April 5, 2022
Augusta, Georgia, USA
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We are pleased to be joined in the interview room by Jon Rahm. Jon, welcome to your sixth Masters.
Jon ended the 2021 season No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings. Just the second man from Spain to achieve that distinction. Congratulations.
JON RAHM: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: He returns to Augusta National as a major champion, being the first man from Spain to win the U.S. Open last June.
Jon has carded four straight top ten finishes at the Masters, consistently finishing on the leaderboard. Jon, how are you feeling about your preparations coming into this week?
JON RAHM: Thanks for all that. Feeling good. Very different feel to what I had last year, arriving late Tuesday night and just kind of playing nine and already teeing off on Thursday.
Looking forward to it. It was nice to have the week off last week, get the practice in at home, and then this week see how the course is doing and see the changes. We're always eager to see what little tweaks the members have done to the golf course, and it looks fantastic as usual. So I'm excited to get it going.
Q. You mentioned four straight top tens here, but you haven't exactly been in contention down the back nine on Sunday. Do you feel like you've figured out this golf course, or are you still learning things about it each time you come?
JON RAHM: I'm already learning things about it. They make little changes. 11 is a different hole. 15 is a longer hole. They've done a couple of changes to the back of the 3rd green. There's always adjustments that need to be made.
And, yeah, I mean, that's that of the top tens. Last year I was nowhere near the lead. Shot a great round on Sunday and finished fifth. So I do understand that. But I've played good. I've played good golf on this golf course. I think it was the year Patrick won, in 2018, I did have a chance. In '15 I think I was only two back, just didn't finish the way I wanted to finish.
I've been there. I've done it, and I know I can play good here. Hopefully, like you just said, I get to the back nine on Sunday a little bit closer, not needing a crazy back nine to get the win.
Q. How has being a parent changed your life? Will the family be joining you this week?
JON RAHM: They travel with me pretty much everywhere because we decided we're not going to home school our kids. So once Kepa is old enough to go to school, I won't see him. So for now, as much as they can travel with me, they will be coming.
Life changes a little bit when you're responsible for somebody's life. I think that for somebody in my situation, for a sport as selfish as golf, it's great to have somebody as supportive as Kelley. She takes on a lot of the duties with Kepa so I can go practice, but I still have to do my bit, obviously.
It just changes life afterwards. What I thought was important isn't important anymore. I have no feeling of going out after I finish practicing, dinner outside or, you know, restaurant dinners or going out in any sense of the way. No. I want to stay home and go to sleep because you know that baby can wake up at any point at night.
On the other hand, he's given me a lot more than I've given him. The sense of presence and love I feel when I'm with him is so unique, right? It's easy to switch from golf to off golf, right? When I get home, I'm dad. That's all he cares about, and that's all he should care about, and that's what we do. He helps me in a lot of ways get away from the game as well.
It's really cool. It's really cool to see him develop, to see him grow. He just turned a year old on Sunday, and it's been fun. I can't wait to see what comes in the near future.
Q. Would you say that he's a good luck charm here in Augusta?
JON RAHM: Hopefully. I hope so. He was a good luck charm at the U.S. Open. He wasn't there at the Open, so I'm hoping this one he is as well.
Q. Was there any part of you that was either irritated or frustrated to lose the No. 1 ranking that you'd had for so long?
JON RAHM: Not really. I was asked pretty much every week, oh, if so-and-so wins, you lose it. When it was the other way, if you win this week, you get to No. 1. Not really. When somebody wins 3 out of 5 events, it's pretty deserving. You can't take anything away from Scottie. I'm happy for him.
This is the beauty of the game we live in now. Anyone can be No. 1 at any point. I was able to be it for quite a bit, and hoping I can get it back.
Q. Secondly, does this major elicit different emotions before, during, and after you play compared with the other three?
JON RAHM: It's a little different because it's the first one of the year. We haven't had any majors since the Open in July. So it's the longest wait until we have a major. I think in that sense it's different.
In my case, being the only Spanish player who's been a major champion but not a Masters champion, it's a little different, right? Hopefully I can be the fourth on that list. There's a lot of good Spanish history here that I would love to add on to.
Obviously, it is the Masters. It is an iconic golf course. And being the only major that plays the same venue every year makes it very special. Nothing different from other majors once we're here, right? The preparations could be different. For the most part we know the golf course. So we're at home, you can kind of simulate situations for different shots a little easier than all the other three when you go to new courses every year.
Q. On that topic, as you've now played here a few times and you do that shot simulating, what would you say you've gotten more comfortable with, and what do you work on maybe that you're less comfortable with in preparation for getting here?
JON RAHM: I'm mainly a fader of the golf ball. So there's a couple tee shots here that demand the draw. So a little bit of work on that, just making sure I'm getting a little more comfortable for the tee shots on 10, 13, 14, 17, where you need to hit a draw. It's something I'll do a little bit more on.
