May 17, 2022
Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
Southern Hills Country Club
JULIUS MASON: Jon Rahm is joining us at the 104th PGA Championship. Jon, you are the reigning U.S. Open champion and playing in your sixth PGA Championship. Didn't you find your way earlier up here to Southern Hills to get a round or two in, maybe a little sneak peek? And if so, does that familiarity give you an edge?
JON RAHM: Yeah, I was here Monday and Tuesday last week. It wasn't super early because I wanted to come as close as possible so the course would be as close as possible in shape. Sometimes they make changes, they grow the rough, the speed of the greens, the firmness. Even though it's not the same, I wanted to just be as close as possible to it.
Come to find out they did something to the greens. I forgot what it was. I believe they said they resodded the greens not too long ago, so it's a good thing I didn't come when that was done.
And then Ryan Palmer showed me a video of him maybe five days before I was here after a heavy rain and the golf course he saw was completely different to the one I saw. I played on Tuesday; Monday I walked the course, and it was already championship ready, so I was really impressed.
JULIUS MASON: Your analysis? Do you like the golf course?
JON RAHM: Yeah, it's a major championship worthy golf course. It's as simple as that. You can't hide. You have to do everything well. There's no surprise that the winning scores here have been as high as they have in the past and just a few people make it under par.
They can truly make it as difficult as they want to be, as they want it to be. They could also make it as easy as they want it to be.
They can really, truly manipulate the score out here very easily, even if the conditions are let's say benign and we don't get too much wind.
Q. What do you enjoy about coming to a course that you haven't been to before or haven't played before in a competitive round? Is there something that stands out about that that you enjoy more?
JON RAHM: I feel like I learn courses pretty quickly and my game kind of adapts to any golf course, and that's why I feel like I've had success where I haven't played before.
I really can't give you an answer. Maybe it's four years of college where you get 18 holes to learn as much as you can from the course, or maybe it's the fact that a lot of times when you play, you don't know where half the trouble is. Sometimes that helps. You just see where you want to hit it, and it's a great lesson on the mental aspect of things.
Sometimes less is more. It doesn't usually apply to major championships, though. It's a bit different.
But yeah, I think the main thing is I learn courses decently fast, and my game, the way I play golf, it adapts to pretty much anything.
Q. Was Mexico the confidence builder you needed headed into this week?
JON RAHM: I mean, I don't know if I needed more confidence, but it was definitely -- a win is a win, obviously. It was a good one. Hadn't had my best year so far. I had a couple of really good finishes, but since Torrey, I wasn't really relevant on the leaderboard, so it was nice to be up there and get the win.
Q. You drove it really well in Mexico, as well. How important will that be at Southern Hills this week?
JON RAHM: It's very important. If you're in the rough, you might not be able to be aggressive towards the pins. But for the most part, you will have a chance to roll it up there most of the holes.
If you miss the fairway on 18, it's going to be tough, but a lot of other ones, like 1 and 2 and 3 and a couple others, you will have a chance to put it up there, maybe give yourself a chance.
But you have to hit a lot of fairways out here. Like I said earlier, everything needs to be good. Iron game needs to be good, short game, putting, driving, everything, otherwise something really will have to excel for something else to be lacking.
Q. Besides coming here for two days, how did you spend the other time you had after Mexico?
JON RAHM: Family time, practicing, and I went to the F1 race in Miami. So good.
Q. Last year was the best ball-striking you've had in your career and you're actually even better this year. How did you take your game and your ball-striking in particular to the next level?
JON RAHM: Stats. I can tell you it didn't feel better so far. I think my iron game felt better last year. Statistically in the sense of what, I'm hitting more greens maybe? Yeah, driving is better. I haven't changed anything personally.
I think that's more so the driver than me. Last year's driver was great; this one is even better. It feels just as good, and I believe it's a little bit more forgiving. That's why I believe my ball speed has been up a little bit.
I think a game changer is the shoes I'm using this year, they're different to last year. Not these; these are street shoes. They're a lot more comfortable. I've done some great work with Equator and the Travis Matthew team, and I think it's allowed me to be a little bit more stable and up my ball speed and my swing speed without being concerned.
I think I can keep that speed up first tee shot on Thursday to the last one on Sunday a little bit more consistently. But I haven't really proactively changed anything.
Q. Has that always kind of been an overlooked aspect, the footwear that players use?
JON RAHM: I mean, I've got a really messed up foot so I haven't. I really take it seriously. Last year I played something I thought I could in, which obviously I did, but it wasn't the best shoe for me.
I shouldn't wear flat shoes like that because I end up with some pain. While we were working on something that was comfortable for me, it was a good solution for a couple months.
I think it's overlooked what a lot of players do behind the doors. For any athlete, the only point of contact we have with the ground is our feet, so I think that should be the single most important thing.
Q. So much talk about Phil not being here, Tiger getting stronger. Do you prefer focus elsewhere coming into a major championship?
JON RAHM: Other than me? Oh, yeah. Yeah. Of course. Give it to them. We're all happy that Tiger is here, obviously. We're extremely happy. Who would have said over a year ago that he would be competing in major championships again.
I was lucky enough to enjoy that Sunday round at Augusta with him and talk to him a little bit firsthand about what he was going through and what he's gone through.
You know, he's Tiger. He's a competitor. He's going to try to win every single time, and anytime he tees up, the world wants him to win.
Yeah, totally expected for the attention to be on him, but it doesn't really change anything of what I want to be doing this week.
Q. Are you unhappy that Phil is not here?
JON RAHM: Phil has got to do what Phil has got to do. He's a good friend of mine. I can't remember the last time a major champion didn't defend a title.
But he's got to do what's best for him. That's all I can say. I can't say it makes me unhappy. As long as he's doing what is best for him, I can't truly say I'm unhappy.
I would have liked to see him defend. I know he's played good here in the past. But again, he's got to do what he's got to do.
Q. You're the latest in a long line of very successful Spanish athletes. The next one might be Carlos Alcaraz. I wonder if you've seen him play and what you think of him.
JON RAHM: I thought you were talking about a golfer. I was just confused. I have not seen him play. I've heard about what he's done and I've seen the results. Pretty impressive, especially in the world of tennis. He's got some big shoes to fill, because historically Spain has had great tennis players, and obviously with Rafa out there it can be probably daunting yet really exciting too for somebody like him.
You have a great referent who's done it right in front of you, so I'm sure he can pick his brain and learn. He's got a great start. Hopefully he can keep it going and be a great champion like many others have been.
Q. As somebody who's been World No. 1 and a major champion, what advice would you give to somebody who's young who has that kind of potential for the sport?
JON RAHM: It's a different sport. It's hard to give a general advice that hasn't already been heard. Believe in yourself and keep working. I would probably tell him -- and I don't know how it works in the world of tennis -- but you see a lot of people who golf who get to the PGA Tour, a certain level, and they think they need to change things because someone or people -- they win a major championship and they decide they need to change things because they need it to get better.
There's a reason he's gotten to this point. Just keep using that routine and keep getting better. Don't need to do a complete 180 flip. Just keep believing in yourself, keep practicing, and keep training, and results will come.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports