“WHAT A DAY!!” In three words, Jon Rahm perfectly summed up his black afternoon at Club de Campo. The cry came on the 12th, after missing his nth fairway by mere centimetres. Golf is a capricious animal and while the Spaniard’s driver was purring yesterday, today he could not buy a fairway.
Hole 1 proved to be a prelude to what was to come. On a gloomy afternoon in Madrid, on which the sun never quite burnt through, the uncertainty of the weather seemed to seep into Rahm’s performance. His round began with a huge push with the driver that somehow ended up 380 yards from the tee, but almost as wide. The second ended on the fringe, but his problems were not over. A timid putt left him with 12 feet to clean up for his par. He missed, and the tone was set for a nightmare afternoon in the Spanish capital.
His 72 today equals his worst ever outing at Club de Campo. The ghosts of that Saturday in 2021 were back, perhaps even worse than before. From the tee he was wild and plagued by bad luck, his irons were inconsistent, he lacked distance control with his wedges, and the putter… don’t mention the putter! This entire article could be filled with stories about the Barrika Lion’s day on the greens. Jon himself said he cannot remember anything like it: “Never in my career have I experienced what happened today”.
3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18. It might sound like a game of bingo, but the reality is that on all those holes Rahm’s birdie putt failed to drop. Three lip-outs, balls hanging over the edge, breaks that looked clear but turned the wrong way. The Basque’s putter is an enigma.
Given all that went on, the Spaniard deserves plaudits for keeping his cool on one of the most difficult days of his career. It is not easy to manage your temper when things are going pear-shaped and the crowd still applauds all your shots. He said so before round one: “People really want me to do well and so do I, when it doesn’t happen it’s difficult to deal with”. The biggest proof came on the 7th tee. Up to that point, everything that could have gone wrong, went worse. As he waited to tee off, he was chatting to Yannick Paul’s caddie with a smile on his face. Earlier in his career, this was unthinkable.
He was frustrated, of course, but he has clearly matured and now handles these situations much better than he used to. He has not, however, lost his competitive streak. He has always said: “If I hit a bad shot, of course I get angry because I care. The fact that I care is good”.
One thing that is clear is the tireless work he is doing for golf in Spain. More people come to see him year after year. It is quite a sight to see the crowds swarm around the course to watch him ply his trade. He is a superstar that is capable of changing the course of a sport in his country, and he knows it. That is why he comes every year, and that is why his behaviour today was exceptional.
He will wake up tomorrow eight shots behind leader Matthieu Pavon. If we were talking about any other player, they would clearly have no chance of winning. The problem, or perhaps the blessing, is that we are talking about a man who is capable of practically anything. With 36 holes to play, don’t write Rahm off quite yet. Rest assured, he hasn’t either.