Rahm hoping his extra power will open doors at Augusta

The 23-year-old Spaniard aims to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Sergio Garcia

Jon Rahm of Spain hitting out of a bunker during the final practice round at Augusta National Golf Club. Photograph: EPA/Andrew Gombert

Size isn't suppose to matter, but it does when you're the big guy – as in Jon Rahm – and some smaller guy – as in Rory McIlroy – is smashing drives way longer.

That’s what got to Rahm. It’s why he went to his personal trainer, those eyes piercing like those of a bull, and asked a question that demanded an answer.

“I told my trainer I know I hit it far, but with my size, and the strength I have, why don’t I hit it further? It’s like, why does someone like Rory, even though he is strong, but with the size difference, I should be able to hit it as far as he does.”

For the record, Rahm is 6ft 3in and weighs in at 220lbs (99kg) while McIlroy, in his shoes, stands at 5ft 10in and weighs 160lbs (72kg). Rahm’s average driving distance is 306 yards; McIlroy’s is just over 314 yards.


In a game of inches, those yards matter, especially to the Spaniard.

So Rahm underwent a physical overhaul over the winter which, after a serious of tests, determined a simple fact – he wasn’t using his muscles properly. Now he believes he is stronger and fitter.

"I've been doing a lot of [gym] work, learning how to use some group muscles," said Rahm, the world number three who conceivably has an opportunity to leapfrog Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas into the top spot.

Of course such leapfrogging would require a number of factors to come about over the next four days. Firstly, Rahm would have to win a maiden Major title. Secondly, Johnson would have to finish solo ninth or worse; and Thomas would be required to finish in a two-way tie for third or worse.

But it is the green jacket that is the main priority as the 23-year-old Spaniard aims to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Sergio Garcia.

Picking the brains

To that end Rahm hasn’t been shy about coming forward in picking the brains of older, perhaps wiser, heads.

“I talked to Phil [Mickelson] about it. I talked to [Jose Maria] Olazabal about it. And they gave some really valuable advice that I’ll try to put into work...it’s a golf course that allows any kind of player [to win], it doesn’t favour anybody.

"You get someone like Angel Cabrera, Sergio, Seve, Phil, Tiger, people who hit it straight; and people who don't hit it straight, people like Bubba. It just means that if there's 5,000 ways to play one regular course, there's probably about 50,000 ways to go around Augusta National. And that's the beauty of it."

Rahm – who is set to defend his Dubai Duty Free Irish Open title at Ballyliffin in July – has maintained his momentum this season following a breakthrough season in 2017, where he won on both the PGA and European Tours.

With a win under his belt from the Career Builders Championship in January, his play since, solid rather than spectacular, has been geared towards contending in Augusta.

To do that Rahm believes two attributes are required more than any others: firstly, a “really good short game”, and, secondly, “some crazy good imagination”.

In understanding what it could take to win, Rahm intends reverting to words of advice from Mickelson who told him, “you don’t need to play perfect to win at Augusta National because there’s so many ways to do it, there’s not only one way. You just need to find the way that’s best for you at the moment.”

Of his season to date, Rahm remarked: “I’ve been playing really good. Not as good as last year, but I’m feeling great. I’m a lot more rested . . . I just feel more experienced than I was last year, and I know the golf course a little better.”

Rahm, who finished tied-27th on his debut appearance last year, is set for the examination. It’ll test his patience to the max, but the motivation is certainly there to succeed Garcia as champion and an extra year’s experience could be a powerful tool.

Game plan

“I just know if I stick to my game plan, forget about other things, I’ll be able to have a strong performance. Maybe win. Maybe not. But hopefully my goal is getting in the hunt towards Sunday of a Major championship. I want to know what it feels like.”

It was as a young boy growing up the Basque region that Rahm was first smitten with the sport. As a child he wasn't allowed to stay up to watch the 2005 Masters which Woods won, producing the iconic Nike ball chip-in on the 16th as he ultimately beat Chris DiMarco in a playoff. But Rahm watched the entire video replay the following day. "It's that chip-in that Tiger made, is the first memory I have of it."

And with a rich Spanish history in this Major – Seve, Ollie and Sergio – that makes it one that has tremendous appeal to the next in line. “Every time we come to Augusta National the motivation is maxed out. You can’t get it any higher than what it is. It’s very special.”

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times