If his first Masters Tournament appearance is anything like his rookie season on the PGA Tour, Jon Rahm should make his presence felt in a big way.
The 22-year-old year-old Spaniard and former Arizona State All-American has already won this season, at the Farmers Insurance Classic in late January, and was ranked 26th in the world after a tie for third in the WGC-Mexico Championship in early March.
Last summer, before he was a PGA Tour member, Rahm finished in a tie for third in his first pro start, at the 2016 Quicken Loans National in late June and tied for second in the Canadian Open in July.
His play hasn’t surprised three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, whose brother Tim coached Rahm in college. Tim is now Rahm’s manager.
“When my brother coached him at Arizona State, he would go up to him and say, ‘What do you need from me, coach?’ He says, ‘I need you to birdie three of the last five holes.’ He says, ‘You’ve got it,’ and he’d go do it. It’s just a little something that it’s hard to quantify or put words on, but he has that intangible.”
At Arizona State, Rahm was the No. 1-ranked amateur for 60 weeks and won the Ben Hogan Award in 2015 and 2016.
Phil Mickelson was in the field at the Farmers Insurance Classic when Rahm won the title, making a 60-foot eagle on the final hole. After he finished his round, Mickelson predicted that Rahm would finish strong.
“Jon doesn’t have weaknesses,” Mickelson said. “Every part of his game is a strength. I think he’s one of the best players in the world. I think he’s more than just a good young player, I think he’s one of the top players in the world.
“I think there’s an intangible that some guys have where they want to have the pressure, they want to be in that tough position, they want to have everything fall on their shoulders and he has that.”
Rahm, who is from Barrika, Spain, said his idol is two-time Masters champion and fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros.
He never saw Ballesteros play, but he met him once.
“I was too young to appreciate who I was shaking hands with,” he said of Ballesteros, who died in 2011. “Obviously I grew up on Tiger (Woods) and Phil (Mickelson), respecting and admiring both players for what they’ve done, but my idol, it’s always been Seve. I try to emulate what he inspired on the golf course. Not play like him because it’s a little different to the way I like to play, but try to inspire and express the same emotions he used to.”
Rahm said Tim Mickelson helped him rein in some of his aggressiveness on the golf course when he was in college.
“I believe it’s a Spanish mind-set. I feel like we are all pretty aggressive, right? I feel like we’ve all been pretty aggressive, I think that’s the mindset probably thanks to Seve, right? “
The victory at the Farmers Insurance Classic punched Rahm’s ticket into the Masters. With his play this season, however, he would have qualified anyway by being in the top 50 in the world two weeks before the Masters.
“I’ve never played Augusta. I’ve never been there, but I’ve watched so many golf videos and major videos that I probably know what I’m going to hit on each hole before I show up,” Rahm said. “The only difference is knowing the slopes on the greens or not.
“But to be able to tee it up at Augusta is really an incredible feeling,” he said. “My first year as a PGA Tour member to get my entrance into Augusta like that it really is something special. It’s one of the most important tournaments in the world; for some, the most. As a European, I like the British Open a little more, but the Masters is really something different to the other ones.”