There's a lot of others that preferably you might want to hit a draw but you can still hit a fade. And if I get a little bit doubtful, I'm always going to go to my default shot. I'm comfortable with it. It's a little bit of that. You've got to get going a little bit right to left for some of the tee shots because there's no other option.
Q. What about 11, the new tee? What's your shape on that?
JON RAHM: So it used to be a perfect fader tee. I was in love with that tee shot. It was great for me. With the little change now, I feel like, if you're a drawer of the golf ball, you can take advantage of the slope of the fairway and maybe get it a little farther down because, if you hit it good and you leave it off to the right, you might be far enough down there to go for the green and not be too bothered by the tees. If you come out of a fade, you're going to be way back.
With the right wind, I'll try to hit a draw. Especially if you turn it, they banked it a little bit toward the fairway, right? It used to run off. It does favor a bit more of that off the tee, but it's still a straight tee shot. You can still hit a fade.
Q. When Tiger first played here as an amateur, Seve gave him some tips about how to play greenside shots, how to pitch hit if the grass is with you, against you, really detailed stuff. I don't imagine you ever had that opportunity with Seve, but have you ever heard Tiger's version of what it was like to have that conversation with Seve?
JON RAHM: I think there's only one man in this field that hears advice from Tiger because I've asked before and I get nothing. So you might need to ask Justin Thomas because I'm not -- (Laughter).
I've asked him before. I remember asking him at East Lake the year he won, before on the putting green in the practice round, Hey, man, any tips for Bermuda? Or this and that. He turned around and said, It's all about feel, and just kept going. I was like, Cool, thank you.
Yeah, I asked him at Albany once about chipping into the grain. You just got to be shallow. Okay. Meanwhile I turn around and J.T.'s there with him, and he's getting a whole dissertation on what to do.
Yeah, I've been able to ask other players. I've picked Phil's brain around here, Ollie a little bit. But I feel like the course when Ollie played it and he played his best golf has changed a little bit. Even from when Seve played it, I mean, you might be able to do some of the things he talked about, but the golf ball has changed, the ranges have changed, the golf course, the speed of the greens, the firmness has changed. Some of the things you might be able to apply. Some others, not really.
Q. Which is the toughest shot on the course in your opinion?
JON RAHM: It's so personal. 12 is always difficult, depending on the wind. There's so many that are hard. The 7th tee shot is arguably one of the hardest. Nobody talks about it. 18 now with the longer tee is so much narrower. You can't really cover the corner quite as much. 17 tee because it looks wider than it really is. You have 10 yards of fairway to hit it, and you can't hit a fade because there's trees on the left, so you have to draw it. You turn it one yard too many, you have trees on the second shot in the way.
10, if you can really turn it into the left side, you have a much easier second shot.
There's a lot of hard ones. If the day's windy, I would say the most difficult one is 12 just because of how swirly it can get. You can hit the right shot and still get unlucky.
Q. I guess oddsmakers have determined that you are the favorite here. Do you allow yourself to feel like a favorite? You should be favored to win here this week?
JON RAHM: I couldn't care any less what the odds say. I mean, I'm not looking at it. I like to think I'm the favorite myself in my mind, right? But I'm not worried about what the other players are doing. I'm just going out there to shoot the lowest score I can, and hopefully that's enough. I never really pay attention to that.
Q. Tiger's presence obviously has dominated attention, as it should. Curious how that manifests itself to other top players such as yourself in terms of maybe taking some pressure away with less attention? Each of you has your own bits of pressure. Rory trying for the grand slam, et cetera, you trying to win your first. Is there anything that the added attention that Tiger brings that maybe could help you this week?
JON RAHM: Not really. I see the point you're trying to say. I just don't know. I think we still get the same attention we would get in other events. It could help Rory. I know this week can be tough because every time he comes up here he's going to hear about the grand slam, and maybe having Tiger out here might.
But when he sits here in this chair, you're all going to ask him about the grand slam opportunity and people on the golf course are still going to mention it. So I don't know if it changes that much.
The one thing we all know for sure is in three days out here Tiger's going to win the PIP for sure in three days of golf. (Laughter.)
So I think that's the biggest impact for all of us. We're all playing for No. 2 now. That's it.
Q. I think he's already won it.
JON RAHM: Yeah, for next year. It's done. Second one, he's already won it in pretty much one week.
Q. Sort of similar, whether it helps you or not aside, maybe it's Tiger's presence, maybe it's the return of the patrons, but it feels like there's more buzz here than in years past. Do you think the players feel that way as well?
JON RAHM: You can feel it. You can feel it. A lot of it is Tiger. Because I was playing with Tony Finau on the front nine yesterday. We were about four or five holes ahead. We were on 7, and they were walking down on 2, and I've never seen a mass this big, even on a Sunday in contention, on those two holes.
It feels like this Monday they allowed way more people to come in just because the last two years had limited invitations, COVID, and what everybody has gone through. More people wanted to come out, then Tiger's playing, so a lot more people are coming out Monday trying to see him. It's a combination of things, I think.
There's a lot more electricity in the air in that sense, and you have Tiger being there, yeah. Monday felt like a Saturday in a regular event.
