PGA Professional Jon Rahm speaks to the media ahead of the start of the Waste Management Phoenix Open about potentially becoming the worlds number one ranked golfer with a victory.
PGA Tour: Jon Rahm talks to the media ahead of the Waste Management Phoenix Open
THE MODERATOR: We would like to welcome Jon Rahm to the interview room here at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. This is a bit of a home game for you. You went to ASU, still live here. What’s it like to be playing at home this week and be back here playing in Phoenix.
JON RAHM: Always fun. I mean, I would say for a lot of people, I mean, I would say for me it’s probably if not the most, one of the most, one of the best atmospheres in golf. It’s unique. There’s nothing quite like it. You have more people in the pro-am day here than a lot of tournaments get all week. So that shows a lot of the fans that come to this event and how fun it is. You got the 16th hole and even though it feels like that’s just stretching, the last three holes basically feel like they’re completely enclosed. It’s just a fun event, great golf course, always in great shape, so I’m always looking forward to it, especially sleeping in my own bed. That’s always a real bonus on a week like this.
THE MODERATOR: In second last week and then won the start before that. How are you feeling about your game coming into this week?
JON RAHM: I’m feeling good. Last week was a really good week for being as uncomfortable as I was off the tee, being able to manage myself around and kind of salvage what started as a really bad day. So battled hard. I’m going to learn a lot from that experience and as simple as that. Today, it’s a new week, new tournament and just looking forward.
THE MODERATOR: Open it up for questions, please.
Q. You’ve got a chance to become world No. 1 for the first time with a win this week. I wondered how much is that a motivation or how big a goal is that for you?
JON RAHM: Yeah, actually, I found that out 10 minutes ago. I had no idea. A little surprised. I mean, I have been playing really, really good golf and especially since that U.S. Open, just missed one cut, and for the better part of the tournaments I play, I pretty much I’ve had a chance to win or finish top-10. It’s been a really good stretch of golf. But, yeah, like always, as I said many times, being No. 1 in the world, it’s a consequence of good golf. So I got to take care of business this week and it’s not going to change my mindset. Obviously, it’s a goal in every player’s, I believe, mind to be No. 1 in the world, and it is a goal of mine at some point, but I still got things to do to, take care of every day and make the right putts and hit the right shots for that to really happen. So I’m just going to focus on what I have to do starting tomorrow.
Q. What would it mean to accomplish that goal here in your hometown?
JON RAHM: To be honest, I just, you know, it’s such a fun event that I really want to win, so I’m trying to focus more on that. But if I were to do both, you know, I mean, it would be really special. You don’t really get to choose where you do it but, yeah, it would be quite a unique experience to be able to share it here and knowing that I have a week off to properly celebrate it after on Sunday. But like I said, it’s a consequence of good play. It would be a consequence of me winning this week, so that’s what I got to take care of. I got to stay focused and like I said, keep hitting the ball good and make the putts and hopefully hold the trophy and be back here on Sunday and you can ask me how it feels again.
Q. Maybe I’m wrong, but does it sound like, has it ever been a goal of yours or is it — being No. 1?
JON RAHM: Of course. Of course. Yeah. It is. I mean, I wouldn’t be doing this if my goal wasn’t to be the best. It’s as simple as that. I tee it up to win every time, I practice to be the best I can be, and hopefully the best I can be takes me to No. 1 at some point.
Q. Can you talk about your memories of this event, like coming here as an amateur, and then from there to now?
JON RAHM: Well, I’ve played good pretty much every year, and the first year, obviously, being extremely different. You come here as an amateur and I tee off on 10 and from 10 to 15 all I can think of was 16. That’s probably why I was 4-over par. I could not focus whatsoever on what I was doing. I was just completely scared of 16 and getting booed. And yeah, I hit probably one of the worse pitching wedges I’ve hit in my life, made a good up-and-down, and that’s what got things going, and after that, that’s about as much fun as I’ve had on a golf course really ever, right? I mean, go from college events, some amateur events that gets some people on the golf course. I did play Mayakoba before, but it just doesn’t have room for big crowds.
