Jon Rahm has revealed how European greats Sir Nick Faldo and Padraig Harrington helped him find the right frame of mind to land his first major tournament in a thrilling US Open at Torrey Pines.
It was an epic victory that rewarded patience and poise, two qualities not always associated with the combustible Spaniard. Rahm now sits atop the world rankings after outlasting most of the big names in the game.
It will be one of those majors that will long be remembered for the quality of golf it demanded and for the way it delivered drama and karma in equal measure.
A fortnight ago, Rahm had the sympathy of the sports world, thwarted by a positive Covid test as he held a considerable six-stroke advantage after 54 holes at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio.
As he headed into seclusion, he received heartwarming words from European Ryder Cup captain Harrington, who was the first person outside of Rahm’s family to make contact.
“It was right away when I was in the isolation trailer,” Rahm revealed. “He told me a story in which he led by five points after 54 holes, signed the wrong score and was disqualified.
“He said he got a lot more from this instance, he learned a lot more than he would ever learn from winning.”
The next day, one of Harrington’s predecessors as Ryder Cup skipper reached out. “Nick Faldo texted me the next morning and told me how he won a tournament,” Rahm added.
“He was leading a par six with six holes to go and was also disqualified, and how he learned from that and took a win the following week.”
These messages helped put Rahm in the right frame of mind for a major, who, given his affection for San Diego, he had long singled out as the most likely to announce his breakthrough at the highest level of the golf stratosphere.
“I believe with the biggest setbacks we can get some of the biggest breakthroughs, and that’s why I’ve been so positive,” he said.
“That’s why I kept telling Kelley (his wife), when she was devastated by what had happened, my family and everyone around me, something good was going to happen.”
He felt it again in a 67 under par final round, in which, for long stretches, it looked like he couldn’t buy a putt. Then he wound up in exhilarating birdie efforts on the last two greens to snatch the trophy and cause dramatic celebrations.
“I had Padraig and Nick in mind when I was on the golf course a few times, knowing they had won soon after, and I knew it was my day,” said the 26-year-old. years.
It was the same player who collapsed in a tumultuous funk during what appeared to be a prosaic top 10 at last month’s US PGA Championship on Kiawah Island.
He hung out to watch his great friend Phil Mickelson become the oldest major winner with his brother Tim, Rahm’s former coach and agent, on the sack. The brothers returned the supplement on Sunday.
Rahm had no idea what twists and turns his life would take after finishing eighth at this PGA. Now it looks like Covid, from which he suffered only mild symptoms, was a blessing.
“I feel like it relaxed me a bit,” Rahm said. “Since Sunday at the PGA, I’ve felt a bit of a change on the golf course mentally.
“I still had that courage, but almost as if every misfire bothered me less. I couldn’t tell you why.
“I think it’s because I really set out to be an example for my son that he would be proud of, and I’ve done things in the past on the golf course that I’m not proud of. , and I wish I could eliminate it. “
Rahm is convinced that he has come out of a turning point that has put him on a more positive path. “I’m not saying it will be smooth sailing until the end, but I feel like this PGA Sunday has changed things a bit,” he added.
“My mental game was really good, and it was the same at Memorial. Mentally, I was really great, and that’s what allowed me to play such good golf.
“That followed this week. In the past I’ve been frustrated at the US Open. I’ve done a lot of birdies and a ton of bogeys and double bogeys.”
Rahm’s victory means Europe will have at least one reigning big winner on their team in defense of the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in September.
More immediately, golf can reflect a US Open which was brilliantly organized and resulted in a fabulous winner. The United States Golf Association and Torrey Pines have received a lot of criticism over time.
The USGA often finds itself at the center of controversy over unfairly criminal course setups and rule interpretations, while the San Diego course has a spectacular setting but many holes can lack inspiration.
But last week they came to life with a near-perfect US Open setup that rewarded great play but still drained mental toughness.
It was no coincidence that at one point all of the top six players in the world, as well as seasoned big winners such as Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy, were chasing the title.
One by one, Torrey Pines eliminated the chasing pack, Louis Oosthuizen being the last to succumb entering a penalty area on the 71st tee. In the end, he found a lie that made it impossible to try to find the green by five in two.
With an eagle required to force a play-off, some might say he should have been more ambitious, but what’s the point of trying the impossible?
“Torrey Pines was a superstar,” said Paul Casey of England after tied for seventh. “But you can still set it wrong if you’re not careful, and they didn’t. It was a great championship.”
McIlroy finished by the same score under the mark as Casey after a relentless effort in a closing 73. The Northern Irishman is playing better – he’s now back in the top 10 in the world – and seemed much closer to finding his best form when he needed it most.
His three 11th putts were costly and he had horrible luck with the lies he found around the green when he double bogeyed the next. That’s what can happen at a US Open – it didn’t choke on it.
And finally, a man was able to come out and win. Rahm was always going to claim a major and there will surely be more to come after this spectacular success.
To illustrate his growing maturity, he spoke eloquently and with perspective in his winning speech, acknowledging that Covid has done much worse things than preventing him from winning a PGA Tour title.
And in a golf context, he did something that went beyond great compatriots such as Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal in becoming the first Spaniard to win a USGA title.
“In my own way, I have marked the history of Spain and, hopefully, I have also proven that a lot of people are wrong,” he concluded.