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July 3, 2019

Jon Rahm

County Clare, Republic of Ireland

BRIONY CARLYON: I'm delighted to welcome back a former champion of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, Jon Rahm. It's great to have you here in Lahinch this week. Sun is out. I know you've had a look at the course, so perhaps your thoughts on being at a new venue and another Irish Open.

JON RAHM: I played the front nine and 18. I skipped from 9 to 18. I haven't seen the whole golf course yesterday, but overall it's lived up to expectation. Every time we come to Ireland we kind of know what we're going to get. Irish golf, it's just a little bit different to what we find in England and Scotland. To my taste, I don't know if it's the Irish people or country or just my experiences on the golf course is just a little different, it's a little more beautiful. There's more room on the grounds. There's more elevation changes. It's not just flat and pot bunkers everywhere. It's a little bit more enjoyable for me, at least, or maybe just because I've played good and the last few experiences have been great.

Same this year. It's definitely a different golf course. You don't get too many golf courses that have kept holes from the original design in the 1800s. Old Tom Morris designed this golf course and very few changes since then, and some of the best designers in golf have worked on this course and not changed it. It's definitely something special. You need a lot different things, first three holes, straight in, and you get to the 4th hole, you can't see anything for the next four holes. It's fun. First time I've played a blind par 3, definitely unique. Usually you're looking forward to par 3s and this case you can't see where it is, and it's such a narrow target from coming from the narrowest fairway I've ever seen in my life which is four with a blind tee shot and another blind tee shot on 6 and blind tee shot on 7. It's a lot of shots in a row that's going to be more a mental test than anything else, where you have to be committed to where you hit and committed to where you hit your shot and put a really good swing on it.

I love the golf course and area and the town and I love the weather so far. I know we probably got lucky the last two years but hopefully we can keep it going all week. Excited to see the back nine. Hopefully it's as good as the front nine and excited to start the week tomorrow.

BRIONY CARLYON: Let's talk about form, as well, because tied second last week, Valderrama, tied third, U.S. Open. Your game at the moment, must be feeling pretty good, and obviously the success you've had in Ireland in the past must have you in a good place.

JON RAHM: Yeah, I'm confident. You know, those weeks, this week and The Irish Open is one of the few, if not the only one that I feel almost as comfortable and the support that I had last week in Valderrama and the Spanish Open. I don't know why, it might be my love for the country of Ireland, but it's something that I feel like the support is here. The support is amazing. Every time I come, I'm just comfortable. It's a great feel.

And yeah, I mean, my golf game feels pretty good. Obviously different golf courses, different style. Valderrama and the U.S. Open, there are a lot in common. Narrow fairways, you don't have to hit drivers off the tee. Very similar game plan, so there was not much to change. It was the same 7-under or 4-under total score of 11 in two different tournaments, and to finish top three and top two, right. So that doesn't happen really often in tournaments, and two in a row. It's two very difficult golf courses, and that's why I was comfortable in Valderrama. I just had the same mind-set.

I believe here, we might be able to go a little bit lower. It all depends on the wind we get. But who knows, if it starts blowing hard, single digits could win it. But I hope I can just play as good as I have so far.

Q. You mentioned the great form you've had this season, especially recently. Is the only thing missing, therefore, a win this season, and what do you think it will take to get it done this week?
JON RAHM: Well, I have won this season. I know it's New Orleans and it's a partners event but I still count it as a win. If we are talking individually, yeah, I mean, I've had ten Top-10s so far. Playing really good golf, second places, third places. I've had chances to win. I just haven't so far. I mean, winning's not easy and there's a lot of diverse winners out this year. There's not many multiple winners.

You know, still a lot of golf tournaments to come. Hopefully I can get it done. If you're counting, it is a PGA TOUR win, I hope I can win a European Tour event again. I've been able to do it the last few years and it would be amazing to be able to do it on both tours again. Looking forward to it and hopefully I can repeat in Ireland. That would be amazing.

But yeah, if we count it that way, individual way, I think maybe one win is the one thing missing, but still, a really good year.

Q. You mentioned, talking about the blind holes, that they are a mental test. How key is that going to be this week to accept that you might get some unlucky bounces or that you have to deal with that kind of thing?
JON RAHM: That's just links golf. It happens. When I meant mental test, it's just the fact that you just, you know, basically you are shooting to a target that you are looking at it to help, maybe a flag, maybe a piece of grass, blade of fescue, maybe a rock, you move it around. You don't know and it's hard to do, imagine a certain shot and trajectory. The fourth hole for example, an uphill lie, you go over the hill to a green below you and it's downhill basically. There's a lot of things going on, so that's why you need to really commit to the shot that you have in mind and put a good swing on it, right.

