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April 3, 2018

Jon Rahm

Augusta, Georgia

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. A warm welcome. Nice to have you back. We were just chatting outside, you were ranked, what, in the top‑5, about 500 in the world, two and a half years ago, you're knew now ranked No. 3. This is your second Masters, you were out playing this morning, 18 holes. How do you feel this year compared to a year ago?
JON RAHM: Well, it's a very different feeling. The first thing to say, it's pretty nice to have a Spaniard be a defending champion. It's a different atmosphere and I think all of us get treated a little differently just because Sergio won, and we're all friends and teammates in that sense. So you can already feel something is special. Especially when a friend wins.
Second of all, I would say I'm much more mature as a player, much more experienced in the sense that I played the golf course before, and this is one of those golf courses you need to play many, many times to learn certain things. When I played practice rounds with Phil around here, he knows what the ball's going to do every single time. He knows every single break, he knows every single chip, he knows everything. It makes things a lot easier when you get to the green and when you're playing the golf course.
So learning about those things certainly helps, and I think that, lastly, that one thing that's a little different yesterday, yes, I'm No. 3 in the world, I've been playing great, but last year coming up to this event I had won at Torrey Pines, finished 11th or 16th, however, I forgot, at Phoenix, and I finished fifth at Pebble, third in Mexico, second in Match Play and ninth in Houston. So I was playing so good coming up to this week that I feel like even if I was a rookie, and I already played, had only played the golf course a couple times, the expectations were so high.
And it's not a golf course where rookies are going to win. It's really hard for rookies to do really well the first time. And I know I finished 27th, but I think I was close to a top‑10 with a few holes to go, I just had a bad finish. So even to play so good I was surprised to do so well. And even though I've been playing really good, not as good as last year, but I'm feeling great. I'm a lot more rested I took a lot of weeks off before this week and trying to feel a little different, trying out different things, I spent a lot of time here in this town of Augusta last week, just trying to figure out what my groove and routine should be for Major Championships.
But mainly I just feel like I'm just a little bit more experienced than I was last year and I know the golf course a little better. So you would say it's almost kind of like repeating the class and kind of like when you fail a class in college and you get to do it again. I mean, something sounds familiar, right? So it's a little easier, the pace is a little higher.
THE MODERATOR: We're delighted you are here. Questions, please.

Q. To clarify, Jon, did you have to repeat a lot of classes in college or did you pass them all?
JON RAHM: Well I graduated in four years. I didn't have to repeat many of them.

Q. Martin Kaymer said earlier that this golf course allows for incredible shots that can also go incredibly wrong. Have you had experience with that, and can you kind of explain in your own words what that might mean?
JON RAHM: Oh, God, just so many ways you can interpret that. First of all, the conditions. If there's any wind, all throughout the golf course, and holes like No. 4 and 5 and 6 and the Amen Corner, you can get just different gusts.
I remember last year first round when I stood on the 12th tee after making a great par on 11, I was I think 1‑under par. Or even par. And I'm standing on 12 tee, and I see the flag going one way, the 11 flag going another way, some trees going one way and other trees going the other way, all within a hundred yards. I looked at Adam, and I'm like, What do I do? Like I have no idea. And you can hit the perfect shot and get the wrong gust and end up in the water, end up long, end up in the bunker, you can actually just be unfortunate or hit the wrong shot and get the right wind and end up in a good spot.
It's just Major Championship. If you hit quality golf shots, you can score really well around here. If you hit bad shots, you won't. But you need those good shots, and you're going to get bad breaks. When you're playing greens this fast and this sloped, it's a matter of inches. 13, if the pin is back right and you hit it just a little bit too far right, you can end up with 50 feet up the hill instead of 10 feet.
Holes like 14, if you miss it just enough to the right, the ball's going to roll down 30, 40 feet, and you're going to have again a long putt. It's just a very small‑‑ the margin of error is so small. But if you play smart, you can manage it. Phil knows all those shots better than anybody. He knows when he can be aggressive and when he can't be aggressive. Same as Tiger. It's just people who have won here numerous times, it's because they know it.

Q. You talked about coming in this week with a bit more maturity. Was it a Major last year when you realized that you needed to be a little bit more mature, and did you talk to anyone about that side of your game?
JON RAHM: Well, when‑‑ I mean, maturity is not as a person, it's as a golfer. I just needed to get some knowledge about the golf course. And I have been talking, I talked to Phil about it, I talked to Olazabal about it and they gave me some really valuable advice that I'll try to put into work this week. But at the end what people tell you, you can always remember it, you should remember it, but at the end you need to play good golf. Once you're standing over the ball, you're not going to remember. You need to make quality golf swings. And that's why it's hard to win here because it's a golf course that allows any kind of player, it doesn't favor anybody. So that's why you get many different winners. You get someone like Mike Weir, you get somebody like Angel Cabrera, Sergio, Seve, Phil, Tiger, people who hit it straight, people who don't hit it straight, people like Bubba.
It just means that if there's 5,000 ways to play one regular course, there's probably about 50,000 ways to go around Augusta National, and that's the beauty of it.

