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April 9, 2019
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to have Jon Rahm with us today and we appreciate you spending some time with the media.
Jon had a very strong 2018 Masters. He had three rounds in the 60s and finished in fourth place.
Jon, what did you take away from the 2018 Masters, what you did so well, that you think applies to this week?
JON RAHM: Well, first of all, I'm going to apologize for being late. Thank you, everybody, for waiting. Did not account for the traffic to be as strong as it was on a rainy day like today. I'm sorry, and thanks for waiting for me.
Last year, I feel like every round was so different. But the main thing that kept me going, what's the most critical thing at Augusta National, which was my iron play, there were some mistakes, but at the same time, for the most part, it was really, really solid, giving me a lot of chances for birdie and giving me a lot of looks. That was mainly starting the second day on the back nine, my first 27 holes weren't great.
But you know, from that point on, it was pretty strong play.
THE MODERATOR: You continued your momentum after the Masters last year and had a very strong Ryder Cup performance, and you were in the top five in two majors, and then looks like your momentum has continued this year with Top‑10 finishes, I believe six of those already in 2019, which is a lot of momentum.
So how are you feeling about your game now? How would you describe your game going into this week?
JON RAHM: Well, based on what you've said, it's been very, very consistent. Every time something was off, it's never been too far off, allowing me to still contend in a lot of those weeks. I think for this year, what's been really good for the first part, it was my driving. I was driving it really well. I was keeping it in play and hitting it long.
And then more, for the last few weeks, my iron play became really, really strong. PLAYERS was really good iron play, even though the final day wasn't great. But for three rounds, I hit the irons really, really precisely. Same at Valspar. Same at Match Play, really confident on the fairway with my irons, being able to hit it close.
I think everything was rounded with a better putting year. Not the best putter in the world by any means, but I think compared to stats last year, I'm in positive strokes gained putting, which is a big thing from last year, and that kind of rounds up everything. That's why I've been consistent and why I've been giving myself a chance to contend in tournaments.
Q. Just curious, experience is always talked about as being so important here. This is your third Masters. Last year, you finished fourth. The year before, you tied for 27th. What have you derived from those experiences and how do you apply that this year? How much easier is it to come here with that experience under your belt?
JON RAHM: Well, this one reminds me a lot of my first Masters, because we had days suspended because of rain and we couldn't practice a couple of the days.
They were two vastly different years. When I came in 2017, early in the year I wasn't planning on being here because I wasn't qualified for the Masters, and I played good golf and I played a lot of golf at the same time.
So playing such high, competitive golf, I got here and I was completely burned out. I played really good. The course fit my eye right away. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the creative aspect of it. I enjoy how you have to play Augusta National, or how Augusta National allows you to do pretty much whatever you can imagine in your mind in each situation.
I was doing good up until the final day on the back nine. On the back nine, I just had no more energy, my body gave out, I couldn't hit the ball properly and finished with two bogeys and a triple. Before that I think I was still in the Top 15. I played better than what I ended up showing.
Last year was the opposite, started slow and finished strong and kind of learned a lot from the year before.
I think the part that I've learned was a couple lessons taught by Phil Mickelson. Spent a lot time with him here the last few years and he told me once, from his experience, he repeatedly said, "You don't have to play perfect at Augusta National to win." And I started thinking, I always thought you need to play really, really, really quality golf to win a major championship, and he said, "Yeah, but you don't have to play perfect."
Meaning that Augusta National is always going to allow you, is going to give you a chance to come back, and if you're smart and know how to play the golf course, you're going to have a chance to make pars or even birdies from some situations that you think you wouldn't be able to.
That's kind of how I took it. Last year, I think I was more forgiving within myself when missing shots. I was able to get more up‑and‑downs, and it's just knowing that mistakes are going to happen.
Even Tiger, when he shot 18‑under in 1997, he made mistakes. You know, he missed greens. He missed putts. He missed fairways like everybody else. So just knowing that everybody is going to make mistakes and almost everybody is going to three‑putt and everybody is going to miss a green and have a tough up‑and‑down. It's just going to happen to all of us. You just need to minimize those mistakes and be smart and think your way through Augusta.
Q. You're a very passionate player, you're very emotional and you love the game. How do you think that helps you when you compete, and do you think there's times when you actually have to temper that because it may hinder you?
JON RAHM: I'm going to try to think a different way to answer that question for the 10,000th time. I really, really don't know what to say.
It's just the way I am. I'm a very passionate person in everything I do, for the good and the bad. It's very enjoyable when I win and I really don't like it when I lose. I can say, you know, a second of losing is going to be way worse than a thousand days of winning, and that's how it's going to always be in my mind. Nobody likes missing shots, but I guess it's easier to see it on me than other people.
But at the same time, through those difficult times, you know, there's always been great players who have always shown and have the emotions and bring them through in the difficult times. Seve is a prime example of it, and Tiger is, as well. Some of the best players in their generations were able to show and use it to their advantage.
I'm not a robot. I'm not an emotionless person. I cannot act like I'm trying to do that because I'm not. I'm slowly trying to control myself a little better and a lot of it has come with maturity. And when you come to situations like this being, in a major and being in contention, a lot of it is just experience. You need to put yourself in there to know how you react and learn from how you react.
I had an experience at THE PLAYERS Championship and hopefully I learned from that and if I get into that position this year, I will be able to apply what I learned, that's just how it is.
There's something about people like me where things get difficult and the pressure's on, those emotions help. This is much more in mind to remember than what was going on, so having those emotions helped.
Q. You mentioned your iron play. Was there a stat or a category that you might have overlooked before you played here that now you think has a lot more value than you might have thought it did before competing here?
JON RAHM: No. You're saying stat about iron play or just in general?
