Rahm Raid

jon rahm never imag­ined he’d be de­fend­ing the dubai duty free ir­ish open

Golf Digest Middle East - - Contents - by kent gray

Jon Rahm never imag­ined he’d be de­fend­ing the Dubai Duty Free Ir­ish Open as Europe’s high­est-ranked player. Other leg­ends aren’t sur­prised at all. BY KENT GRAY

Phil mick­el­son openly touted jon rahm for great­ness, Johnny Miller too. “He doesn’t have any weak­nesses,” Lefty said af­ter the Spa­niard rode five birdies and two ea­gles to a clos­ing 65 and a record­set­ting six- shot vic­tory at last year’s Dubai Duty Free Ir­ish Open at Port­stew­art in Lon­don­derry. “Ev­ery part of his game is a strength.” Given Rahm’s man­ager is Mick­el­son’s younger brother and caddy Tim, you could dis­miss those com­ments as hy­per­bole topped with lash­ings of nepo­tism. But Miller clearly agreed with the Mick­el­son boys, the twotime ma­jor win­ning Hall of Famer turned TV an­a­lyst say­ing Rahm has fu­ture No.1 “writ­ten all over his head.”

as europe’s high­est-ranked player. other leg­ends aren’t sur­prised at all.

Fast-for­ward 12 months and Rahm is liv­ing up to the heady billing. Vic­tory at the DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship at Jumeirah Golf Es­tates in Novem­ber has quickly snow­balled into a sec­ond PGA Tour tri­umph at the Ca­reerBuilder Chal­lenge in Jan­uary and a third Euro­pean Tour ti­tle at his home Open de Es­pana in April, a week af­ter he’d fin­ished solo fourth at The Mas­ters.

In­deed, the 23-year- old Spa­niard con­tem­plates his $7 mil­lion DDF Ir­ish Open de­fence at ma­jes­tic Bal­lylif­fin Golf Club ranked 4th in the Of­fi­cial World Golf Rank­ings (as we went to press). It’s hard to be­lieve Rahm was play­ing col­le­giate golf in the U.S. lit­tle more than a 24 months ago given his me­te­oric rise in the paid ranks. Then again it’s hardly sur-

“i know my name is go­ing to be the [ddf ir­ish open] tro­phy for­ever now, but it still seems hard to be­lieve.”

pris­ing when you con­sider he won 11 ti­tles play­ing for Tim Mick­el­son’s Ari­zona State, sec­ond only to Lefty Mick­el­son’s record 16 in­di­vid­ual ti­tles for the Sun Devils. Among his am­a­teur tri­umphs were in­di­vid­ual gold at the 2014 Eisen­hower Tro­phy world am­a­teur teams cham­pi­onship and low am­a­teur hon­ours at the 2016 U.S. Open just be­fore he turned pro­fes­sional. His to­tal of 60 weeks is the most of any of the 30 play­ers to ever as­cend to the sum­mit of the World Am­a­teur Golf Rank­ing.

The some­times tem­per­a­men­tal (per­haps that is his only weak­ness, Phil?) Ry­der Cup­per-in-wait­ing seems de­tained to be­come No.1, or at least give the U.S. trio of Thomas, John­son and Spi­eth an almighty hurry up atop the global game.

Rahm’s -24 264 ag­gre­gate at Port­stew­art sur­passed Bern­hard Banger’s -21 Ir­ish Open record and sealed his place in his­tory as the fourth Spa­niard af­ter Balles­teros, Olaz­a­bal and Gar­cia to win one of the Euro­pean Tour’s pre­mier events. Then, as now, the Spa­niard couldn’t quite be­lieve what he’d achieved.

“I know the tro­phy is right next to me and my name is go­ing to be there for­ever now, but it seems hard to be­lieve that it’s hap­pened,” said Rahm. “It’s kind of some­what

sur­real. I just look at it and I see Nick Faldo, I see Jose Maria Olaz­a­bal, I see Nick Faldo again, I see Colin Mont­gomerie, Ian Woos­nam, Seve. That’s a great list of great — [the] great­est Euro­pean Tour play­ers ever, and to have my name next to it, and the last one, Rory McIl­roy, it’s so spe­cial.”

Mak­ing it to Le Golf Na­tional for the Ry­der Cup would be spe­cial too and seems an in­evitabil­ity, not that Rahm, a Rolex am­bas­sador, is tak­ing any­thing for granted in the fourth of the Euro­pean Tour’s eight pre­mier Rolex Se­ries events on Bal­lylif­fin’s newer Glashedy Links.

“I’m ex­cited for it and ex­cited that it counts more to­wards the Ry­der Cup be­cause then it’s eas­ier for us to play both tours. Those [Rolex Se­ries] events serve as a highlight for the year.

“It’s my first Ry­der Cup year and I’m re­ally ex­cited to hope­fully be on the team, I’m go­ing to work hard to try and get on the team and I can’t wait to hope­fully bring the cup back home to Europe.”

We bet Lefty and Johnny weren’t think­ing of Ry­der Cup re­demp­tion for Europe when they ped­dled Rahm’s po­ten­tial a year ago. But it seems the Spa­niard is grind­ing ever closer to great­ness.

the par- 3 7th on the glashedy links at bal­lylif­fin g . c.

rahm salutes the gal­leries on earth af­ter seal­ing the dp world tour cham­pi­onship. ( below) ir­ish bliss.

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