07/17 11:21 CDT Rahm hopes Irish connection propels him to 1st major title
Rahm hopes Irish connection propels him to 1st major title
By STEVE DOUGLAS
AP Sports Writer
PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland (AP) --- There's something about playing golf on the
island of Ireland that brings out the best in Jon Rahm.
The warmth and pride of the people, the community feel in the fishing villages,
even --- believe it or not --- the weather, all remind him of his modest,
coastal hometown of Barrika in Spain's Basque Country region.
Perhaps that's the reason why he has won the Irish Open twice in the past three
years, roared on by huge galleries wherever he goes.
And maybe it's what will turn this most fiery of golfers into a major champion
this week at Royal Portrush.
"It's the closest I'll ever feel to playing at home," Rahm said Wednesday,
"without being at home."
The first of his Irish Open victories came just down the road at Portstewart in
2017. He stayed in Portrush that week and recalls going to the Harbour Bistro,
one of the liveliest places in town, on six of seven nights.
He shot a closing 65 to win the title --- his first on the European Tour --- by
six shots in a record-breaking total score of 24-under par.
A little more than a year into his pro career at the time, Rahm couldn't
remember playing any better and it made him believe he could win the British
Open one day.
He hasn't done himself justice in his three appearances at golf's oldest major,
finishing 59th and 44th before missing the cut at Carnoustie last year, but a
second Irish Open win at Lahinch two weeks ago made him feel good about his
links game once again. He shot 62 to overturn a five-stroke deficit in the
"If I ever have doubt, which I shouldn't, I can always remind (myself) that
I've been able to win twice here," Rahm said. "That's the reason why I can get
Both of those wins came in relatively mild, wind-free conditions, but it is
likely to be different at Royal Portrush this week. It was rainy and blustery
Wednesday --- Rahm went to the first tee in the morning, spent a few minutes
there, and walked inside again --- and more of the same is forecast for this
week as the event returns to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years.
Rahm expects to have to grind his way around the Dunluce Links, rely on a bit
of luck, and keep mentally strong. That doesn't come easy to a player whose
temper has been known to get the better of him.
It might explain why he can lose interest at major championships if he's not in
contention. Take his results in the majors over the last two years: Two
fourth-place finishes and two missed cuts in 2018, and two top 10s and a missed
cut so far in 2019.
"I would like to find the middle ground," Rahm said, "but truth be told,
there's not much difference between finishing 50th, 40th and 30th to me, unless
you are contending for the tournament. Making the cut or not doesn't make the
Rahm would be the first Spaniard to lift the claret jug since 1988, when the
late Seve Ballesteros won the last of his three British Open titles. Rahm used
to watch over and over footage of the charismatic Ballesteros winning his first
Open, at Royal Lytham in 1979 when he memorably made a final-round birdie after
hitting his tee shot into an overflow car park.
"I don't think I have the talent to do what he did, to play the way he did,"
Rahm said. "Although honestly, I don't care how it looks, if it looks pretty or
not, as long as I win the event. So, however you can get it done."
More AP golf: https://apnews.com/apf-Golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80