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April 3, 2017
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Making his very first Masters appearance is Mr.Jon Rahm, and welcome to the media center press building. Jon earns his invitation to Augusta National with his first career PGA TOUR victory at the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this year.
He followed that with three Top‑5 finishes, including a very impressive showing at the WGC Dell Match Play just a couple weeks ago.
Before we open up for questions, could you share with us some of your thoughts, feelings, emotions about your first visit here to Augusta National?
JON RAHM: Well, I actually came here for the first time right after MĂ©xico. And really, for a Spaniard, it's hard to explain all the feelings that come to mind.
The year I was born, OlazĂˇbal won his first Masters. Seve had already won two. It really is a place that seems to suit the Spanish game character, the Spanish way of playing.
Obviously, I'm extremely honored to be here. There's not many places in the world where golf is respected the way it is here. And it's really, for people like me who just turned pro, and I've seen a lot of great places; it doesn't get much better than this, and it truly is two of the best days of my life. I'm pretty sure today would be up there if the weather would have let us practice a little more. But just to be on the chipping green, I had the hour of my life being on the chipping green. It really is amazing just to walk down Magnolia Lane and feel how well respected the game of golf is. It's truly amazing.
Q. Can you talk about the unique technique you use to polish up your English?
JON RAHM: You mean the rap songs, you're talking about? Yeah, it was more not necessarily to learn new words but to help with pronunciation and enunciation and to be able to pronounce certain words and be able to talk faster, talk without pausing. Because otherwise, if I hadn't of done that, right now I would probably still be in the first part of the interview trying to explain how I felt.
I just thought it was very fun for me to learn new words but just to be able to enunciate properly and faster than I was doing it, it really helped me out to be able to keep up with some conversations.
Q. What sort of reflections do you have about playing against Dustin and the Match Play final, especially the last few holes there and what do you think you bring out of it coming here?
JON RAHM: Well, against Dustin, I really try to forget the first nines holes. I really don't know what happened. I played 1 and 2 perfectly, hit a great tee shot on 3, got a bad bounce. After that, things went south really quick. Started missing shots, putts, missed an easy three‑footer on 5.
I couldn't control my body, honestly. I don't know, it was like my body was independent from my mind. I was trying to focus and do my routine, but things just weren't happening.
You know, once I got back to the groove, I learned that when I'm playing good, I can take on the No. 1 player in the world. Even with a mistake on 12, another missed short putt, I had him on the edge of the back nine. I made birdies. I was pretty clutch on 16, making the long putt. And if I had been a little luckier on 17 and 18, maybe I would have had a chance to score in the match or go into a playoff.
The damage was already done. I tried my hardest. But I learned that, you know, if I'm having a good day, I can face the No. 1 player in the world.
Q. Can you talk about the value of your association with Phil and Tim and just kind of where that all started, and just what you've taken from him, from Phil, in particular?
JON RAHM: Well, obviously it all started in college. Tim being my coach for four years, it was an easy access to Phil and his team. I really pretty much played once each year, sophomore, junior and senior year. Obviously he's a busy man; it's hard to find him. And that's kind of how it all started, right. Apparently, I get to learn from people that tell me he's always incredible faith in my game. We played against each other a couple times and he's had nothing but great things to say about me. So that's the first point, Phil being a great motivator.
He told me even before I turned pro that he thought I was one of the Top‑10 best players in the world. At the time, he gave me a lot of confidence. But I was like, okay, he's just trying to be nice, right. It's not possible. I mean, I'm still in college. You can't be as good as other players.
But you know, once I turned pro and I started doing what I'm doing, I started believing he was right, and I'm pretty close to getting to that point.
And obviously I've been able to play a lot with Phil. What to say about him; we all know how great a guy he is and how much he can help a person and how knowledgeable he is in the game of golf and every single course on the PGA TOUR. He's obviously been playing for a long time. And the way he studies the game and he studies the golf course, he thinks about it more than anybody else. The insight he's got, it really is amazing.
I don't think the same way he does, but he always has very, very, very valuable info that I need to know for each week. And he might not always say it, because I can't catch him at a good time but whenever he can he'll tell me and give me advice and everything and he's certainly helped me out.
Q. How much did the noise bother you at No.18 in the Match Play match?
JON RAHM: More than I would have liked. It's just things that you can't control obviously. Usually when you're focused‑‑ there's been many times where I was in my own zone and I didn't hear it. Unfortunately for me, I did hear at that time. It made me move my head a little bit and I chunked it. That's basically what happened.
I really wish I would have been able to keep focus better and not hear it. So obviously it's not that person's blame; it's not they're fault. They have the right to go to the porta‑potty, obviously (laughter).
Q. Everybody knows that Fuzzy Zoeller won here the first time in '79 and people thought it was something that you need a lot of experience to be able to do. In recent engineers, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth have both come very close to doing it and a lot of people are talking about you as having a real opportunity here. Do you approach this tournament thinking, yeah, I know I can win it or do you feel like experience is something that you're just trying to get this week?