Q. Growing up as a kid, was there one particular Masters that captured your attention?
JON RAHM: That I can remember watching live‑‑ well, not live on TV, obviously it was 2005. Because I was 10 years old. Before that I don't really remember much, and my family wasn't really into golf. So 2005 I think is the first memory I have of the Masters. And I saw it the next morning because my parents wouldn't let me to stay up that late. So it was 2:00 in the morning in Spain. So at the age of 10 I probably wouldn't make it anyway. But that's that chip in that Tiger winning on the playoff is the first memory I have of it.

Q. Even then did you ever imagine playing here yourself?
JON RAHM: At that age? No. No. No. I wasn't ‑‑ a couple years later I knew I wanted to. I made it my goal to become a professional golfer, but even then you can want it really bad and still it's so hard to make it. The odds and the chances to get to this point, there's so many things that have to go your way to get to the point to do it the way I did it, with a shortcut from college to the PGA TOUR. It's not easy.

Q. You wrote in your blog about some physical workout that you've been doing regarding some sort of problem with your hips. I don't know if you could extend on that.
JON RAHM: No, I haven't had any problem with my hips. It's just golfer life, your hips get tight. Swinging so much and flying so much your hips are going to get tight. I'm just‑‑ I've been doing a lot of work in the sense of learning how to use some group, some muscle groups.
One of the main things I told my trainer is like I know I hit it far, but my size, being the one I have and the strength that I have, why I didn't hit it farther, it's like why does someone like Rory, even though he's so strong, the size difference, I should be able to hit it just as far as he does. And we ended up knowing that I wasn't using some muscles to the potential, and that was the main reason why what I worked on.
The main thing we found out is that I don't use my and muscles properly. I just didn't use them to as hard as good as I could have. And it's just good to know that I can hit it a little harder than I did last year. I don't necessarily need to all the time, but if it's needed, I can.

Q. I think Wesley was in here yesterday, did you spend a couple days with him?
JON RAHM: Yeah, from Tuesday night until Saturday I was at his house.

Q. How did that come about and did you guys get a chance to come over here and play any rounds?
JON RAHM: Well, we're really good friends. We're playing New Orleans together. We play a lot of practice rounds together and we just like spending time with each other. He's just a really fun guy to be around the golf course.
I came to practice Monday and Tuesday after Match Play, and I was talking to my team nutritionist and therapist and trainers, and they all told me it wasn't smart to fly back, three‑hour time change, to then fly back Saturday afternoon. It wasn't great for my body. I was going to be tired. So we just agreed to stay on the East Coast with the best chance, and Wesley's a good friend and I asked him if I could stay at his house and practice with him, and that's how it happened.

Q. You briefly flirted with becoming No. 1 player earlier this year. Did it surprise you that you got there that fast, where you may have had that opportunity? What would it mean to you to be the No. 1 player and is that a goal of yours?
JON RAHM: I think it's obvious it's a goal for every player. And if they say it's not, that's just‑‑ I don't know what they're doing, honestly. But I would say it's‑‑ it was not expected to have a chance to become No. 1 in the world this early of a year. I didn't think‑‑ I don't know how the points system really works, but I didn't think it was going to be possible for me to do it given how good D.J. played last year and towards the end, especially after him winning in Hawaii, it was only the next tournament for me. So it's‑‑ it was surprising. I didn't expect it, but it was great because I had a chance to know what that felt; that if I won the Tournament, I was going to have a chance to become No. 1.
And after talking to a couple guys, I mean, yeah, you kind of need to win to become No. 1. Nobody's going to give it to you. Jason Day won the BMW a couple years ago by I don't know how many shots to become No. 1. Dustin won to become No. 1. Pretty much every player has to win to become No. 1. Nobody's going to give it to you.
But, yeah, it was surprising, I did not expect it. Much like any expect the year I had last year, I didn't expect to be that high in the world rankings early in the year, I did not expect to be in that position that early in the year.

Q. You were talking about the course not favoring any one type of player. You listed all those winners, Seve, Tiger, Phil. When you come to this course, do you have to change any aspects of your game because you know it doesn't favor certain players?
JON RAHM: No, not really. I don't try to change anything. Those players every winner plays differently, but I feel like most of them have two things in common the week to win. No. 1, really good short game. I feel like you can't win a tournament here if you don't have good short game. That's just not going to happen. Unless you don't miss any greens. And the second one is some crazy good imagination. I mean, you need to have some good imagination. I feel like every player that I named every player the last few years, all of them are known to be an extremely creative player. Especially the ones that win here multiple times. Which that exactly complements the short game. It's going to help out. Because each shot, you can have so many ways to hit it. There's no perfect way.
That's one of the things Phil was trying to tell me last year. It's like you don't need to play perfect to win at Augusta National just because there's so many ways to do it, there's not only one way. You just need to find the way that's maybe best for you at the moment.

