"I'm no Seve," says flattered Rahm
Perhaps the biggest compliment that could be paid to one of Spain’s rising stars is to compare him to Severiano Ballesteros. Jon Rahm, just 22 and already making huge waves within the game, has found himself the subject of such accolades in recent weeks, but is not inclined to accept them.
Much of the brouhaha has centred on the young Spaniard’s meteoric rise to the higher echelons of the game just 13 months since turning professional. He claimed a debut victory on the PGA Tour at the Farmers Insurance Open in January and, just nine days’ ago, he waltzed off with the Irish Open crown at Portstewart, where he finished on 24-under-par and won by an emphatic margin of six strokes.
It is for such reasons that the world No.7 is considered one of the favourites for this week’s 146th Open at Royal Birkdale, even though he has previously played in only four major championships.
Much as he is flattered by the comparison with Ballesteros, Champion Golfer of the Year in 1979, 1984 and 1988, he feels that his late countryman was a one-off. “I've seen every video on YouTube that you can of Seve,” he said. “I've seen his video here in '76, his one winning in '79 (at Royal Lytham & St Annes) about a million times, how he plays the back nine without hitting the fairway and makes four under par. It's absolutely unbelievable.
“I'm never going to be Seve. Seve was so unique, so special. To be honest, if we ever see someone like him again it is going to be someone very, very special. Because what he did was special for Spanish golf and the Spanish community. He opened so many doors.
“When I'm compared to him it's really beautiful to hear those words. To see the hopes people have in me, it's amazing. I try to take it as a positive and embrace it. He's a great idol of mine and I try to emulate a lot of things he used to do. A lot of that is the inspirational power he had, the way he brought masses together and people together. If I could do a quarter of what he did, I'd probably be satisfied with my career.”
Too young to have seen Seve in his prime, Rahm used Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as his ‘reference’ points growing up. “Every player (of) my age tried to copy some of what Tiger did because of how dominant he was. I'm not sure anybody is going to come close to that, but we all try to,” he explained.
“Luckily for me, I don't have to face Tiger Woods in the prime of his career. But there are a lot of other players who can play high quality golf. I'm still only 22 and whatever it takes, if it takes 85 tries to win a major, I'll still be happy with that.”
If his win at the Irish Open is anything to go by, Rahm’s wait may not be that long. “I played close to my best (and) it gives me a lot of confidence heading into a week like this.”