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July 4, 2017

Jon Rahm

Portstewart, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland

NEIL AHERN: Fantastic to have you here in Portstewart for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Can you talk about how delighted you are to be here?

JON RAHM: It's my pleasure to be here. You know, I came here a couple years ago to play The Open Am. Fell in love with the place, both towns, Portrush and Portstewart. I thought the golf course was amazing. It's probably one of, if not the most, one of the most beautiful links golf courses I've ever seen. I was like, if I ever have a chance to go back, I have to.

When I saw once Rory took over the tournament and as part of the Rolex Series it was here, I was like, well, it's going to be an easy choice to come here. I want to go play it, so it kind of made it all around coming here. Really excited to be able to tee up on such a great golf course, such a great area, and hopefully I can keep the good play going.

NEIL AHERN: A Top-10 in your first European Tour appearance last week. I'm sure it's all part of the master plan heading to The Open in the next couple weeks.

JON RAHM: It is. Obviously I played last week focussed on seeing the course, just in case I play The Ryder Cup next year. I know it's a little premature, but I've been playing good golf course and I know it's a great golf course, and I know being able to have a couple extra rounds I know wouldn't hurt. And setting my mind, obviously I'm coming here to get ready for it. It's a good week to see what my game needs to be ready for for Birkdale and if anything needs to be changed, well, I have a week next week to be able to address those changes. But hopefully that's nothing that needs to be changed.

Q. You're paired with Rory tomorrow. Was it part of the deal that you play alongside him?
JON RAHM: I mean, I wasn't part of the process to be honest, so I don't know. When I was playing a practise round with Rory in Austin in the match play tournament, they did tell me, "if you come, we'll make sure you play with Rory," trying to get me to come, which in my mind, it was already set up. But if I get a chance to play with Rory, yeah, I'll do all I can do play with Rory. He's a great guy and an even better player. I'm not sure if it was part of the process, but now that I'm playing with him, it probably was.

Q. Does it help that you so few of you have played here before; does it help that you have a couple of years ago?
JON RAHM: Well, I played it two years ago, so I've changed as a player quite a bit. And some of the tee boxes have, too. Some of the tee boxes have changed and obviously it's different condition to what I played. I was in a different spot in life. I did hit the golf ball a little different to what I do now and I do think of myself as a little better player than what I was then. I do think that having seen the course before and visually, you know, being more recognisable than when it's brand new, I think it does help a little bit.

Q. Can you put into words what's happened to you in this last year or so?
JON RAHM: I've been asked that question a couple times and it's hard to. You know, just over a year ago, I was teeing up at the Quicken Loans Invitational at Congressional thinking I have six tournaments and I need to make the best of those six tournaments to get my Tour card. I end up finishing third in that one; a couple weeks later, I'm playing The Open; the next week, I've got my Tour card. So things have changed quite a bit. From then, all of this was the farthest I was looking at in the future.

Then I got my Tour card and I started the year, and I really was like, okay, let's see if we can have a good year, maybe make the FedExCup have a chance to win. Played the Fall Series, get to Torrey Pines, get the win. Once something like that happens so early in the year, I've got to refocus my goals, so the goals changed. You know, the goals were to make the best out of those WGCs and majors I was going to play. First WGC I get to the 16th and I'm leading the tournament with Dustin Johnson.

So things have escalated very quickly, a lot faster than I would have ever thought. It's the fastest I've ever seen my life go through, ever. I mean, I could not have thought a year would go faster and I could not have thought a year go any better than it's been this year. I really wish I would have been able to stop and enjoy it a little more, but I don't think of it at the moment. I'm really glad I got to the point I got, now I can come here and Europe and play here in Europe.

Q. Graeme McDowell was saying that certain players don't need to think about their game or analyse it; you being one of them. Sounds like you haven't had time to analyse it and everything has just happened so quickly.
JON RAHM: I've always been a firm believer that you need to simplify the game of golf, it's so complicated, as much as possible. What Graeme said when he was leaving, it's true. When I'm on top of the ball, I don't think much. I do the thinking process before, and if I'm going to hit a fade, simply I just aim left and swing and hope it fades. To be honest, it's something that simple.