Q. You said before that you were talking about your first memories of Tiger Woods in 2005. You're a part of that generation that grew up inspired by Tiger. But you haven't played against him at his full level. I don't know, not only about yourself but the rest of that generation, if you see that this Masters is special because for the first time in the last few years Tiger's competing in it and at his best level?
JON RAHM: Well, I mean, I think he's been an idol to all of us, right? I mean, if you don't use Tiger Woods as a reference in golf, I mean, it's pretty silly not to do it, to be honest.
But, yeah, it's, it's great to have him get better. I mean, I haven't seen the reaction I saw by the crowds yesterday on the range to any other player. As soon as Tiger walked in everybody stood up and started clapping. It doesn't happen for anybody else. It's when someone like Tiger's back in the game and is back at Augusta, it's special. It's very hard to imagine what it would be like if he were to play good again at Majors and have chances to win and if I was a part of it playing against him.
To be honest, I want and I don't want him to get back to the level he was when he was playing great. I want him because it would be great to see it again; I don't want to because he will be winning 30 percent of the tournaments he plays, which gives a lot less room for the rest of us to win.
But besides that, he‑‑ it's great for all of us for him, it's great for the crowds, great for TV, great for the Tournament. I mean, I don't know how high the ratings have gone, but you can tell the atmosphere's different at the golf course when he's there. It's nice, it's special, and it's sure great for all of us for it to be there.

Q. Would you say it's an extra motivation for the young guys to compete against him?
JON RAHM: I think it's an extra motivation for everybody. We allat the same time want him to play great and we all at the same time want to play against him, because I feel like many of us practiced having, oh, this putt to beat Tiger, this putt to win this tournament, and up until not too long ago I didn't think that was going to be happening really many times again.
But after how he's played this year, it could happen that I have a Sunday showdown against Tiger like I did against D.J. and I have my chance to beat Tiger, one of my idols. It's just‑‑ it's something that doesn't happen often. It's something that probably a lot of people would have never thought it would never happen again, even though we all hoped for it.
I'm just glad he's playing great again, and hopefully he's healthy enough to keep playing and keep playing great.

Q. Speaking of extra motivation, playing here last year and being in the hunt for so much of that tournament, do you have extra motivation coming back this year or extra confidence based on that?
JON RAHM: I think every time we come to Augusta National the motivation is maxed out. Can't get any higher than what it is. It's very special. We all love it because of the tournament it is. Again, if anything, I'm a little more not calm, but confident. Because even last year with the hard conditions we had, I played good and I played good around the golf course and I know I can do it again.
So I just know if I stick to my game plan and stick to my game and forget about other things, I'll be able to do, have a strong performance this week, maybe win, maybe not, but hopefully my goal for the year, getting at least in the hunt towards Sunday of a Major Championship. I want to know what it feels like just to get ready.

Q. Two things. Do Tiger and Phil seem old to you?
JON RAHM: No. Not at all. Phil is actually twice my age but really I feel after spending so much time with him that I just consider him a friend. To me, I still look up to him a lot, still an idol, and I know every time I see him it's wow. It's still Phil Mickelson, right? I still feel like a kid. Especially when you see him around here. It's just‑‑ it just seems like one step above us every time, especially when he grabs a sand wedge around the green. But I don't think‑‑ I mean, I don't consider them old.

Q. I think I got this right away, numbers 2, 3, 4 in the world are all under 25. What do you think, speaking yourself, what has to happen? How do you have to develop to emerge as the best of that lot right there?
JON RAHM: To be honest, I have no‑‑

Q. Besides winning tournaments.
JON RAHM: I have no idea. I have no clue. Because you have to play such good quality golf. The fact that Jordan Spieth is a three‑time Major champion in the last two years and has won 11 times is only been No. 1 in the world for, what, like 20 weeks? It's amazing. He's a great player, and he's done it many times. Justin Thomas has won I don't know how many times, right, in the last year, and he's still not No. 1.
The fact that you need to play so good and so consistently good. And, I mean, I really have no idea how to do it, otherwise I would have done it already, and then I would be telling you. Like all of us, we just need to keep working hard and do what we believe is right for us and hope that it's the best thing.
THE MODERATOR: Jon, thanks for coming in this afternoon, and good luck this week.
JON RAHM: Thank you very much, guys. Thank you.

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