Jon Rahm's US Open buildup suffered a huge setback when a positive Covid-19 test forced him out of the Memorial tournament when leading by six, but the Spaniard said he was able to keep a positive outlook thanks to advice from major champions Pádraig Harrington and Nick Faldo.
Rahm, who triumphed by a shot at Torrey Pines on Sunday to win his first major, said both Harrington and Faldo told him they had learned so much through the adversity of being disqualified from tournaments they were set to win.
“Pádraig told me a story in which he was leading by five after 54 holes, signed the wrong scorecard, and got disqualified,” Rahm said.
“He said he learned a lot more than he would ever learn from the win. Nick texted and told me a story of how he was winning a tournament, leading by six with six holes to go and got disqualified, as well, and how he learned from that and got a win the week after.”
Rahm said their stories stayed with him, and while many of the game’s biggest names crumbled at the US Open the Spaniard stood tall.
"I had in mind Padraig and Nick when I was out there on the course a couple times knowing that they won shortly after (adversity), and I knew today was my day," said Rahm, who finished on six-under 278 for a one-shot win over South African Louis Oosthuizen.
“I believed from the biggest setbacks we can get some of the biggest breakthroughs, and that’s why I stay so positive.
“I kept telling (wife) Kelley, something good is going to come. I don’t know what, but something good is going to come, and I felt it today out there on the golf course.”
Rahm sank a 10-foot birdie at the first hole, and followed it up with a virtual tap-in birdie at the next to cut a three-shot overnight deficit to one stroke.
“I could just tell going down the fairway after that first tee shot, that second shot, and that birdie, I knew there was something special in the air,” he said.
“I could just feel it . . . I just knew that I could do it and believed it.”
Rahm hailed the “power of positive thinking” after becoming the first Spanish player to lift the title. The victory also sees him return to the top of the world rankings.
“This is the power of positive thinking,” said Rahm, who was able to cut short a 10-day period of self-isolation last Saturday after twice testing negative.
“I was never resentful for one second for what happened. And I don’t blame anybody. It’s been a difficult year and unfortunately Covid is a reality in this world and it’s affected a lot of people.
“We have lost a lot of people back home. We have lost some friends. This one is to a friend of mine who was a journalist who had just started getting into golf and he was basically following me around the world, and he passed away a few months ago from Covid.”
Rahm won his first PGA Tour title at Torrey Pines, where he also proposed to his wife Kelley. She and their infant son Kepa were the first to greet Rahm after his dramatic birdie on the 18th.
“I’m a big believer in karma, and after what happened a couple weeks ago I stayed really positive knowing good things were coming,” Rahm said.
“I didn’t know what it was going to be, but I knew we were coming to a special place, I knew I got my breakthrough win here and it’s a very special place for my family.
“The fact that my parents were able to come, I got out of Covid protocol early, I just felt like the stars were aligning, and I knew my best golf was to come.
“I have a hard time explaining what just happened because I can’t even believe I made the last two putts, and I’m the first Spaniard ever to win a US Open.
“This was definitely for Seve (Ballesteros). Usually we think a lot about him at the Masters, but I know he wanted to win this one most of all.”