Q. Just in general.
JON RAHM: No, not really. I believe the highest percentage, so the winners, the top five players in the Masters, usually the highest percentage of strokes gained are with iron play, and for that, you also need to put it in the fairway. Especially since they added the semi‑rough, obviously in different years, obviously it's going to be more penalizing to miss the fairway on certain holes.
Like Phil said, there's so many different ways to win, it right. When Jordan won, he obviously did a lot of things wrong but he was incredible putting. He gained in strokes putting by a mile. That's going to compensate for other things.
If you have a really good short game here, you're always going to have a chance in any tournament. That's just how it is. But I think Jack said it best: Iron play is the quintessential part of Augusta National, and if your second shots are good, you're definitely going to give yourself a chance.
Q. Everybody is an expert here and thinks they know who is going to win the tournament but the truth is Augusta National is very difficult to predict. If I gave you $1,000 on the other side of the ropes to pick a winner, what would be your thought process? How would you whittle down who had the best chance to win here?
JON RAHM: Who am I going to say besides me, really? I like to bet on myself. But that's just being confident.
It's tough to choose in a game like golf, in a sport like golf, especially in this event. When you have winners from Tiger to Seve to Mike Weir to Phil to Jordan to Ben Hogan, I mean, you have vastly different players and ways of playing the game and times, and that's the beauty about it. Like I said, there's not one way to play this golf course. There's so many different ways to do it and there's so many different things that you can do right. It's one of those weeks where anybody can win at any given point.
Now, if we are going based on how people are playing, forces to be reckoned with: You always have to count Tiger and Phil. That's how it is, six green jackets‑‑ ‑ no, seven green jackets between the two of them, it's heavy.
Bubba Watson, always somebody to count.
But Rory is playing unbelievable golf. I mean, he's playing the best golf he's played in a long time, and I think he's one of the only one who has more Top‑10s than I do this year including the win at THE PLAYERS. Really good golf and it seems like his putting has been lot better. If Rory is hitting the ball the way he is, and he putts good, he's tough to beat.
DJ is playing good, two wins this year, winning in MĂ©xico the way he did.
And we can go on and on with players that are playing good and that have had a chance. Louis Oosthuizen had a couple good showings, and he's been in a playoff here before.
And you can have people show up out of nowhere and win. It's hard to bet‑‑ if I had to put all of it on one person that's not myself, probably go with Rory. This is who I see right now playing the best and somebody who fits really good to this golf course.
Q. One of the trends, for example, the last four years, the Masters Champion has been a first‑time major winner.
JON RAHM: And to now, hopefully.
Q. Which Masters Champion are you most like, and how?
JON RAHM: Who am I most like?
Q. Which Masters Champion are you most like, and how, and has that been intentional, where you've emulated somebody?
JON RAHM: Not that I ever know the personality of players, right. That's going to be hard to tell. But just because we'll be going to home court, I'm going to go with one of the three Spanish players that have won.
Like I said, the three Spanish players that have won here like to show emotion, and then Seve and Chema are both from northern Spain like I am, so we all have very similar characteristics; and me and Chema are both Basque, so I'm going to say we are both pretty similar, hard‑headed stubborn people.
I didn't get to know Seve very well but I think when it comes to just personality, I can go with either Seve or myself, or Chema.
When it comes to game, they were both much better at short game than I am right now but just because of the ball‑striking part, I would say OlazĂˇbal.
Q. Would you speak about how your status on the Tour has changed since the first time you came here. You've always seemed comfortable in the spotlight but different from 2017 when you came in as a young gun and you're now obviously settled on the Tour and you're a respected guy. How does that change the way you play or the way you feel this week?
JON RAHM: Are we going to have the time for Spanish, just because I know that corner over there is Spanish media, in honor of getting everything I'm saying, I just want to make sure they are getting it. I'll answer that in English, too.
I'll just say it's changed in the sense that you get more familiar with what's going on. When I first came in 2016 and 2017, I was new. My first year on Tour, I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know what was going on. I wasn't familiar with the travel, the exhaustion, the competition, the mental tiredness of being in contention. You know, and I didn't know what a major championship week, being somewhat of a favorite, really meant.
It was very different to what it is now. Right now, I'm used to those weeks a little bit more. I have a formula of what to follow. I know what to do off the golf course. I have a much better plan of attack when it comes to a week like this. Just a little bit more comfortable. Obviously the first few times you come to Augusta National, emotions are on overflow, right, especially for somebody like me. The excitement is over board. It's hard to control everything that's going on. That week kind of went a little bit too quick for me.
But now, like I said, the experience and just being a little bit more normal and everything just being kind of like routine in that sense, it's easier to go through it. Since playing here and life on Tour and playing in other tournaments, seems a little more routine than what it used to at first because at first everything was very knew and very exciting. I didn't know what was going to happen and what was going to come.
I know a little bit more what to expect, a little bit, not much, because you never know what's going to happen.
Q. You mentioned Seve before, and considering the success of your fellow countrymen here at Augusta National, the possibility of becoming the fourth Spaniard to win a green jacket, how often do you think about that when you're out on the course?
JON RAHM: It's something I think about often as a positive. Two of the three are from northern Spain, so I would say we have some similarities in that sense, and it's a special year, too, right. It's OlazĂˇbal's 25th anniversary since his first win and 20th anniversary since his second win. It's something to remember. Two years ago, it would have been Seve's birthday that Sunday.
So pretty much every time we play, there's going to be something very special going on at Augusta National for all of us.
Again, it's definitely something I think‑‑ because you know, it would be something beautiful to join that list. Those are three world‑class players and three of the best players Europe has ever seen and three of the best players the world has ever seen, so it would be incredible to join my name to them.
THE MODERATOR: Jon, impressive golf game and impressive interview. Thank you very much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports