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Jon Rahm: Five things to know about golf's reformed hothead

He collected his first major title at this year's U.S. Open, and is the top ranked men's golfer on the planet heading into the 2021 Ryder Cup, but did you know he has a former bomb disposal expert in his entourage?
By Chloe Merrell

As eyes turn towards Whistling Straits for men’s golf’s blockbuster team event, the Ryder Cup, there is one member of Team Europe who above them all, is a certified 'one to watch'.

That man is Jon Rahm.

There are several reasons why the current men's world number one should be on your tracker list during the competition, the most compelling being the way the Spaniard has gone about his 2021 season.

Having already been one of golf’s biggest names, a career-defining victory at the U.S. Open stamped him as a star.

The 26-year-old’s breathtaking birdie-birdie finish on the greens of Torrey Pines saw him become the first Spaniard to clinch the title in its 126-year history.

That triumph came just two weeks after a positive Covid test robbed him of an almost certain victory in the Memorial Tournament.

Throw in top-10 finishes at all four of this year's majors and the joint-best 72-hole score at the PGA Tour's season-ending TOUR Championship - he finished one stroke behind overall winner Patrick Cantlay having started the tournament four behind the America - and it is all too clear that Rahm is in superb form.

Missing the cut at the Fortinet Championship a week before the Ryder Cup was clearly a blip, but Rahm put that down to a stomach problem in round one, and believes he'll be fully fit for the start of the team event on Friday 24th September.

On his Ryder Cup debut in 2018, he famously defeated his idol Tiger Woods in the Sunday singles.

You may also recognise him for his temper tantrums (more on that later), but do you know the reason why Rahm has such a short swing?

Read on for five things you should know about PGA of America’s Player of the Year 2021, Jon "Rahmbo" Rahm.

1. Jon Rahm, the big-hitting Basque

Jon Rahm Rodriguez was born on 10 November 1994 in Barrika, a town in the Basque region of northern Spain, to parents Edorta and Angela.

When they say visibility matters in sport for inspiring the next generation, a young Rahm is a prime example of just that.

In 1997, Edorta Rahm watched the Ryder Cup in Valderrama with Europe led to victory by the late great Seve Ballesteros.

The effect was immediate with Rahm Sr and his wife taking up golf before sending their son to have lessons too.

Golf was not the only sport the Spaniard played growing up.

He tried his hand at football and basketball among a whole host of others, but a desire to be the one to have the final shot eventually turned him away from team sports.

He explained to Golf News: "I loved that feeling, of everyone counting on me. But it can be hard to get that in team sports. In golf there is that internal pressure on every shot. I think that’s why I fell in love with the game. By the time I was 15, I’d pretty much dropped all my other sports and focused purely on golf.”

Jon Rahm TOUR Championship
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2. Welcome to America

In autumn 2012, Rahm enrolled at Arizona State University in the United States.

The golfing talent was urged to go Stateside by his father who believed his future would be found there.

Recruited by Phil Mickelson's brother Tim, the Spaniard had to adjust very quickly to life in a different language.

As well as punitive methods (Tim would make him do 10 burpees for every Spanish word he spoke), Rahm also credits rap songs for helping him learn English with Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Swimming Pools’ and the Eminem / Rihanna collaboration ‘Love the Way You Lie’ were among the tracks he listened to.

While at Arizona, Rahm quickly developed into quite the player.

Not only did he become the first person to claim the Ben Hogan Award - an honour handed to the best player in college golf - twice, but he also rose to number one in the World Amateur Golf Rankings courtesy of his 11 tournament victories.

3. Finding inner peace on the course, thanks to a former bomb disposal expert

Golf is an intense sport.

The pursuit of perfection and the pressure that builds after a miscalculation occurs can have devastating consequences. Remaining cool under the demands of the sport is vital to success.

And in the past, Rahm’s disposition on the course was often his downfall.

At the 2017 U.S. Open, the Spaniard had a meltdown which involved him slamming his wedge and punching a sign on a tee box.

Seeking to improve his ability to stay calm, Rahm employed the services of Joseba del Carmen – a former bomb disposal expert.

Speaking to El Pais, the former officer from the Basque Police force explained: "Emotion is simple. It is the radar, the GPS that tells you where you have to go. And the more you contain it the more damage you cause.

"You have to leave an escape valve and release it… that’s what we do with Rahm. He exteriorises less and less because we are training in this. But this emotion is what has brought him here. We cannot forget who we are or where we came from."

In recent years, the outbursts have reduced in frequency as the mental work he has done with Del Carmen has paid dividends.

Jon Rahm celebrates putt
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

4. Why does Jon Rahm have a short swing?

One thing often noted about Rahm is his short backswing.

Though the action looks very different to many of his peers, the major winner is still able to generate huge power to the surprise of on-lookers.

At July's Open Championship, Rahm revealed that the reason behind his unorthodox swing was a birth defect.

He said, "I was born with a club foot on my right leg. My foot was 90 degrees turned inside and basically upside down. When I was born, they pretty much broke every bone in the ankle and I was casted within 20 minutes of being born, from the knee down.

"Every week I had to go back to the hospital to get recasted so from the knee down my leg didn't grow at the same rate. So I have very limited ankle mobility on my right leg. It's a centimetre and a half shorter as well.

"I can't take a full swing because my ankle doesn't have the mobility or the stability to take it. So I learned at a very young age that I'm going to be more efficient at creating power and be consistent from a short swing."

5. Family first

This April's Masters was tense for Rahm, and not just in the way you might expect.

His wife Kelley Cahill, who he met while at Arizona State, was due to give birth around the time of the major.

A month ahead of one of the highlights of the golfing calendar, Rahm said: "Yes, if I’m at Augusta and I’m playing well and she starts getting – you know, starts - I’m flying back.

"I would never miss the birth of my first born in a million years, or any born for that matter."

Fortunately for Rahm, son Kepa was born a few days prior to Augusta, meaning he didn’t have to miss out any tournament golf.

And just 10 weeks later, both were present to watch him win his maiden major at the U.S. Open.