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November 10, 2020

Jon Rahm

Augusta, Georgia

THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. We are pleased to welcome Jon Rahm to the interview room this morning. Is.
Jon, first of all, feliz cumpleanos. And also, welcome to the 2020 Masters. You've had a tremendous stretch of play here recently, including victories at the Memorial Tournament, the BMW Championship, and the latter being with a beautiful, long birdie putt on a playoff hole. How do you feel about your game right now?
JON RAHM: I can't lie, I'm feeling pretty confident. Even my last start, the ZoZo Championship, I hit it about as good as I hit it tee‑to‑green really in the tournament, especially on Sunday and the weekend.
Happy where I'm at, and I think the best way I can explain it‑‑ I'm simply happy, outside the golf course, I'm happy, within the limits of now this pandemic, and I'm also happy on the golf course, and I've been putting in the work and golfing well. Hopefully something special happens this weekend.
THE MODERATOR: That your fourth appearance at the Masters. The last two years, you've had two Top‑10 finishes. Very impressive. What is the motivating factor for you when you're playing here at Augusta National, and what would it mean to you to be a Masters Champion?
JON RAHM: It would mean a lot. Needless to say, it's a special event for everybody who comes and competes at the Masters, and I would say there's such Spanish history of champions here, with three great champions and three idols of mine, that I would love to be able to add my name to that list.
And especially this year, being a little bit sad that Sergio is not going to be able to be part of this. My heart goes out to him. I know he had some bad times with COVID losing family members, and now he's got it, with symptoms, as well, apparently. Knowing how special this week is for him, hoping a speedy recovery for him.
And just the history, right. I think this is the 40th anniversary of Seve's first win here at Augusta. You have Ollie, five green jackets go out to Spain, hopefully I can be the sixth.
THE MODERATOR: We are excited to see you out on the course with your dynamic play, and appreciate you being here. If you're okay with it, we're going to open it up to some questions.
JON RAHM: Of course.

Q. Welcome to Augusta. Just wanted to ask you how you feel about playing without Patrons at a place that's known for its Patrons and their roars, how will you handle that this week?
JON RAHM: Well, it's what we have been doing‑‑ we have been doing it for a few months now. Well, I didn't play last week so I didn't get to experience that again. Yeah, I guess it's the norm now. We don't know how long it's going to last. So kind of used to it.
At the same time, like you said, the Patrons do make this week a little bit more special, right, and the fact that the scoreboards are not electronic, you only see those 12 players that you have, and every time that the leader changes, and maybe the crowd favorite goes on top or makes a birdie, you can hear the crowds cheering, especially down the stretch.
Maybe early in the week, it won't be different; but definitely back nine on Sunday, it will be missed. It will be missed every day, but that back nine on Sunday, when people start making birdies and eagles and things happening, it's electric. And you can feel the difference in each roar. You know if it's a Tiger roar or a somebody else roar. You know what's going on.
Hopefully it doesn't affect anybody's performance. We all do our best here, but still, we'll miss them.

Q. Do holes look different? Do greens look different to your eye? And does that impact your approach?
JON RAHM: Well, I was here not too long ago, so‑‑ and I've played it enough without grandstands to be familiar with it, but there is a difference, right. If you stand on 15 fairway, usually you can pretty much just see 15 green and maybe 16 green. Now you can actually see 17 tee, 16 tee box, the whole slope, people walking down from 6 and even see through almost to 4.
It's a little bit different, right. There's actually land in between 15 and 16, 15 green and 16 tee, which usually doesn't even look that way because there's a big old grandstand.
Same with other holes. It's weird to see 14 without anything on the back. You see through to 10 and almost 11. It looks different.
Will it play different? Maybe. I think this year will be unique because you can maybe take advantage of where usually the Patrons are at, like 13, you have a lay‑up, you can go as far right as you want now and almost 14 tee and have a different angle. Same on 2, you can move the ball around a little bit more, like we can on practice rounds when we come on a normal day.
We'll see. Again, visually and mentally, fans will be missed.

