Different Strokes: Jon Rahm a key addition to European Tour
Paul Dunne kicking on from last year, quotes of the week, Twitter twaddle and more
Jon Rahm of Spain plays his tee shot on the third hole during the final round of the World Golf Championships Mexico Championship at Club De Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images
For whatever reason, Paul Casey is stubbornly sticking to his guns and refusing to rejoin the European Tour, which automatically rules him out of playing in the Ryder Cup. His loss? For sure. But that stance is not contagious, and the decision of Jon Rahm to join as an affiliate member is, for sure, one that will make Europe’s captain Thomas Bjorn a very happy man indeed.
Rahm announced his decision ahead of the WGC-Mexico Championship, which proved to be rather good timing. The€ 468,117 payday for his third place finish in Mexico meant the European Tour’s newest member immediately entered the Race to Dubai standings in seventh position, which is a heck of a way to announce your arrival.
Of course the Ryder Cup qualifying campaign for next year’s match in Paris hasn’t yet started. But the worry, from a European perspective, would have been that Rahm might not have signed up so quickly, especially given that he is a product of the American collegiate system (he attended Arizona State during which time he was a two-time recipient of the Ben Hogan award as the outstanding college golfer in the USA).
Rahm’s decision to sign up so quickly for the European cause is hugely encouraging, because this 22-year-old has the potential to be a true superstar. A former world amateur number one, the tour rookie’s win in the Farmers Insurance Open in January affirmed his ability and his rise up the world rankings – from 137th at the start of the year to a current position of 25th, sandwiched between Brooks Koepka and Rafa Cabrera Bella – is indicative of a man going places.
He has something, that’s for sure. And I liked his remarks prior to teeing up in Mexico when he talked of the perception of “arrogance” in his play. “I think that it’s a little bit of the Spanish character, the arrogance in the Spanish personality which helps us play as we play,” he responded.
Incidentally, Rahm’s decision to take up European Tour membership could also be good news for the DDF Irish Open, as he will be required to play a minimum number of tournaments and the Irish Open’s inclusion on the Rolex Series will likely make it a prime candidate to tick one of those boxes.
Rahm is just one of a number of European young bloods emerging with dynamism onto the scene. Tommy Fleetwood’s form has been a revelation so far this season, that win earlier in the season in Abu Dhabi proving to be career-changing and he is now on his way to the Masters.
As it stands, Fleetwood is ahead of the pack in the Race to Dubai standings and the 26-year-old is on an upward trajectory in his career, just as Tyrell Hatton, another Englishman, is also impressing on the big stage. You’ve got to think they will spend more and more time stateside on the PGA Tour as their careers develop, because that’s where the big bucks is, but – like Rahm – they’re the young guns that Bjorn can look to breath fresh life into his Ryder Cup captaincy.
Dunne kicking on from last year
It’s often difficult to compare like with like, but Paul Dunne’s form this season – with a full tour card in his back pocket – is well ahead of where he was at this point in the campaign a year ago.
Last year, Dunne’s card hard-earned at Q-School left him with a fitful schedule and he was only assured of retaining his tour card towards the tailend of the season where an invite into the Alfred Dunhill Links – and a tied-25th finish – got him over the line.
At this point of the 2016 season, Dunne had only managed to get four outings, had made two cuts and had pocketed €25,339 in prize money.
Contrast that with how he has hit the ground running in this 2017 season on the European Tour: in eight outings, Dunne has made the cut seven times – his only MC was in the Maybank Championship in Malaysia, where he missed out by one shot – and tied-6th finish in the Tshwane Open brought his winnings on tour this season so far to €126,205 which puts him well ahead of where he was at the same stage of the season a year ago.
Dunne is one of only two Irish players in the field for this week’s tour stop, the Hero India Open in New Delhi. Michael Hoey, who lost his card last year, is playing on a sponsor’s invite.
Word of Mouth
“That was like a dagger right to the stomach, but that happens, doesn’t it? I couldn’t have played the hole any better actually. Hit a perfect putt.”
Tommy Fleetwood on his eagle putt on the 11th in the final round of the WGC-Mexico Championship horse-shoeing out of the hole. The Englishman’s runner-up finish to Dustin Johnson moved him up to 35th in the world rankings and ensures an invite into the US Masters next month.
“I guess. I don’t know, I don’t keep track. I know I won twice, though. I don’t keep track of the losses.”
Dustin Johnson on being informed he has now won twice in seven starts this season.
By the numbers
2&2: Paul Dunne and Michael Hoey are the two Irish players competing in the Hero India Open in New Delhi, on the European Tour.
Séamus Power and Graeme McDowell resume their campaigns on the PGA Tour at the Valspar Championship in Innisbrook, outside Tampa in Florida.
In the Bag
Dean Burmester, Tshwane Open winner
Ball – Srixon 2 Star XV
Driver – Taylor Made MI 460 (’17) (8.5 degrees)
3-wood – Taylor Made MI (15 degrees)
Hybrid – Taylor Made Tour Preferred UDI (18 degrees)
4-iron – Taylor Made PSI
5-iron to Pitching Wedge – Taylor Made Tour Preferred MB
Sand Wedge – Taylor Made Tour Preferred EF (56 degrees)
Lob Wedge – Taylor Made Tour Preferred EF (60 degrees)
Extra wedge – Taylor Made Tour Preferred EF (50 degrees)
Putter – Titleist SC X 7 M
“Great playing @DJohnsonPGA. I look forward to a Sunday rematch soon. I wouldn’t mind if it happens at a place called Augusta National”
Jon Rahm on sizing himself up for another tilt at DJ and a possible green jacket.
“What a day @WGCMexico @TommyFleetwood1 World class again @EuropeanTour! So everyone knows he survived my right hook #Themastersherewecome” –
Ian Finnis – Fleetwood’s caddie – posting a photo with his employer to show he was none the worse for the inadvertent punch he landed on the player in celebrating his 18th hole birdie to claim solo runner-up.
“Great news on Rules simplification. Repairing spike/shoe damage WILL be abused. Tried on Eurotour in 80’s. Some made groove into hole”
Former tour player Tony Johnstone casting a cautionary note on one aspect of the proposed rules changes.
Know the Rules
Q: In stroke play, a competitor’s ball is in a hazard. He removes a loose impediment in the hazard that causes his ball to move. What is the ruling?
A: As a single act resulted in two Rules being breached (Rule 13-4 and Rule 18-2), in equity (Rule 1-4), a single penalty is applied. Therefore, the competitor incurs a two stroke penalty under Rule 13-4 and the ball must be replaced (Rule 18-2). If the ball is not replaced before the competitor makes his next stroke, the failure to replace the ball is considered a separate act and he incurs an additional penalty of two strokes under Rule 18-2.