SCOTTSDALE, Arizona Ė Spanish golfer Jon Rahm, who has been ranked in the worldís top 10 since mid-2017, celebrated his 24th birthday on Saturday.
A native of the northern Spanish town of Barrika, Rahm played college golf at Arizona State University and currently lives in Arizona. In an exclusive, in-depth interview with Agencia EFE, Spainís international news agency, he talks about his career, his fiancee and managing his fiery temper.
How did you become passionate about golf?
I started at age seven. My parents would pick me up at daycare and they would go to a golf class. I remember seeing them hitting balls while I was having a snack. I was a restless kid who played all different sports. I tried to give it a go, and thatís how I got started.
I liked golf from the beginning. Itís a little frustrating because when youíre young itís easy to kick (a soccer ball), shoot a basketball ... Golf is tough, it takes time.
(But) my dad taught me a lesson about life: if you put in the effort and devote time and interest youíll be good in anything you do. Iíve always put in a lot of effort and wanted to be the best golfer in the world. The lesson was that if you work hard youíll do well.
How did you make the transition from a small school to a huge university and the hustle and bustle of the United States?
When I graduated high school (in Spain), it was a class of 40. I arrived at Arizona State and found myself with 80,000 students. My first class seemed like a movie theater Ė screens, microphones and me looking for the blackboard. I was the only one without a computer, there with my pencil with a pencil sharpener and an eraser.
But Iíve always been a person who adapts very well to any sport and any situation.
And how have you adapted to the intensity of professional golf?
To give you an example, this Saturday, my birthday, Iíll fly to Dubai and take two days to get there. On Monday, I have to do something with my sponsors, then train, play.
I play 25 tournaments a year. If you make all the cuts, thatís 100 days of competitive golf a year, plus the training at home.
Whatís the key to dealing with that rhythm and the loneliness that goes with it?
Jack Nicklaus said once that you have to lead a very selfish life to be a great golfer. Thatís why you need a great partner who understands that. Because at the end of the day all the decisions you make are related to the world of golf.
Kelley (Cahill, his fiancee) has helped me immensely since we started going out. She helped me with my diet. She likes taking care of people and doesnít let me eat ribs, hamburgers and French fries.
The best thing that couldíve happened to me when I got to the PGA Tour was being with her. Sheís my best friend, and we donít get sick of each other. When Iím playing very well, she helps me put that out of my mind. When Iím playing very poorly, she helps me put that out of my mind too.
What situations and memories do you value the most about your career?
For me, one of the best things is that every time Iíve won my dad has been there or nearby.
More recently, I have very nice memories with Kelley, like when I was winning in university or my first tournament as a professional.
On the flip side, is there a bad memory?
The (2017) US Open in Erin Hills (in Erin, Wisconsin) is a bad memory because of my behavior (when Rahm let his temper get the best of him en route to missing the cut). That was a tough week.
How do you manage that temper now?
Thereís no golfer with more passion than me. No one has more love and passion for this sport and more desire to play it well. Feeling the adrenaline, the frustration, the joys is something thatís fun for me. My negative experiences are very intense, but my positive experiences are equally intense.
What sport doesnít have people getting mad and expressing joy? Golf is the only sport in which (outbursts) arenít considered passion. A soccer player who gets upset has a lot of passion. A baseball player who breaks a bat (over his knee) is very passionate. In golf, passion is a problem.
Where is Jon Rahmís golf life headed?
Starting in 2019 (the current PGA Tour season, which began last month), I hope itís a little better than last year. Iíve learned a lot about myself as a person and as a player. Now letís see if I can give myself a chance to win a major.