Reigning U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm surprised many with a revelation that within minutes of being born, doctors were ‘relocating’ his right leg and foot. Rahm has been asked often in his short five-year pro career with regards to his shorter-than-normal golf swing and always politely entertained those questions.
The Spaniard has been described by some TV pundits as having ‘tight hips’, something that Rahm totally refutes but then in brilliantly capturing the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, Rahm only touched on the ‘physical limitations’ he’s dealt with since taking-up the game. And now ahead of just a fifth Open appearance, the now World No. 2 went into fuller details of those ‘limitations’ and the extraordinary early-birth medical procedures on his right leg.
“I’m going to say I’ve been pro for five years and I’ve mentioned this before but the first time I’m getting this question is because I’m tired of hearing that the reason why I have a short swing is that I have tight hips or other things,” he said.
“If you know anything about golf, that is the stupidest thing to say. For people that don’t know, I was born with a club foot on my right leg, which means for anybody that’s sensitive about that, my right leg up to the ankle was straight, my foot was 90 degrees turned inside and basically upside down.
“So, when I was born, they basically relocated, pretty much broke every bone in the ankle and I was casted within 20 minutes of being born from the knee down. I think every week I had to go back to the hospital to get re-casted, so from knee down my leg didn’t grow at the same rate. So, I have very limited ankle mobility in my right leg. It’s a centimetre and a half shorter, as well.
“So, what I mean by limitations is I didn’t take a full swing because my right ankle doesn’t have the mobility or stability to take it. I learned at a very young age that I’m going to be more efficient at creating power and be consistent from a short swing. If I take a full to parallel, yeah, it might create more speed, but I have no stability. My ankle just can’t take it.
“Now, also, and this is where I’ve learned doing many TPI tests, my wrists don’t have much mobility this way, but I’m hypermobile this way. That’s why I also naturally turn to bow my wrist to create power in every single sport I do. So, that’s why my swing, I bow my wrist and that’s how I hit it.”
Quite an amazing tale with Rahm then reaching out to those amateurs, like so many of us, who also don’t produce a full swing in hitting the golf ball.
“It’s little things that I think a lot of people can learn,” he said. “Let your body dictate how you can swing. Simple as that. That’s why Dave (Phillips – swing coach) has been such a great addition to me when I started going to TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) with the Spanish Golf Federation, because they can teach me how my body moves and what I can — not what I can or cannot do, what I’m going to be more efficient at doing.
“The main thing is my right foot. It’s just that my ankle does not move much. It’s efficient for me and it’s what works for me. I think it’s the biggest lesson I can give any young player. Don’t try to copy me. Don’t try to copy any swing out there. Just swing your swing. Do what you can do. That’s the best thing for yourself. I used to not be a good ball striker. Terrible. And slowly, once I started learning in college, I became a good ball striker. Learn from your body. Your body is going to tell you what it can and can’t do.
“Some things you can improve, some things you can’t. In my case, the right ankle is not going to move any more than it can right now, so that’s the beauty of that.”
Along with the excitement of Rahm teeing-up as a reigning Major Champion, the new father is also excited that he will be competing in front of some 32,000 spectators.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “We’ve missed it. We’ve missed it. To be fair, I did not expect this tournament to be the first one we’re going to have full crowds, just because of the lockdown and limitations and all. But I’m excited.
“Especially on a course with such history as this one. It’s known to be a difficult links golf course, so I’m hoping it plays like that, and I’m looking forward to the challenge. It’s always a week I really cherish, I really enjoy.
“Like I said earlier, this was my first links golf experience, so there’s a little bit of nostalgia in there, too, so I’m excited about it.”
And Rahm liked the idea of being reminded that he could this week join a very select group of golfers, including Bobby Jones (1930), Gene Sarazen (1932) Ben Hogan (1953) and Tiger Woods (2000), in winning both the U.S. Open and The Open in the same year.
“Yeah, I’m usually pretty good in golf history and I know Tiger has done it,” said Rahm. “Might have been maybe Ben Hogan has done it, too, and not many more. I’m assuming Jack (Nicklaus) as Jack is always on those lists. It would be pretty incredible to win both Opens in one year. It would be amazing.
“Now, you do have a sense of — at least I did have a sense of relief after winning the first major. I felt like for the better part of five years, all I heard is major, major, major just because I was playing good golf, as if it was easy to win a major championship.
“But the fact that you are expected to win one means nothing, but you’re playing good golf, so a bit of relief in that sense, but it doesn’t really change.
“There’s still the next one to win, so I still come with the same level of excitement obviously and willingness to win. I am more focused on would be pretty incredible to be able to win The Open. Nobody after Seve (Ballesteros) has been able to do it, so to give Spain that, that would be pretty unique, as well.”