JON RAHM: If I didn't think I could win it, I wouldn't be here. Truly, Torrey Pines is not one of the places rookies usually win for the first time and I was able to do it. Obviously this is different. It's a major and my first time in Augusta. It's very, very impressive. I'm going to tee it up believing that I can win, competing to win. I might do it; I might not but that's how I do it. That's what I did at Torrey Pines and that's what I did in my first time as a pro at Congressional and that's how I play. When I tee it up, it's just because I want to win and I believe that I can win.
Q. Have you spoken to OlazĂˇbal about tips on playing the course?
JON RAHM: I haven't talked to him much yet, but I'm hoping to play with him on Wednesday morning. Obviously there's not many players alive that know more about this place than he does. Hopefully I can play a little bit or spend some time with him to chat, and I know he will give me some valuable info on pretty much every single hole.
Q. You talked extensively the last few tournaments about controlling your emotions. Is it going to be an even bigger challenge this week, and how you're going to be able to handle playing in the first Masters, huge spectacle going on?
JON RAHM: Well, you know, I'll be very excited on the first tee. I know the first tee shot I'm going to be really, really pumped up, so I don't know how it's going to go. But that's where I'm going to try to control that.
I want that, oh my God, I'm playing in the Masters moment, to be as short as possible. I know it's going to happen. It might take one hole or two holes but I want it to go away as soon as possible. I don't want to get to my 12th hole and be like, okay, we're 3‑over par, let's get to work. It's happened before. It happened at the British Open. It happened at Oakmont, right, before I realized I was 7‑over par.
That's what I'm trying to focus on, right. Keep it like every other week‑‑ give it more importance than I already know it has. Try to keep my routine the same way so my body, my mind, can prepare the exact same way. Obviously we all know it's a little different. I'm just trying to keep it that way so I can get to play and keep the momentum going as soon as possible.
Q. Do you feel more calm than you did before Oakmont and the British Open?
JON RAHM: Yeah, yeah. You know, I did make some mistakes at Oakmont, tried to think way too much about the golf course instead of playing golf, so that was one of them. It's one of those things, I don't want to go to the first tee and start thinking, okay, the pin is short left, you cannot be left, you cannot be long, you cannot be this. That's what I was thinking at Oakmont. Instead of playing, I was thinking about what I had to do and what I couldn't do and that's really not usually how I play. I try not to focus on what I cannot do. That's pretty much what I'm going to try to do.
Q. With regard to your relative inexperience on the course, and the rapid rise in your game, obviously now as a pro, how do you quickly learn a course like this and the intricacies and subtleties?
JON RAHM: There was a lot of videos about Augusta National, and obviously each year conditions are different. Obviously the weather might dictate how it's going to be, but I can make somehow an idea of how it's going to be. So even before I played, I had somewhat of an idea of the strategy I was going to have to use on the golf course.
Obviously you know, I won't really know what I have to do until I start seeing how the golf course is going to be set, how fast the greens are, how firm they are, because that always changes everything, right. If it's a little softer, I can try to get more aggressive. And if it's firmer, you need to go a little more conservative. That all depends on the first few holes on Thursday. I kind of have somewhat of an idea. I can't be specific right now. But I'll try to learn as fast as possible.
Q. Seve will be celebrating his 70th birthday on Masters Sunday. He's had such an impact on this tournament. But when he won his first Masters, in 1980, he had to use a local caddie. Are you availing of local caddies in the run‑up? Are you availing of their skills at this moment in time in these precious few days before the tournament starts?
JON RAHM: Yeah, if I can, yeah. When I came a couple weeks ago, I was recommended a caddie that knew about the greens better than anybody else and he gave me a lot of good tips.
Obviously the greens were a lot slower than they are going to be, so I'm going to have to have probably about ten feet of break for each putt. But besides that, I'm going to try to learn from everybody as much as possible. But like I said, you know, I'm the kind of player where if I have too much info about the tournament, I might not know what to do with it. So I'm just going to try to keep the routine the same as I usually do and just let the good play take care of itself instead of forcing it.
Q. Did you know it would have been Seve's 70th birthday on Sunday, and what do you know and remember and think about when Seve's name is mentioned?
JON RAHM: Well, Seve‑‑ I mean, Seve, is my ultimate reference, idol. For many it's probably many other people in the world, right. I try to emulate a lot of things he did. You know, the name Seve Ballesteros is really important for me.
Now, knowing how it's going to be special, and Sunday or not‑‑ if I have a chance on Sunday, I'll keep in mind that I know he'll be out there, much like at Medinah hopefully helping me out to get the green jacket. I know he'll be out for the entire week but hopefully on Sunday he can make a special present.
Q. Can you describe what it was like to be handed your invitation card inviting you to your first Masters?
JON RAHM: I haven't gotten it yet (laughs). I haven't been at home for a long‑‑ I mean, I'm home for a week, every other week. I haven't seen it yet. It might be in the mail right now. I don't know. I can't tell you. I haven't physically gotten it yet. I got the e‑mail invite, which was just as exciting because I remember it. But I haven't gotten it.
