Top-ranked Rahm alive to Spain's Ryder Cup legacy

·4 min read

Jon Rahm is hoping the game that propelled him to the US Open title and the top of the world rankings will help him join the pantheon of Spanish Ryder Cup greats at Whistling Straits.

The 43rd edition of the match play clash between the United States and Europe caps a roller-coaster year for the 26-year-old, who captured his first major title at Torrey Pines in June.

The triumph was especially sweet coming after a crushing blow that month at the Memorial, where Rahm was romping toward victory with a six-shot lead when he was forced to withdraw after the third round because of a positive Covid-19 test.

In another devastating blow, Rahm was forced out of the Tokyo Olympics after again testing positive for coronavirus.

In August, he led much of the US PGA Tour's Northern Trust only for a hurricane to postpone the final round until Monday, when he settled for third.

As he prepared Thursday to tee it up in his second Ryder Cup, Rahm said he had lately taken stock of a year that opened with great personal joy when he and wife Kelley welcomed the arrival of their first child, son Kepa, in April.

"It just dawned on me that it's only been five and a half months since my son was born, and there's been so many things that happened since then," Rahm said.

"It almost feels like it's been a couple years worth of experiences in those five months.

"Besides the setbacks I've already talked about extensively, the good moments, the great experiences, the happiness vastly outweighs the setbacks, and that's all I can say about this year.

"I became a dad. We're in a really good place family-wise. It has been amazing. Got my first major and played really good golf all year round."

That included in the US PGA Tour Championship, where he finished runner-up to US Ryder Cup foe Patrick Cantlay for the tournament and the $15 million FedEx Cup playoff bonus.

Rahm admitted he was disappointed that after his interrupted but impressive year -- which also featured top-10 finishes in the other three majors, the PGA Tour money title and the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average -- he was pipped for the US tour's Player of the Year award by Cantlay.

- Let the clubs talk -

A Ryder Cup victory would go some way to soothing that sting, especially for a player reared on the exploits of Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and current Europe teammate Sergio Garcia.

"When you're born in Spain, the Ryder Cup is something special," Rahm said. "There's a lot of legacy in this event between Seve and Ollie and the player who's got the most amount of Ryder Cup points for Team Europe in history (Garcia).

"It's a lot to live up to, I'm not going to lie. It's a lot of expectation when you're a Spaniard.

"A lot of times we're called a different word for passionate, but I think that's when all these great emotions can be used in match play and that's why in general people have done great."

Rahm shoulders high expectations as the only top-10 player for a Europe team trying to hang onto the trophy they won in France three years ago.

The Americans feature nine of the top 11, but Rahm believes Europe's depth of experience can be a difference-maker.

Rahm noted that he was not yet three years old when 48-year-old teammate Lee Westwood, teeing it up in an 11th Ryder Cup, made his first appearance.

Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Rory McIlroy are also veterans of multiple Ryder Cup campaigns, so Rahm said his ranking doesn't add to his sense of responsibility.

"We have plenty of players in the team that are vocal enough that have done this enough that (we) naturally will gravitate towards for guidance," he said.

"I'm not going to actively go and just make myself "Hey, I'm a leader now,' because I don't have that massive of an ego.

"Hopefully, like I've done so far this year, I'll let the clubs and the ball do the talking and I'll leave the speeches and the leadership to the guys that have been doing this for a long time."


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