If I start thinking about it, like I did at Memorial and The Open, if I start thinking of what I'm doing and what I have to do, I just -- my body doesn't respond the way it has to. I know when I play my best golf, it's just, you know, me and Adam choose the shot we are going to hit, what kind of shot I think about, and once I'm on too much the ball, I set up and strike. There's nothing more to it than that. There's no special secret. It's just swing.

Q. I think I'm right in saying when you played here in 2014, you shot 75 here and 69 at Portrush in the stroke-play. What are your memories of this course specifically, and what kind of weather was it that week? Did you have this kind of weather or did you have a freak, good week in Northern Ireland?
JON RAHM: Well, it was kind of like yesterday's weather. The sun wasn't completely out. It wasn't freezing, but it wasn't raining or really freezing, either. So for Northern Ireland standards, it was a great day. We got really lucky.

I remember playing some good golf. I was 1-under par teeing up on 9. I missed the tee shot on 9 and that's when everything went wrong. You cannot miss that tee shot. I ended up on that mountain somewhere, made a double-bogey and ended up 2-over par since then.

I remember the round here, it was one of those days where I played really good but the putts just weren't dropping in the hole. I remember I had quite a few lip-outs but then, you know, I had to wait a day because we had -- I've never seen this before, a tournament suspended for fog, all day, literally all day. And we had to come back the next day to Portrush and I ended up shooting 1-under par, which was probably my best round on a links golf course yet.

I fought as hard as I could, because I knew I had to make birdies and I actually ended up making birdie on 16, which is not the easiest par 4 and made par on the last two holes. But unfortunately the match-play portion, I did not have my best golf. But I do have good memories from here. I played good. It's just when you have match play, it's a hundred percent luck. The other guy has a good day, you have a bad day, you're going to lose 99 percent of the time.

But the stroke-play portion, what I do remember most of it, I thought it was great. I played good golf. We had great weather. That's one of the reasons why I came back; I had such a great time that I wanted to come back here.

Q. You described Erin Hills as a links course on steroids. Are you a general fan of links golf?
JON RAHM: I enjoy links golf. Erin Hills it's a little bit different. You can't compare links golf in the UK to links golf anywhere in the world because it's not the same. As much as you try to make it the same, it won't be the same because it just comes so naturally here. You can't get the holes you get out here. You can't get No. 1, 2, 5, 8, you can't make those holes anywhere else in the world. I mean, you can try but it won't be the same. Same with some of those iconic golf courses in Scotland or England. You can't make it up. It's just naturally made.

Erin Hills, I think it's a great golf course. It's a great design. It's an amazing golf course. Just because of the time of year we played, it's not played the way links courses are supposed to be played. You can tell that course is supposed to play when the ball is running and firm. Would have been a lot more fun to play that way: When the fairway contours actually make your ball run off the fairway, and when missing the green can be that more penalising than it was. It was penalising for me because I did not play that great. But no, it wasn't the usual U.S. Open scoring that you see, or it's maybe not what they hoped for because of the weather.

So related to this, I think links courses are super fun. I think it leaves so much to the imagination, especially around the greens. In the US, it's just hit the driver as hard as you can, hit the second shot as high as you can. You miss the green, grab a lob wedge, lob it up, try to make the putt. If you do that here, you're more often than not going to be in the rough and more often than not you're going to make bogeys.

That's where the fun part comes. You can grab an iron, hit it low, run it 30 yards in the fairway, be in a good spot, hit another low runner. And once you get to the green, you might need to lob it, you might need to putt it, you might need to just hit a four-sixths of an iron. It's just the fun part of it. When you get a windy day, you can just start using the contours around the green, start using the wind to your advantage. It really is fun. There's a lot more to think about, and as golfers, there's nothing better than that.

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