‘Major champion in waiting’: Jon Rahm fulfils destiny at US Open

Basque golfer’s remarkable association with Torrey Pines grew stronger on Sunday

Jon Rahm celebrates with the trophy after winning the US Open at Torrey Pines. Photo: Erik S. Lesser/EPA

Jon Rahm celebrates with the trophy after winning the US Open at Torrey Pines. Photo: Erik S. Lesser/EPA

 

“I’m a big believer in karma,” remarked Jon Rahm shortly after lifting the US Open Trophy, his first Major title. Perhaps such cause and effect was at play to some extent in his mind, following on from being stopped in his tracks just a fortnight ago at The Memorial, where he was a runaway 54-holes leader, when a positive Covid test put him into isolation, but it always seemed his destiny to get his hands on one of the four Major trophies.

Who knows? In time, he may get to claim them all. For now, his US Open win at Torrey Pines - emerging as the last man standing after a back nine of carnage for many contenders in the final round - brought with it a measure of deliverance for the man from the Basque region who switched from football to golf as his sport of choice when in his young teenage years.

Rahm’s victory - coming in his 20th appearance in a Major at the age of 26 - only confirmed what pretty much everyone knew, that he would be a major player. As Rory McIlroy observed of golf’s newest Major champion, “I don’t think there’s a golf course where he can’t have success on. He’s that good of a player. He was a Major champion in waiting. It was just a matter of time.”

From the time he left his home town of Barrika with little or no English to pursue a golfing scholarship at Arizona State University (where he would rival the college record of one Phil Mickelson), Rahm’s pathway seemed a box ticking exercise to greatness. A former world amateur number one, his move into the professional ranks proved seamless and this US Open win - the 13th of his career, which includes two Irish Open successes in 2017 and 2019 - had the effect of returning him to number one on the official world rankings for a second time in his career.

Just as much as karma, it seemed his fate to win a breakthrough Major at Torrey Pines. His association with the place is remarkable in its own way: it was where he won a first PGA Tour title (in the Farmers Insurance Open in 2017); and where he proposed to his wife Kelley Cahill. On Sunday, on Father’s Day, his association was strengthened with a first Major and his 10-week-old son Kepa, while his own father too was present.

Rahm with his wife, his son, his mother and father. Photo: Erik S. Lesser/EPA
Rahm with his wife, his son, his mother and father. Photo: Erik S. Lesser/EPA

Not calm

Of a final day shootout that saw a star-studded leaderboard - with his intention not to look at leaderboards nullified by the crowds roaring out the information so that he knew exactly where he stood going down the - and his apparent calmness in the heat of battle, Rahm remarked: “I might have looked calm. I was not calm. I wish people could see our heart rate when we’re playing in those moments because that was tense. It’s (racing). But you practice to let your body basically take over, right? That’s what I did. I think the fact that I stayed patient and hopeful, and I believed that something good was coming my way, is what helped. I never lost hope for a second. I kept hitting good shots. I kept giving myself chances, and even when I had that lip-out on 15 where you can get a little bit desperate, I just kept hitting good shots. I almost made birdie on 16 and two ended up dropping at the end (on 17 and 18).

“My mindset was the same on the first putt on Thursday to the last one on 18. Situation does change a little bit, but routine and really staying in the present is what helps.”

Rahm, in his own way, used his Covid experience to his benefit. He name-checked both Pádraig Harrington and Nick Faldo for reaching out to him after testing positive with stories of their own in how they had overcome adversity.

“I feel like coming in without having practiced much relaxed me a little bit. I thought, you know what, in case I play bad, I have an excuse. I have a bailout in case. I can convince myself, ‘hey, I had Covid’.”

But he didn’t need any excuse and, in becoming the first Spaniard to win the US Open, he has added to his own legend with the prospect of many more Majors to add to his CV. Next up will be the 149th Open Championship at Royal St Georges next month but other important dates in his calendar include the Olympics and the Ryder Cup. ‘Rahmbo’ will aim to leave his mark on all of them.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.