Twelve worldwide wins and five on the PGA Tour is the amazing record for Jon Rahm who’s still only been a pro since June 2016 when he put the golf world on full attention with his third place finish at the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club.
The fiery Spaniard got his first professional win and opened the floodgates of his talent starting at Torrey Pines when he won the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open in dramatic fashion punctuated by a 60-foot eagle bomb on the 72nd hole.
When asked specifically why he loves Torrey Pines and its two courses, the Spaniard had zero hesitation.
“Oh it’s the length, I feel like it plays exactly to my strengths,” Rahm said confidently on the Beyond the Clubhouse podcast.
“You’ve got to hit it long off the tee, it’s not going to roll much so you can carry it, and then the greens are very similar to what I grew up on (in Spain). I grew up on bentgrass and poa annua mix so I’m very familiar with (Torrey’s greens).”
What a massive comfort factor, especially for a player of Rahm’s bullish talent (at press time he was number two in the world, only trailing Dustin Johnson).
“I know how they’re going to respond when you chip, I know how they’re going to respond when you putt, and I feel very confident on that course,” Rahm said.
And it shows.
Entering this year’s event Rahm had won in 2017, tied for 29th in 2018, tied for fifth in 2019, solo second in 2020, and tied for seventh in 2021.
He smiles when he thinks back to his magical Sunday there in 2017.
“It was a phenomenal driving week for me. I drove it so well and so that made it a lot easier,” Rahm said.
And the beauty and risk-reward aspect of the South course’s closing stretch is not lost on the Spanish superstar.
“Sixteen is one of the prettiest holes you’re going to ever play, seventeen can be a good opportunity for birdie but you’ve got to hit two really good shots, especially the second one,” Rahm said. “It’s a target green, you need to hit it very close to the pin otherwise you can go sloping away from the hole.”
Then we get to the par 5 final hole.
“Eighteen is a hole that requires a massive drive to be able to go for it. If you decide to go for it, it’s not easy because they have those four quadrants where the pin can be,” Rahm said. “If you’re in the wrong spot, you’re going to struggle. So, you’ve got to pick and choose. When I played, I played aggressive and it paid off. But I’m sure there have been a couple people who have played aggressive and it didn’t.
“It’s a course I believe is pretty much a ball-striker’s course and that’s probably why Tiger‘s always played really well there and Brandt Snedeker. You can take it deep and just never get too far out of position and that’s why I feel like it’s a great spot.”
Rahm takes a lot of pride in winning there as a rookie.
“It’s not a place where a rookie usually wins, PGA Tour rookie or first time (Farmers Insurance Open) player,” Rahm said. “To not just win but to get it done the way I did and stuff like that with two eagles on the back nine the way Tiger did when he won (2008 US Open third round). It was a miraculous back nine from thirteen and in. That gave me so much confidence and you could not script a better finish than that.
I thought I had a chance, I never thought I was actually going to finish and win by more than one.”
Rahm won by three, but felt his pursuers even inside his group, like SoCal native and former Aztec golf team standout J.J. Spaun.
“J.J. was playing with me and was right there with me until eighteen. There were like twenty guys within a couple shots,” Rahm said. “I was, what was I? I was one under on the day and thus seven under par total standing on eleven tee and I think I was three shots back. And that’s when I went birdie, par, eagle. I was tied there and nobody would then expect the finish I had after that, not even me.
“That’s what makes it even more impressive for me, just to get it done when I had to.”
Rahm’s caddie since September 2016 at the Safeway Open, 23-year veteran Adam Hayes, knew the importance of his man getting the job done.
“There were a lot of expectations on him so it’s unbelievable that he won that day,” Hayes said.
“And the fashion of that win was so cool because that’s just who Jon is. He’s just so competitive. He may look like he’s so cool and calm on the outside but on the inside I know his engine is running at like 10,000 RPM. He’s just wound up and ready to go.
“It was definitely a special win.”
It’s better to be lucky than good as they say, and Rahm is clearly both.
By Garrett Johnston
Photos Michael Weinstein