Q. With this being the only repeat major championship course, you talked a little bit about the changes to Augusta National every year, I'm wondering how much does it change for you from a sort of competitive standpoint or strategic standpoint?
JON RAHM: Usually it's like minor changes you wouldn't be able to tell. I remember from '18 to '19, Patrick Reed's second shot on 18, which was perfect, stayed in a little bit of a low area. That happens after a green being there for a long time. That we go off the next year, and that wouldn't happen anymore. That ball would have rolled back down.
It's like the smallest changes you can imagine to a green that still looks the same, but changes that play ever so slightly. It's never as drastic as what we had on 11 this year. Or 15 is a new tee, but 11 is a big change. It's usually something so minor, maybe the slope of a bunker on the green changing to make it a little bit harder. It's, again, very, very, very small.
So the playing style doesn't really change. It still allows you to play the same golf. It's just maybe certain breaks at certain moments where it might be a difference. But now 11 is -- yeah, we're definitely going to have to adjust our strategy. You can't just completely bail out right because that chip is not as easy as it used to be. You used to have a decent chance of getting up and down. Now you need to hit a really good chip to hopefully be within ten feet to make it.
Q. With putting being so critical around this golf course, how do you prepare for it? And how would you describe some of the putts that you face on this golf course?
JON RAHM: I don't think you can really prepare outside of Augusta National. Those slopes and those putts, we don't see it anywhere else, certainly not in the valley in Arizona. Everything's a little flatter.
So if you can find yourself fast greens to maybe get the pace that's right, that's fine. But I feel like I heard a lot of players and past champions talk about it, a lot of times we show up on a Thursday, I'm almost putting from memory. The speed of the greens is almost the same every year, and you kind of have the memory of how the putts are supposed to go.
I feel like you could put some of the good putters in history, like Crenshaw or Jordan Spieth or many others like Tiger, and without hitting one putt, drop them on Thursday and tee off, and they could probably still putt great just because even the putting green is not the same as the course, right? You have to take into account the pull towards 12 and a lot of putts that break one way that look a little bit different, yeah, it's a lot from memory.
I think a lot of us have to get used to more chipping around the greens, depending how firm or soft the golf course may be depending on the weather, but putting -- I mean, like I said, if you're fortunate enough to find greens that are rolling 13, 14 somewhere else, you might be able to do it, but it's not easy to do.
Q. You've had some wonderful life-changing moments in recent months. I wonder, though, for those of us who will never get to experience the elation of winning a major title, how would you describe it? What's it like?
JON RAHM: I don't know if I can describe it. It's a lot of nerves because I had to wait for Louis to finish. But once it happened, I mean, I'm not going to lie, in my case, knowing that I was never going to be able to put on the list of best to ever win a major was just a massive load off my shoulders. It was more relief than happiness or anything else, at least at first. Like I was drained.
We were actually going to dinner, and everybody was celebrating, and I was just sitting in the chair like, okay, it's over. Like I don't have to hear that ever again because even at 26 I was hearing it every week. When are you going to win? When are you going to win? Like winning a major is easy, right?
So that was my experience. I don't know if that was exactly what you were expecting. But kind of breaking through that barrier and getting it done, obviously a lot of pride, right? To be the first Spanish player to win the U.S. Open was something very unique.
Q. If I try to divide professional golfers into groups, the ones that I think they play for the money and the ones I think play for the glory, I definitely put you on the smallest group of the players that play for the glory. Do you agree with that?
JON RAHM: Yeah. I didn't start playing golf because of money. I've never been thinking on a golf shot, oh, if I don't make this, it's going to cost me X amount of money. Obviously, we're very lucky, very grateful to do what we do for what we do. We play a sport in what we love for a lot of money. If you do well, you can make more than you ever need.
So in that sense, it's also a bonus obviously, but yeah, I've always been more interested in history and legacy. Trying to put your name in the history of the game and knowing that it's going to be there forever.
Q. You kind of just answered the question, but I was going to say you talked about being relieved. With relief sometimes comes satisfaction. Did this make you hungrier, or are you now satisfied?
JON RAHM: You definitely want to repeat it 100 percent, yeah. It's the beginning, right? They always say the first is the hardest, is the beginning of what we want to accomplish.
I've heard stories. I actually read Tiger's book about his first Masters, and one of the things that resonated with me, which I really felt like him, was when he won in '97 and everybody was at the house celebrating -- I forgot who it was. Somebody asked his mom, Hey, where's Tiger? And Tiger had fallen asleep holding on to the green jacket in the bed while everybody else was celebrating.
I can totally associate because I was at Ken Sushi in San Diego, while everybody around me was partying, and I was just sitting on the chair like take me to bed now, please. I know I'm supposed to be here and enjoy this, but I'm ready to go to bed.
It's the satisfaction that you get from getting something like that done, especially the U.S. Open being my breakout win, you definitely want to repeat it, right? It's so unique. You kind of want to add that to your repertoire.
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