Look out the USA Ryder Cup team with Jon Rahm, who hinted illness nearly had him withdraw from the Ryder Cup, now declaring that not only is he fit and well, but being overlooked as PGA Tour Player of the Year is like ‘fuel on his fire’.
Rahm is lucky to be competing at this week’s Fortinet Championship, the opening event of the 2021/22 PGA Tour season, after being struck-down by a stomach virus. The current World No. 1 didn’t sleep well on Monday night and then felt unwell on Tuesday and played just nine-holes. He then withdrew from Wednesday’s Pro-Am fearing too many toilet stops and thus slowing down play.
Rahm felt well enough on Thursday in also creating tournament history by becoming the first reigning World No. 1 to contest the now renamed Fortinet Championship, shooting a level par 72 on the North Course at the Silverado Resort in Napa, California.
“It was not my best ball-striking day, a little tight today probably from having to be in bed for so long yesterday,” said Rahm.
“So, a little tight, just didn’t feel as fluid as it usually does. Even with how I felt, I played a little bit better than I thought I was going to, to be honest. Started great, started to hit some good shots, too bad I couldn’t capitalise on some of the good chances early on.
“Towards the end a lot of times my mind just wasn’t in it, I was having a hard time focusing given the fact that I haven’t had a solid meal since Tuesday morning. It is what it is. I’m feeling good now, so get a good meal right now and rest up the rest of the day. We have three more days to go. You can’t win it today, you can certainly lose it and it wasn’t my best day.”
Rahm was due to speak to the media on Wednesday and given he was absent from the course he was interviewed, at length, post his first round with one question certainly touching a nerve and that was his reaction to being overlooked by his peers for PGA Tour Player of the Year.
It was American and FedEx Cup No. 1 Patrick Cantlay getting the players nod with the Tour not releasing, as is customary, as to who was runner-up. Rahm was asked if not winning the ‘Player of the Year’ award was fuel on his fire?
“Absolutely,” declared Rahm. “Finishing runner-up doesn’t feel too good. I felt like I played good enough to be able to earn that title, but unfortunate situations like the one at Memorial cost me, right? Had I been able to play, maybe win it, I think it would have tipped the balance towards myself.
“Maybe even if I played in the Olympics, had a good showing and maybe even earned a medal could have tipped the balance, as well. It’s tough, you know, but I can say when you’ve won four times in a year, you’re the FedExCup champion, it’s a very deserving honour, so I’m pretty sure I know Patrick deserves it, but I’ll get my chance.
“I played really well this past season. I mean, I played amazing golf. And not that I wasn’t believing in myself, but I didn’t know if that was going to be a possibility for me since I was switching manufacturers in the middle of the season.
“I adjusted really quickly to Callaway material, played amazing golf, got my first major, I had a break-through win. What could have been better if certain unfortunate situations didn’t happen, right? I could have had maybe one more win and the chance to compete for a medal.
“So, to think back on the year I had, I had 15, I’ll say 16 top-10s, I’m pretty sure Memorial I would have finished top-10, 16 top-10s and a major win and as solid as I played all year and to think it could have been better does nothing but motivate me. I know I can get better. I do pride myself on consistency, so seeing all those top-10s, it’s a job well done, but hopefully next year I can add a couple more titles to my name.”
Of note, Rahm is the only European or USA Ryder Cup team member competing this week in either the European Tour’s Dutch Open or in California and he says there’s good reason for that. Rahm, in a shock revelation, indicated he had considered withdrawing from representing Europe in next week’s Ryder Cup.
“Yes and no,” responded Rahm when asked if had considered not joining his team-mates at Whistling Straits.
“Because it’s a stress with the baby to pack up, go back home, try to practice at home and then fly again on Monday. It just feels — I felt like, you know, I’m going to get better in due time whether I play here or not, and I would rather get competition rounds in at least for the mental aspect of the Ryder Cup.
“Right now, in Arizona it’s hot so they’re watering the courses a lot to keep the Bermuda in proper shape for the season, so everything’s a little bit slower, a little bit longer, so it plays nothing like Whistling Straits would. That’s another one of the reasons why I wanted to come here because at least I’m playing a championship golf course, it’s firm, it’s fast. I feel like for at least the mental aspect of it, it’s better to stay here.”
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