Same thing on 5, right. You can't see where you're going but you just really need to trust the shot that you have in mind. Same thing off the tee on 7. I mean, you just go up with the driver or 3-wood, depending on the green. It's just narrow fairway to a small target, and there's really nowhere to aim so you just need to really focus on some kind of spot and be mentally strong and make the swing.

I might be emphasising it more than other people might be, but it's just what I feel like it's going to take this week on a lot of tee shots to keep it in play. Because after, that they are not the longest shots into the green. You are not going to be having 4-, 5-, 6-irons. It might be something below that. You can be aggressive afterwards but everything starts with being accurate off the tee

Q. In 2017, The Irish Open was your first European Tour win. Do you feel some sort of recommend any sense and good vibes here in Lahinch similar to 2017? Do you feel a sort of connection that's short of there in Lahinch similar to 2017 when you got that first European Tour win?
JON RAHM: Yeah, I get that feeling every time I come. I felt the same way last year and without having my best game, my best feel, I ended up finishing quite up there and making a Sunday charge the last day.

Yeah, that's always in mind, that performance, and Portstewart was obviously the best performance I ever had in my life.

Q. Shane Lowry was in here yesterday, and he mentioned the Blind Hole and Dell and he mentioned funky golf. In relation to that, do you see, does that add to the excitement for you, as well?
JON RAHM: Yes, it's different. I like it. It's unique. That's when I meant, right, when you have designers like Alister MacKenzie who came here early in the 1900s and did not change anything, there's a reason why. It's good golf. It's different. It's fun. And again, that's why I'm excited. It's not what I'm used to playing. It's not what I grew up playing in Spain. It's not what I'm playing in the States. It can only happen here, so that's what I'm excited about.

Q. Where do you feel you've made big strides forward this season in your game and also can you talk about the value of patience? You look a much more patient golfer this year.
JON RAHM: I think I'm just more mature. Slowly getting into it. I know I've had my problems in the past but just a lot of it is growing up in life, right. It's as simple as that. When I turned pro I was right out of college. I was 22 years old. I wasn't even 22 yet. There's a lot of growing up to do in the last few years. I mentioned last year, I mentioned multiple times, it was a big year for personal growth and that's what I was talking about, a lot of things in my life I had to mature about and slowly grow up and it's translated into the golf course slowly.

I think that's shown, right, four top 5s, Top-10s so far, where maybe last year or a couple years ago, I wouldn't have made any Top 10s because my head wouldn't have been in the right place. As simple as that. I don't know if it's patience or -- I feel the same way inside but it's a little more under control. If it looks like patience, I'm glad it looks like that. I'll just say a little more calm and understanding of situations in life in general.

Q. Anything you've addressed that's improved?
JON RAHM: I'm driving it much better than last year. Really good off the tee. I would say maybe not last week but in general, my putting has been a little bit better than what it was the year before. But again, I always equate putting to mental stability. It's such a mental part of the game that if your head is in the right space, no matter how your technique or no matter what you see, you're going to be able to putt properly. That's where I go with it.

Q. On a similar theme, Valderrama isn't a course that we would have considered to be really well suited to your skill set. Is that part of the growth, the fact that you played so much better there last week, do you think?
JON RAHM: It's just learning how to play Valderrama. I hear that a lot nowadays of, you know, a golf course suiting to a player. I believe the player is the one that needs to adjust to the golf course. It's just, you know, you being able to adjust to the conditions and to the golf course itself. I couldn't do it two years ago. I came in thinking I could hit drivers everywhere and shoot 6-under every single round at Valderrama and that was not the case, so I learned form that, and I adjusted to what I had to do.

Ian Poulter gave me some great advice about the golf course and I took it really to heart, and that's one of the main reasons why I was able to play good at Valderrama.

Q. What was that advice?
JON RAHM: He told me to do whatever I had to do. No. 1, keep the ball under the hole. But this year, the greens weren't as fast as they have been in the past because they have redone a couple of them. That wasn't as a priority as it's been in the past but the main advice he told me is like if you think about it, at the beginning of the week, even par, if it's not Top-10, it's always really close to Top-10 at Valderrama, every single year.