Q. You talked about the great Spanish tradition here. I just wonder how much of a part did that play in you taking up the game and what would be your earliest memory of a fellow Spaniard playing here?
JON RAHM: I couldn't tell you my earliest memory. Because when Ollie won his first Masters, I wasn't born. It's going to be hard to remember that. And in 1999, I was still too young. I don't know if my family had started playing golf, so I was probably not even watching at that time.
It's tough to say. Because my earliest recollection of the event was Tiger's chip‑in in 2005. I was ten years old at that time.
So I wasn't able to experience Ollie's good game and wins out here, and especially Seve's either, so luckily I was here for Sergio's win. But I said before, right, the '97 Ryder Cup, Seve being the captain and Europe being victorious has made any family start playing golf. I owe everything to that week. I'm here because of that week. Like I've said, I try to always make my part and hopefully still grow the game in Spain and around the world.

Q. It's been said that more is learned in failure than in victory. If that's the case, what were you able to take away from the ZoZo experience?
JON RAHM: I try to learn every time, win or lose. You can always learn. But ZoZo, hard to tell, because the two bogeys I had on that back nine, the one on 12 was a gust of wind that put me in an impossible position. I was in the bunker with the ball above my waist with a 20‑yard pitch, something you practice often and it's just hard to do. And then on 13 it was again another wind change. That just happens in golf.
If anything that can be learned form there is probably this week, accepting that it's going to happen, as well. Because we are expecting weather. And if there's winds at Augusta National, there's swirls and gusts, it's going to happen to everybody, not just me.
Each shot counts, and remembering you can't win the first day, so each day, just try to play a little bit better because I was nowhere near contention after the first two days at ZoZo and the 9‑under par round put me right up there.
You know, can't win the first day. But you can certainly lose the tournament. So hopefully I can put four good rounds together and have a chance on Sunday.

Q. After three appearances in the Masters, is there anything that still surprises you on the course, or has it started to feel more familiar at this stage of your career?
JON RAHM: I would say I'm more experienced on how to play Augusta National, but still amazes me every time I come. I think what surprises me is I always get the same feel as I did the first time when I go down Magnolia Lane, each day, yesterday, today, tomorrow, and every day this week, I'm still going to have those butterflies in my stomach because it's such an iconic place for golfers.
Now, when it comes to the golf course, you can always learn something new. I've spent a lot of time with Phil on the grounds here, and other great champions, and I all learn a new break, a new strategy, something new to do, a new pin placement and where to play it.
Every time. Every time there's something that can be learned on the golf course. And if somebody doesn't tell you, you learn yourself. You plan your strategy, and at some point you're going to learn to play certain shot to the best of your ability, because obviously each one of us play the game very differently.

Q. The Masters is special in part because of its many traditions. What will you miss most about the look of an April Masters compared to the one in November?
JON RAHM: I'm not always focused on the look. I wouldn't know how to answer that. I mean, besides the obvious answer being the Patrons. I think that the image, when you're standing on 12 tee with the azaleas blooming on the back, as well as on 13 fairway, it's something special, it's such a beautiful site that even walking up close to the green and seeing it in person face‑to‑face, that close, it's really, really special, one of the most beautiful things you'll ever see in golf.
The natural beauty, it's just hard to beat.

Q. A slightly fun question. If you take yourself outside of yourself and become a golf enthusiast, who would you be hoping to see win this week? And second part of the question, take yourself outside of yourself again and become the expert; who would you be saying might win, as the expert?
JON RAHM: Well, it's going to be hard not to be biased, so I'm going to say myself on both those questions.
It's hard to tell, you know, because yes, some people are coming in in good form. It's hard not to say Dustin Johnson, No. 1 in the world, he's won a couple times this year, he plays good everywhere. But it's also hard not to say Rory McIlroy, who ideally has the perfect game for Augusta National. At the same time, Bryson is playing amazing golf. Phil or Tiger can simply just turn up, come here to Augusta National and play good golf.
It's hard. I think golf is such an unpredictable sport, because you don't know what is in the player's mind, right, and it's one against one's self, so it's hard to tell.
I don't really know how to answer that, so I'm going to say myself in both those.

