
When Seve first started playing I think there were less than 30,000 people with a golf license in Spain. When he died in 2011 there were over 350,000. I would love to be able to carry on his legacy and take those numbers even higher. I know it will be hard to take it beyond the level that he did, but if I can increase that number even a little bit, and play a part in making golf more popular in Spain, and with Spaniards in general, I’ll be a happy man.
JON RAHM WITB
Driver: Callaway Paradym Triple Diamond (10.5°)
Fairway Woods: Callaway Paradym Triple Diamond HL (16°, 18°)
Utility: Callaway Apex UT (21°)
Irons: Callaway Apex TCB (4-PW)
Wedges: Callaway JAWS Raw (52°, 56°, 60°)
Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG Rossie
Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X