I always remember, three, four, five years ago, even par would have won the tournament, so it's something to remember. Even the first day I shot 2-under, there was 51 players under par, I just remember: It's Valderrama. It's just the first day. There was no wind. Just keep going along, keep going along, and that advice really helped me along.

Even the final round when I got to 2-over par and I was 3-under, I was still Top-10, and I kept remembering, even par is a great score. So my last six holes of the tournament, I just thought, try to get it back to 5-under par and you'll finish in second place. It's even par for the day. And I remembered it, and even though I finished 1-over par with 4-under, second place, you know, it was still second place. I don't know what even par ended up but it was too far away. It was just to remember that besides Chris, who had an amazing tournament, 4-under par was still second place. So that's kind of what I realised and slowly tried to remember, making pars wasn't a bad thing.

Q. How soon did you put The Irish Open on your schedule? Has it been there since late last year or did Paul McGinley have to twist your arm a little bit? And how much does the fact that The Open is at Ireland this year in a couple of weeks and coming to a course where they have set it up as close as possible to what you'll face there, and how much did that influence your decision to come and play here?
JON RAHM: It didn't. The Open being where it was, it wouldn't have changed my mind. But I don't usually set my calendar or my schedule until the season's over. So I won't think about it until pretty much December. I'll have an idea in mind and obviously this is a tournament that I love.

Spanish tournaments are my highlight, obviously, being in Spain, and there's certain events on the PGA TOUR that I want to play, but I think everybody makes their schedule around majors and WGCs nowadays. There's too much that we play for nowadays and they are really, really important, so we try to work around that.

But again, there's highlights of the year for me and like I said, I do love this tournament and I love this country and I'll keep coming as much as I can. But I don't set anything usually until December and even then, usually, my schedule is made until Augusta, and that's what I focus on, and then have an idea afterwards and change it after. You know, I don't think about it that far ahead in advance. I don't plan ahead that much. I'm a next day, live in the present, kind of person.

Q. You're playing back-to-back weeks here in Europe. How have you seen the fans react since The Ryder Cup? Have you noticed a difference walking around town? How have fans perceived you since Le Golf National?
JON RAHM: Last week was in Spain, and I think whether I play The Ryder Cup or not, I'm going to be more popular in the Spanish crowd.

I haven't noticed a difference yet. After The Ryder Cup, I did, everybody -- because I went to the States right away and anybody who was a European would come up to me and talk to me about it because they were excited.

I mean, it was quite some time ago. I'm almost focused on next year's Ryder Cup already. I bet it helped, especially just because I played against Tiger and helped me maybe again some notoriety about it. I don't think the one single tournament makes that much of an impact. I think how I've been playing the last three years has been the main thing.

Q. Do you have any previous experience of Portrush? And secondly, how have you found the new schedule this year with the PGA moving to May? Does it feel a bit strange that we're only a couple of weeks away and that will be the last major of the year?
JON RAHM: I think it's only right for The Open Championship to be the last major of the year. The oldest and most traditional, for a European, arguably the most important one; I think it's right that the Claret Jug should be the last major and at the end of the year.

Honestly it helps the schedule. There's a big event every single month starting in March now and I think it's a good thing. Especially because there's a break in between. There's not only seven days between, you know, at least on the PGA TOUR calendar season, and there's more free time for us after the FedExCup to maybe come to Europe and play more events and have a chance to enjoy tournaments here without over-travelling or overcrowding our schedule.

I have played Portrush in the British Am five years ago. I know they have made some changes. I remember the course, but I hit it very different now. My playing is a little bit different. I know the original 17 and 18 are not there anymore. We played two holes on the other golf course.

I don't know if they have changed the routing or not -- so you're playing 1 through 6 and you go over to the course and play two holes and come back to 7, is that what it is?

Q. 9 towards 7.
JON RAHM: Yeah, I remember the course, not exactly hole numbers and all that, because I think I only played two rounds. I lost in the first match-play round, but I have really good memories from it. And I think the most important part is being so close to Portstewart, it's just a lot of good vibes for me in that area. It's a beautiful part of the country. It's a beautiful part of the world. Every time I've gone back, I've loved it every time.

Looking forward to it. Looking forward to the golf course. I remember there's some of the most beautiful holes I've ever played, this stretch of 4 and 5, 6, is beautiful golf. Some really difficult holes at the same time. Yeah, the rest, again, I remember it, vaguely. I do remember having a lot of fun and it being a great golf course.

BRIONY CARLYON: Thank you for your time. All the best this week.

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