Q. You mentioned how good your ball‑striking was at the ZoZo. Just curious what you've been working on that you thought clicked and how do you think that will help you this week?
JON RAHM: Well, you know, I think as golfers, a lot of times, it's easy to try to get too many swing thoughts and just almost think about the swing instead of just feeling it and swing it, and that's kind of what I was doing in ZoZo in the practice rounds.
It just didn't feel great, and I basically on Tuesday and Wednesday, I focused on swinging the club and not thinking so much with my hands because I was just thinking too much about my hands. I was just feeling more, you know, the swing with the body. I really don't know how to explain it because it's not a technical thought, right. I was just trying to think about where to put my hands at all times. And clearly wasn't working, it didn't work in Vegas, and I just started to swing it, just hit it, forget about where my hands are at. Just make sure my hips and my body are rotating through impact.
And started gaining confidence and hitting good shots, and it carried on the rest of the week. Nothing special, honestly. If anything, trying to get into a flow state rather than thinking about the process state.

Q. Other than familiarity and becoming comfortable here, what do you think you've figured out the last couple years that allowed you to be successful?
JON RAHM: Well, you know, I think you get familiar with the greens and certain breaks and how to play it right, just knowing where you can and can't miss and where you have to put the golf ball on certain stages of the golf course, right. Just trying to give yourself the best chance possible.
The one thing I keep repeating and repeating to myself, because it's important, is knowing that every hole, except the par 5s, plays over par. So if you get to 3, hit a great drive and I'm close to the green and I don't get up‑and‑down for birdie, it shouldn't be upsetting because you're still beating the field making a par, something like that. Just knowing that not all the par 5s play crazy under par. I think the only one that usually does is 13. Every other one is not played that deep.
So if you make a par on a par 5, it's not the end of the world; you're one of many. That maybe frees your mind to hit it to 30 feet and give yourself a chance, and you might make a putt, right. I played with Tiger last year, and on the back nine, he shot a quite under par number on Friday. He wasn't making, you know, kick‑ins. He was making 20‑, 25‑footers, like he's done many, many times in the past. That was quite eye‑opening to see that you don't need to be perfect. You just need to put yourself in the right spot and give yourself a chance.
Great example is 6, the back left pin, if you can somehow hit it on line with the pin or just left, even if you're 30 or 40 feet short, it's a pretty straight putt right up the hill, which in perfect greens like Augusta National, you might make a few of them. Not always, but you might make one. You don't always have to hit it to tap‑in.
And I think that's the biggest lesson you could learn out here. You don't need to play perfect golf to win at Augusta National. You just need to stay true to yourself and just play the best you can with what you have at the moment and not be too, let's say, ambitious. I've erred about being too aggressive in the past, and I've made birdies, but I've also made some big numbers.

Q. You've played your last seven rounds at Augusta National in 7‑under par. Do you feel you're on the cusp of breaking through in this tournament?
JON RAHM: Played my last seven in 7‑under? Didn't I shoot 10‑under last year? He might mean 17‑under par. Well, whatever.
I've played good. And he wants the answer in English? Because I know he's a Spanish journalist.

Q. Can you pinpoint from when it went to being fun to win the Masters to becoming a lifelong goal of yours?
JON RAHM: Pinpoint, it's going to be tough. I don't remember‑‑ my coach told me, my coach back home, Eduardo Celles, told me that when I was 14, we were driving somewhere and apparently‑‑ it sounds like me, what I'm about to say, so apparently I did tell him that, you know, some day‑‑ I was 13, 14‑‑ I told him that some day I would be No. 1 in the world.
So with that goes tied with me believing I could be a Major Champion some day. I believe that age 13, 14, 15, when I actually committed all my time to golf, is when I believe I thought if I worked hard enough I would be able to.
Now there's been times throughout any life, I've accomplished some things that have given me more confidence and believing that I could get here some day and possibly get it done. It's hard to pinpoint one, right, but I think I made it a goal, a realistic goal when I was that age.

Q. Were you going to a tournament?
JON RAHM: I had no idea where we were going. He might know. I don't remember. But yeah, I think he said I was 14.

