Jon Rahm’s press conferences rarely disappoint. He always speaks clearly and eloquently, with the same confidence and verve with which he approaches the game of golf. Today’s, at the presentation for the ACCIONA Open de España presented by Madrid, was no different and he was given an opportunity to look back at what has undoubtedly been the best year of his life, both on and off the course.
The first question he was asked concerned his six-month-old son Kepa, who “is huge, you can tell that both the mother and I are big because he’s a giant for his age. He looks like he’s about to crawl, I hope I don’t miss it because I’m really excited about it and they couldn’t be here this week.
Soon the questions turned to this special week, the ACCIONA Open de España presented by Madrid, where he will be looking to equal Seve’s achievement by winning his third title at the tournament, something Jon has his sights firmly set on: “That is my goal, without a doubt, winning a third title, equalling Seve and getting as close as possible in the Race to Dubai. I’m really excited to be here, I’m playing well and, even though we didn’t get the result we were hoping for at the Ryder Cup, personally I played well and I hope to be able to continue that this week”.
The Club de Campo Villa de Madrid is a course that Jon Rahm knows like the back of his hand. Apart from his 2019 triumph here, he played it several times as a teenager in Madrid, both with his father and at official amateur events. When asked which is his favourite hole, he was quick to name the 17th, although he also highlighted the amazing views from the 1st and 13th tees. However, he was more hesitant when asked what the winning score would be this week: “I think that 20 under is doable, but I’m not sure if it’ll be better or worse than that. Clearly, in today’s game anyone could have the week of their life and equal or beat my 22 under from 2019, but hopefully whatever I score it will be enough to win”.
Without a doubt, a win at the ACCIONA Open de España presented by Madrid would be the icing on the cake in the best year of his career, although as he pointed out, there are still a few weeks to go and there is always room for improvement: “It’s hard to believe everything that has happened since the Masters in April, becoming a father, missing the Olympics, what happened at The Memorial, winning the US Open… It’s been a roller-coaster of emotions, but hopefully I can still improve on that. I’m focused on this week and there will be plenty of time to analyse the season later”.
This is the first time he has arrived at a tournament in Spain as the world number one and, of course, people are starting to compare him with other legends of Spanish sport: “I don’t know if I’m a player that transcends golf, maybe because I don’t live here, or the fact that I’m not really on social media, I don’t notice what’s happening, but my family and friends tell me that there is a lot of interest and support for me, and that’s great. I guess that after these two weeks here, I’ll be more aware of it, in fact all I needed yesterday was 30 seconds to be recognised on the street. Then I realised that something has changed compared to previous years. As for being compared with Nadal, Gasol or Alonso, I’m very proud to be mentioned in the same breath as those names, but there’s still a long way to go, especially with Nadal, he’s the best in history for me. However, I’d love to play with him again, even without a crowd, I don’t know if there would be enough room with so many people wanting to see him”.
Rahm’s dream of playing in front of the Spanish fans as world number 1 did not come true overnight, something he was quick to point out when asked about his attitude as the world’s best player: “Since I started telling my coach Eduardo Celles that I was going to be the number 1, when I was 13 or 14 years old, it has been constant hard work. The best thing about that is how proud I am because all the work and the hours I’ve put into it have paid off. Pride and humility is what I feel, also for what I am yet to do in years to come. Obviously, I also have goals in mind, and what I would most like to do is win the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews.
Finally, Jon’s attention was taken away from this week and turned to the Ryder Cup and the emotional interview with Rory McIlroy after Europe’s defeat: “I’m not surprised Rory would show that much emotion, it’s a very different thing that you have to experience. You can’t explain it with words. Playing and winning the Ryder Cup is unbeatable, just winning one hole for Europe is incredible, even more so with Sergio like a few days ago. The fact that the Solheim Cup is coming to Spain in 2023 is great news, I’ve always said that the reason I play golf is the ’97 Ryder Cup at Valderrama”.