And then to play here Saturday, being out there with Brandt Snedeker and Keegan Bradley and just having a big group, it was unique. And to actually have the support I had from being an ASU alumni and then every year after that it feels like the crowd has gotten to know me a little bit more and more and more. And even this year, the support I’m feeling this year, it’s quite unique. But every time I come back it’s like, I feel like it’s back to 2015 again. I feel the same way. It’s just such a joyful week for me, so much fun, and it’s great to have the home crowd support.
Q. You posted an emotional tribute to Kobe on Instagram the other day. I want to get your thoughts as the first tournament back since his passing and how it’s going to affect you going forward.
JON RAHM: Well, I tried to express my mind as much as possible in that video. I’ve told many times — not many people know this, but I’ve told some of my closest friends, I mean, I’ve been asked before if there was one person in this world that I would love to talk to, because I idolized him so much, I’ve read everything about him, seen everything about him, read his books, it would have been Kobe Bryant. And I actually have a friend who was friends with him who was, it was going to be a possibility, we were talking about possibly meeting the week of L.A. or next week. And just how much he’s impacted my life. He’s, him and Rafa Nadal are two of the people that I really lean on to try to improve my behavior and the way I’ve, I come through sometimes on the golf course and I’ve seen a lot of their stuff and how they think and how they portray themselves and it’s just so sad. I mean, and not only him, there was nine people on that helicopter. There was three teenagers that didn’t get to live full lives. There was, I think that one of the teenagers’ parents, who also have two other kids, those kids missed, are never going to see their sister and parents again. And I think there was another, an assistant coach, a mom of three, and obviously, the other people in the helicopter, right, it’s an incredible tragedy. I know a lot of people are just focusing on Kobe, and I did mention that in the video, but you can’t forget there’s many other families affected. And to me it’s just, I think a lot of us take for granted how much of a blessing it is to walk out the other side of your front door and just come back the same night. You never know what’s going to happen, you never know what could happen. And that’s why we got to live our life to the fullest. We all have an expiration date. Unfortunately, we don’t know when it is and that’s why you got to live every day like it is your last and just try to enjoy it as much as possible.
Q. You played with Michael Phelps today. Can you talk about what you think about him as an athlete and how was playing golf with him today?
JON RAHM: I would say he’s way too flexible to play golf. That’s what I can say. He is, he’s super nice. We’re members at the same golf course and we had a really fun group going on, so it was a really fun day. But when it comes to athlete, I mean, he’s the most decorated Olympian of all time. It’s crazy. And he has to be up there in the conversation with many greats of the greatest athlete of all time. What he’s done for, I mean, competing in as many Olympic teams as he’s been and to do all he’s done, I mean, I don’t know how many medals does he have? 25? 26? I know in the 20s in gold as well. It’s ridiculous. I know they have maybe more events or athletes competing, but to be at that level at every single one of those events and to be able to win every single one of the events one year, it’s absolutely mind blowing. I don’t think a lot of times people appreciate some of what these Olympians accomplish because we only hear about it every four years. But I mean, he’s, if he’s not the greatest Olympian of all time, I don’t know who is. I got to say. It’s, and he’s got to be really, really the discussion of greatest athlete of all time could not be had without him in mind. It’s unbelievable what he’s done. And it was nice to see him have fun and enjoy life. And his wife was there with the kid and it was just a fun day and it’s nice to see somebody like him just have a normal day and enjoy, if you can call a pro-am at the Phoenix Open a normal day.
Q. So with your chances of being an Olympian this year, how much of an emphasis is that?
JON RAHM: Yeah, it’s great, because I never grew up with that being a goal of mine because golf wasn’t in the Olympics. But four years ago we got enough to be introduced. And as an athlete, I know I’ve said it before, I don’t think it’s got the, maybe the validity or the level, that other sports have to have a gold medal in golf just because it’s so new, but it will get to that point. And to be an athlete to have a gold medal, I don’t think there’s anything better than that. There’s not many things that you can say that would be a better feeling than to say you have a good medal from the Olympics. You’re and Olympian and you’re a gold medalist. It’s a very select group of people that can say that in human history. So it’s, now, it’s definitely a goal and I hope it can be there in Tokyo and fight for it.