Q. Wondering what the most valuable thing is that you've learned from Phil Mickelson on playing Augusta?
JON RAHM: I think I said it earlier, he's told me many times, you don't need to play perfect golf to win at Augusta National, after watching many of the Sunday broadcasts that they have been kind enough to post online, you see the leader making mistakes on Sundays. You see everybody making mistakes.
So it's something that everybody is going to do. You're not going to play flawless and go bogey‑free for 72 holes out here because it nearly impossible. Just understand that you don't need to hit every shot perfect, and you're allowed to make some mistakes, and you can still actually get it done and win a tournament without playing perfect.

Q. What's your biggest point of emphasis these three days?
JON RAHM: I would say‑‑ well, I said it in Spanish, but staying true to myself and play golf the way I know I can play golf and not try to play like somebody else or try to play certain shots because it's what most people would do, right.
Just do what I feel, like I can do at the moment and the shot that I see myself hitting at the moment. So yeah, staying true to me and myself is, I think, the most important thing.

Q. But in terms of course strategy and how you're mapping out what you're going to do during the tournament?
JON RAHM: It's hard to tell at the moment, like right now, because I don't know how I'll feel, it all depends on how I'm playing. But the best example I can give, let's say No. 13, you have the ball way above your feet, so tendency when the ball is that far above your feet is to hit a little bit of a draw.
So most people would do that, but if I get to that hole and the way I've been playing I just feel like hitting a fade and I feel like I want to hit a fade because I feel more comfortable doing it, then do it, not be scared or second‑guess myself because, you know, let's say, what we know about golf and mechanics, say that it's going to be‑‑ a draw should be the best shot.
Just don't go against what I feel even though it might not be the highest‑percentages shot. It basically goes with‑‑ I'd rather hit the wrong shot, committed to it, or the wrong club, than hit the right shot uncommitted, because you never know what's going to happen.
If you hit a shot uncommitted, more than likely than not you're going to miss it; if you hit a shot committed, you might hit a good shot and maybe get away with it. That's what it basically boils down to.

Q. With the level of golf you're playing in a pandemic, it has to have been pretty nerve‑wracking staying healthy for the Masters. Did you and your family go to any extraordinary lengths to try to stay healthy and COVID‑free?
JON RAHM: I didn't mention anything about health in Spanish. I mentioned other things. But I can tell you since we started, since we restarted the season, my life has basically been I'm going to say bedroom, because it's either my house, a rental home or hotel, from the bedroom to the golf course, to the gym, maybe to the gym, to the airport, maybe to that.
I've either been in a room, airport, or a golf course, and that's it. I mean, barely gone out to any restaurants and only if we are back home and we know we can make it safe. Haven't really seen that many friends. And even when I go play, you know, I have my own cart back home and I don't allow anybody in my cart and I try to really stay away from everybody.
I use my own towel. Don't really even get close to anybody on the tee box or anything like that. Not going to great lengths not only because of me, because I think it's each person's duty to do our best part to not spread this, right.
So I'm going to do my part in case I get something to not get anybody else infected and try to do my part to not spread it. I always try to think about how I would like‑‑ you know, how I would like myself to be treated in that sense, and I wouldn't like especially the other people in my family to get it. So I'm always self‑conscious about other people, as well.
You never know what can happen, but I try to be careful. Luckily nobody in my family in Spain and nobody in my family here has gotten it, and let's hope it stays that way.
Even though in Spain they are going through a bit more severe of a time. They're not on lockdown right now, but they do have a curfew, restaurants are closed, and they can't even leave their ZIP code right now. So things are a little more serious over there right now than here. Let's hope it get better soon and everybody can resume life as well as possible.
But with all that said, I think, you know, everybody here, and by everybody, I mean golfers, we are all thankful to actually be able to be here and see to what great lengths the PGA TOUR and other governing bodies of golf and Augusta National and everybody else has gone to make this possible.
Everybody involved in golf, especially the players, I'm going to say, have done a great job because we haven't had that many positives compared to other sports. We are traveling more than anybody else. It's the hardest bubble to keep together because we all are individuals and, you know, we have rarely seen cases.
I think that's what makes it‑‑ you know, it's a good point that we are making that if you actually take care of things and do what you're supposed to do, you actually somewhat control this.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks again for your time and happy birthday, and good luck this week.

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