Nearly four decades have passed since Seve Ballesteros’ iconic Open victory at St Andrews and Jon Rahm is determined to provide another slice of Spanish sporting history on the Old Course.
Rahm was born 10 years after his compatriot claimed the second of his three Claret Jugs in 1984, celebrating with a fist pump which has become one of sport’s defining images in the intervening years.
And the prospect of following in the footsteps of legends is making this week one to savour for the 27-year-old, a keen student of the game who is immersing himself in the unique tradition and heritage of St Andrews as he prepares to go in search of his second major.
“In my opinion, this is truly the pinnacle of golf,” he said. “I don't think it gets any better than winning at St Andrews.
“1984 was very special for Spanish people and that image of Seve celebrating, it's an iconic image not only for us but for the world of golf.
“It's the oldest championship on the oldest course and where it all started. Especially when you get into the setup we have this week, nice and firm and rolling and tricked out as it can be, and it's a really fun one. I'm looking forward to it.I love this game so much, and I love the history of it so much. And to be part of this edition and to have a chance to possibly win it, with everything that comes with it and how great of a venue this is, it's very unique.”
Rahm has not yet played an Open at the home of golf, having made his Championship bow in 2016, but did feature in the Alfred Dunhill Links three years ago.
He missed the cut on that occasion but took plenty of pointers along the way which he hopes will stand him in good stead upon his return.
“Don't hit it right,” he said. “That's the one thing I learned.
“It’s based on the wind. Whatever wind conditions you get and whatever wind direction you get can change this golf course drastically. You have to know when to dial it back, when to be aggressive, and what holes you have to take the right line on and what holes you can bail out left of the tee.
“You can go left all day, but for certain pin locations and certain winds, you're really going to truly short-side yourself. So you have to take your chances at the right time.
“So again, it's the beautiful aspect of this course. It lets you play your game. But there are some holes where you're going to have to take a risk.”
Chief among them is the 17th, on which the Spaniard is expecting a particularly tough test.
“It's a proper championship hole coming down the stretch,” he added.
“Obviously under pressure any hole can be hard, but 17 is a proper test for somebody that has a one-shot lead.
“If you can make par on that hole, it definitely feels like a birdie anytime. It’s just difficult.”
The Spaniard was among the hot favourites at Royal St George’s last year and finished in a share of third, a 1-over 71 on the opening day ultimately proving costly after he matched Champion Collin Morikawa’s scores of 64, 68 and 66 over the next three days.
He is yet to record a top-10 finish in a major so far in 2022 but begins this week in esteemed company, as part of a tantalising group with 2017 Champion Jordan Spieth and Harold Varner III, and is setting his sights on joining an exclusive club by Sunday evening.
“I've heard multiple champions say you can't really call yourself a great player unless you win The Open at St Andrews, which is a very selective group,” he said.
“I think it's a bit of an exaggeration, but I do know what they mean. It can almost put your career to another level just because how great of a venue this one is.”