I mean, I do have plans of framing that first invite and keeping it at home, that's for sure. I'll let you know when I get it, though.
Q. Looking back, the decision to come to Arizona State, instead of turning pro earlier, what were the factors involved in that?
JON RAHM: Simply two of them. Number one, and the one that is 95 percent of the reason why you turn pro, I promised my parents that I was going to graduate. Simply that. There was a very small chance I was going to turn pro early no matter what happened.
And number two is that when it came to junior year, once I finished fifth in Phoenix, I just didn't see myself ready yet. I felt like I wasn't mentally ready and there was a lot of things to take care of before I was going to feel ready to turn professional.
Obviously I was the only one from my family in the country. I had no place to live, no golf course to practice at, no resources, right. So I don't think it would have been the smartest thing to turn pro, here, right. And my idea was always to start and try to get my PGA TOUR card.
Had I gone back to Europe, maybe it would have been a different choice. But I wanted to graduate and I promised my parents, and you know what, I had a great time in college. If it could have been a little longer, I probably would have stayed a little longer, too. The PGA TOUR careers are almost 30, 35 years long, so I think that in the large scheme of things, one or two years really don't make a difference.
Q. You mentioned last week that you're still trying to figure out your schedule and what works best for you. Given your abbreviated practice schedule, do you think going to Houston was the right thing in preparing for your first Masters?
JON RAHM: Yeah, you know, the main reason why I played last week, there's a couple reasons why. Obviously they try to set up that tournament very similar to what Augusta is going to be like. We got rain‑‑ see the rain is coming, so it might not be as different after all. One of the main reasons was that I didn't want to be at home practicing, over‑thinking it, just being anxious to be here. I know myself, I probably would have tried to come early and spend too much time here. The anticipation would have built up so much high in my head that I wouldn't have been able to handle the first day.
So I wanted to keep playing, and just keep the good momentum going. You know, I played the hole‑‑ I played four tournaments in a row and my game never went down. Each week felt a little better. So I felt like, I took a little break after MĂ©xico and played three in a row, which was the right choice to build up to this week.
Match Play doesn't really count because match play is completely different to what we play this week, right. We just try to make as many birdies as possible without being aware of all the consequences if we miss one shot.
So really last week was the one getting prepped for this week. I think it was a great week. Ended up with a sensational final round, got in the Top‑10 and just kept the positive momentum going for this week.
Q. Just wanted to get your thoughts about the rules controversy at the LPGA event yesterday.
JON RAHM: What happened? No, I'm just kidding (laughter).
Well, there's always going to be two sides to the rules, right. I'm not too sure what happened but it was a ten‑inch putt where Lexi didn't put it back into place properly. I mean, the rules do dictate that that's a penalty stroke, right. I mean, I'm not sure about the whole thing. I haven't heard the whole story. I don't have all the names that I probably should have that.
As a player, it really is horrible that that happens, right, especially if it's ten inches. I mean, when is the last time a player at that level missed a ten‑inch putt, right? My way to see it is that in golf when they try to go to replay like in other sports, when they can make a decision in the moment, it's a little harder because there's always going to be a couple holes after and the influence in the tournament is going to be a lot bigger.
It happened in U.S. Open with Anna Nordqvist and it happened again with Lexi. It happened with Dustin at the U.S. Open. Even if it's the right call, the magnitude and the consequences can be a lot bigger, even if it is the right thing to do.
I really don't know what to say about it. I feel bad for Lexi, because maybe she would have won the tournament if that hadn't happened. But a ten‑inch putt, I feel like, could have left it alone, she's not going to miss it anyway, whether it's a millimeter right or left. I really feel sorry for her. I hope she can come back and win the next major.
But I really don't know what to say. It's the Rules of Golf and they are hard to interpret. They are really hard to interpret on moments like that, and as I say, if it's the right thing to do‑‑ one player is always going to be seriously hurt about it.
Q. The story is out there that before you won at Farmers, you got a text from Tim that week telling you, that he thought that you were going to get your first victory; that that course really fit your game. One, has he sent you such a text this week? And two, do you think this course fits you are game like that? Is this one of those courses that's really good for you?
JON RAHM: Well, you can ask him. He's right there. He did send me a text when we were going from Palm Springs to Torrey Pines. He didn't say I was going to win. He told me, It's going to be a special week for you.
For some reason, everybody around me and my team felt it. My girlfriend told me the same thing. My caddie told me the same thing. And once I got to the golf course, I was like, man, I love this place. It fits my game better than any golf course I've played so far. Maybe he just put that idea in my mind or maybe truly it's something we all felt.
This week, everybody feels special at Augusta National, right. It's a course that it's proven that it fits any kind of player. You've had right‑handers, left‑handers, drawers, faders, short hitters win. I do think it suits my game. It certainly suits my eye. I usually like putting on places like this where you know that you have a lot of break and it just makes it a lot more fun and gets the creative side out of me. I think it suits me and it makes it‑‑ I'm probably going to enjoy it a lot.
MODERATOR: Thank you so very much for being here and taking time from your preparation to be with us.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports