“I believe from the biggest setbacks we can get some of the biggest breakthroughs, and that’s why I stay so positive.” Jon Rahm follows adversity with triumph as he captured his maiden major at the US Open.
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 21/06/21 3:29am
Jon Rahm believes his dramatic exit from The Memorial was beneficial to his temperament and mindset as he powered to his maiden major title at the US Open.
Rahm had already made progress on curbing his fiery nature since his disappointing finish to his third round at the PGA Championship last month, making careless mistakes that left him too far back to mount a serious threat to Phil Mickelson’s title charge.
The Spaniard’s refreshed composure had the desired effect on his all-round form at Muirfield Village a fortnight ago, when he was three-quarters of the way to a dominant victory before being told he would have to withdraw from the tournament after testing positive for Covid-19.
Rahm revealed that supportive calls from Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington and six-time major winner Sir Nick Faldo had helped him cope with the crushing disappointment, and redemption was swift as he produced a spectacular finish to pip Louis Oosthuizen to the US Open title at Torrey Pines.
Clutch birdie putts on the final two greens sent Rahm into a fist-pumping frenzy that echoed his maiden win on the PGA Tour at the same venue in early 2017, although his “fairytale” win had looked an unlikely prospect when he headed off to self-isolation earlier this month.
“I feel like coming in here without having practiced much relaxed me a little bit,” said Rahm, who revealed last weekend that he had been cleared to play after giving two negative tests for coronavirus. “I thought, in case I play bad, I have an excuse, I have a bailout clause. Hey, I had Covid!
“But I feel like it relaxed me a little bit, and ever since the Sunday at the PGA, I felt a bit of a shift on the golf course mentally. I still had that grit, but it was almost like each miss bothered me less. I couldn’t tell you why.
“I believe it’s because I really set out myself to be an example for my son that he would be proud of, and I’ve done some stuff in the past on the golf course that I’m not proud of, and I wish I could eliminate it.
“But I’ve accepted it. I’m not saying it’s going to be smooth sailing until the end, but I feel like that Sunday of the PGA changed things a little bit. My mental game was really good, and it was the same thing at Memorial. Mentally, I was really, really well, and that’s what allowed me to play such good golf.
“It followed into this week. In the past I’ve been frustrated in the US Open. I’ve made a lot of birdies and a ton of bogeys and double-bogeys, and I was able to kind of switch it up this week and actually made more birdies than bogeys and get it done.”
Rahm also thanked Harrington and Faldo for their support following his enforced withdrawal from The Memorial, with both having endured similar experiences in the past.
Harrington was famously disqualified from the Benson & Hedges International Open in 2000 when five shots clear of the field after a third-round 64 at The Belfry, but he was informed five minutes before teeing off on the final day that he had omitted to sign his scorecard after the first round.
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“The first person who called me that wasn’t family, it was right away when I was in the isolation trailer, was Padraig Harrington,” Rahm added. “He said he got a lot more from that instance, he learned a lot more than he would ever learn from the win.
“Nick Faldo texted me the next morning and told me a story of how he was winning a tournament. He was leading by six with six holes to go and got disqualified, and how he learned from that and got a win the week after.
“I believe from the biggest setbacks we can get some of the biggest breakthroughs, and that’s why I stay so positive. That’s why I kept telling Kelley (Rahm’s wife), when she was devastated about what happened and my family and everybody around me, something good is going to come.
“I felt that today out there on the golf course. I had in mind Padraig and Nick when I was out there a couple times knowing that they won shortly after, and I knew today was my day.”
Rahm also revealed he had good feelings about his chances after just one shot on Sunday, a huge opening drive piped straight down the fairway which set him up for a birdie, birdie start to the final day.
“Because it felt like such a fairytale story, I knew it was going to have a happy ending,” said Rahm, whose victory also took him back to the top of the world rankings ahead of Dustin Johnson. “I could just tell, just going down the fairway after that first tee shot, that second shot, and that birdie, I knew there was something special in the air.
“I couldn’t have told you in the moment I felt something special. That’s why I played as aggressive as I did because it was like, ‘man, this is my day; everything’s going to go right’. I felt like that helped me become. I just knew that I could do it and believed it.”
US Open Golf
June 21, 2021, 8:00pm