Jon Rahm hopes to become fourth Spaniard to win Masters
With a hot hand and some new advice, Jon Rahm is taking another shot at Augusta National.
Rahm is playing some of his best golf heading into the 2019 Masters Tournament.
The 24-year-old Spaniard has seven top-10 finishes this season, highlighted by a tie for fifth at Torrey Pines in January. He was also in contention through three rounds of The Players Championship until a Sunday 76 knocked him out.
Rahm is making his third start at Augusta. Were it not for a 3-over-par Friday last year, he could be seeking his second green jacket. Rahm shot 14-under par the other three days to finish fourth.
“Last year, I feel like every round was so different. But the main thing that kept me going, what’s the most critical thing at Augusta National, which was my iron play, there were some mistakes, but at the same time, for the most part, it was really, really solid, giving me a lot of chances for birdie and giving me a lot of looks,” he said.
Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson gave Rahm some healthy advice about the tournament that caused him to change his approach.
“Spent a lot time with him here the last few years and he told me once, from his experience, he repeatedly said, ‘You don’t have to play perfect at Augusta National to win.’ And I started thinking, I always thought you need to play really, really, really quality golf to win a major championship, and he said, ‘Yeah, but you don’t have to play perfect,’” Rahm said. “Meaning that Augusta National is always going to allow you, is going to give you a chance to come back, and if you’re smart and know how to play the golf course, you’re going to have a chance to make pars or even birdies from some situations that you think you wouldn’t be able to.”
On what would have been two-time Masters champion Seve Ballesteros’ 62nd birthday, Rahm was quick to honor his countrymen at every opportunity. With a win, he would join Ballesteros (1980, 1983), Jose Maria Olazabal (1994, 1999) and Sergio Garcia (2017) as the fourth Spaniard to get a green jacket.
“Two of the three are from northern Spain, so I would say we have some similarities in that sense, and it’s a special year, too, right. It’s Olazabal’s 25th anniversary since his first win and 20th anniversary since his second win,” Rahm said. “Those are three world class players and three of the best players Europe has ever seen and three of the best players the world has ever seen, so it would be incredible to join my name to them.”
With play suspended each of the first two practice rounds, Rahm said this year has a similar feeling to 2017. That, however, is where the similarities end. Back then he flew under the radar to a 3-over-par finish. Now he’s a household name and will be drawing watchful eyes with every shot.