“Could have been worse, could have been better”, Jon Rahm told his father after the first nine holes. The demands the Barrika native puts on himself are through the roof, any observer would have said he was in the form of his life. He showed, once again, that his love affair with Club de Campo is timeless. He played even better on the back nine, perhaps because his son Kepa appeared on the 10th tee in the arms of his wife, Kelley. The applause from his son after he split the fairway with his 3 wood, and the subsequent goodbye hug certainly did no harm. A couple of months ago, when asked to what he owed his extraordinary form this season, he replied: “Being a dad gives you superpowers”. Looking at his numbers since he became a father, who could argue?
The Spaniard was not amused by the slow progress of the Pro-Am, so much so that the group behind, which included Justin Rose, caught them up on the 13th tee. “Hey, Rosey, shall we play an ‘eightsome’?”, he joked with the Englishman. Their camaraderie goes beyond the Ryder Cup. As they continued to wait, Rahm gave Rose the line for the drive on a hole with a hugely elevated tee and a hidden landing zone. Just before they parted ways, an intrigued Rose asked him if the 13th was where he lipped out an albatross last year. Jon, with the dry humour typical of his region of Spain, replied that it was the next hole, and that he played pretty badly that Sunday: “Only -5 in the last 9 holes”.
Rahm’s game currently seems imperious. This is a short course for him, as he demonstrates every time he tees it up at Club de Campo. Most of the holes dogleg slightly to the right, a perfect fit for the power-fade he likes to hit off the tee. Add to that the fact that he is hitting a wedge into almost all the par 4s, and you have an explosive combination. It is easy to see how he closed last year’s event with a record-breaking 25 under par.
It is not as if no efforts are being made to impede him. In the tournament presentation, Jon said he was happy to see they have moved back the 12th tee, not that this seems to have affected the way he plays the hole. He hit a monstrous drive plumb in the middle of the fairway and left himself a gimme from 125 yards. He missed the putt, though, as a member of the group in front smashed his drive into a tree in the middle of his stroke and the sound put him off. The Barrika Lion just laughed… things that happen in Pro-Ams.
His driver is working, the irons look solid, and the putter is hot, as we saw at the Ryder Cup. Today, he drained two twenty-foot putts for birdie, on the 11th and 13th. On this evidence it really is difficult to see any result other than Rahm claiming the title at the 95th Open de España. This is golf, few sports are harder to predict, but the Spaniard is truly that great. He routinely makes the impossible seem ordinary.
His campaign for a fourth ACCIONA Open de España, to overtake Severiano Ballesteros, and to continue making history in Spanish golf, starts tomorrow morning at 0930. Let the fireworks begin at Club de Campo.