Jon Rahm getting into the moment by listening to Eminem
Irish Open winner gets into the zone by listening to ‘motivational’ rapper before rounds
Spaniard John Rahm during a practice round prior to the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale on Tuesday at Southport, England. Photograph: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
One of the perks of Jon Rahm’s win in the Irish Open was that he could avail of his association with NetJets, one of his sponsors. It meant he travelled in style on a corporate jet from Ireland to Spain for a break – with family and friends – before getting back to business here at the British Open.
But you’d be wrong to think this 22-year-old Spaniard has been sucked in any trappings of wealth. Sure, he’s already a multi-millionaire, and one of those poster boys of golf that could yet mean there is life after the Tiger.
Is he the future?
Rahm is a player who marches to the beat of his own drum, although – rather intriguingly – one of the ways he finds a way to find his golfing rhythm is to listen to Eminem songs on the putting green before rounds.
Why Eminem? Well, when Rahm – who grew up in the small Basque town of Barrika – was offered a scholarship to study at Arizona State, he had very little English. So, someone advised him to listen to rap songs as an introduction to the language . . . and it so happened that, not alone did it improve his English, but he found the rapper’s words inspirational.
“Song-wise, there’s two of them that I like to listen to before every round and that would be Not Afraid and ‘Til I Collapse,” said Rahm, adding: “They’re very motivational. Most of them are [about] not giving up and fighting your way through . . . . and, in my case, it gets me to the mental state that I need to play golf. Before I go to the tee box, when I’m putting, I’ll do it then, to get in the zone and not get too many technical thoughts.”
Read the greens
Rahm’s win at Portstewart has altered his feelings for links. Where beforehand he felt he had an issue with spinning the ball on links terrain and in windy conditions, he remarked: “I can read the greens. I interpreted the wind properly. I’m hitting it properly to have my ball perform in the wind. So obviously I take a lot of positives from that week that I’m going to be able to apply this week.”
For a player who only turned professional 13 months ago, his rise up the rankings has been as meteoric as anyone’s. From 285th when he turned professional on a sponsor’s invitation to the Quicken Loans at Congressional in June 2016 to 137th at the end of 2016 and to a current position of seventh in the world, Rahm hit the ground running and never stopped.
The 6ft 3in, 220lb Spaniard has made his considerable presence felt, with comparisons – for skill and execution, if not physique – made between him and Seve Ballesteros. Those comparisons mean a lot to Rahm, but he is his own man. “I try to be the best Jon Rahm I can be. Seve was Seve, and I try to make a name for myself,” he said.
In fact, like many players who took up the sport as children, it was two men from across the Atlantic who really inspired: Woods and Mickelson. “I grew up in the Tiger and Phil era, right? So they’re both great references of mine. Every player now growing up my age tried to copy somewhat of what Tiger did because of how dominant he was in the game of golf. I’m not sure anybody is going to come close to that, but we all try to.”
For now, it is about taking the next step up to winning a Major. He may be the new kid on the block, but he is the real deal. He has adjusted quickly. “This is my fourth major that I’ve ever played. And each one’s been a very different feeling, right? At Oakmont I was an amateur, finished top-20. At the Open last year at Troon I was a pro for the first time, but my game wasn’t there yet.
“And this year, at the Masters I started great and I was already up in the rankings. And after a win in Ireland and being top 10 in the world, it certainly is a different experience.”