Q. You mentioned earlier your recent results and the fact that it hasn’t been a few weeks, but this is really seven or eight months in the making, going back to Pebble Beach and there was so much discussion at the end of last season focused on Brooks and Rory and the Player of the Year debate. Do you feel at all like your results and your performance recently has gotten a little loss in that shuffle?
JON RAHM: The only reason why I mention that is because I just saw it on the TV, so that’s why it’s in my mind. I would say I’ve been playing great golf for the last three years. You got Brooks winning Majors PLAYERS, WGC’s, Tournament Of Champions — sorry, TOUR Championship — you know, it’s, it’s of course they’re going to be in that conversation. I’ve just been incredibly consistent for three years and I’ve been able to win some events on the European Tour that maybe in the U.S. can be overlooked or forgotten about as well, so that’s why I’m showing my face over there right now. But it is not my job to put myself in the discussions. Like I said, my goal is to go out there and beat them all and that’s what I’m trying to do.
Q. I was told by D.J. Gregory that he was walking with you this week. I don’t know, I’m sure you know his story and all that. Just how much can that inspire you in a given round or just in general does his inspiration, how much his story inspires you?
JON RAHM: You know, it reminds me a lot of what Kobe would talk about. We all are trying to be the best version — we should be trying to be the best version of ourselves and trying to inspire others. And D.J.’s definitely doing that. I mean, a lot of people don’t even walk 18 holes and he has a hard time walking and he walks all 18 of them on every single golf course, every single week of a year, it’s unbelievable, I see him everywhere. And that’s actually, this year I asked to see if we could have him, I could help him out more than one tournament, just because I really believe in what he does. It’s quite unique and how many people he’s helping out. And, I mean, I hope I make a lot of birdies so we can donate as much as possible, because it’s a worthy cause, it’s something else to play for, which is always a nice thing. It’s, it’s, I can’t think — I’m thinking in Spanish right now — when it’s, when it’s something, like it’s a fundraising thing or you’re donating for a good cause, it’s, I mean, it’s always a special feeling. I’m lucky, I’m really lucky to be 25 years old and to do what I love for a living and luckily earn more than I need to live my life. So if I can share that with the people that can actually make a difference in this world and hopefully at some point start making my own difference in this world, I’m going to do it. So it’s nice to have somebody like DJ focusing on golf and doing what he does and hopefully, like I said, hopefully I can make a whole lot of birdies out there.
Q. One last one, on playing 16 — and Gary asked this to Justin earlier. The difference between if you play it in the spring or fall to this week and just how seismic a shift that is from when there are no grand stands to when there is and all the factors you then have to evaluate as well.
JON RAHM: Well, the grand stands and the atmosphere turn what is relatively a simple hole — I would never hit probably, unless it’s windy day, for me it would be no more than an 8-iron to the back, maybe a pitching wedge to the front if I’m feeling, particularly swinging good that day. It will be a par-3 where on any other course or even in a PGA TOUR event without the grand stands would just be average people looking or watching, you’re probably looking to at least go even par on that hole. Just because of the atmosphere and how you get full of adrenaline and how hard it is to control that sometimes, I don’t know about other people, I will take 3s all day for the rest of my career and I’ll be perfectly happy with that, honestly, play that hole even par forever, I’ll take it. Because it make it that much harder. It’s not just the fact that you’re in a semi-stadium, it’s how pumped up you are and how far you can hit the ball. I can’t believe how many times I’ve gone with, I’m going to hit an easy nine, and completely just flush it way over the pin just because you can’t control what’s going on. It’s one of the few shots in golf where I can’t hear when I make contact with the ball, just because of the noise around it and how unique it is. But it’s fun, I mean it’s one of the main reasons why probably people come here to play, just to experience that hole, and I wish there was more of it.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in, best of luck this week.
JON RAHM: Thank you.
January 29, 2020
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