He doesn’t step onto the Earth course proper until Thursday, but Jon Rahm’s otherworldly first year as a professional yielded another accolade on Tuesday as he was named European Tour Rookie of the Year.
The young Spaniard burst onto the scene at the 2016 US Open, competing while still an amateur, and finished in a tie for 23rd.
He entered the tournament at Oakmont Country Club ranked 766th in the world – 17 months on Rahm has rocketed 761 places up to fifth.
He’s notched up some fine victories, including the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open in January, and his maiden European Tour win, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, in July.
He enters the DP World Tour Championship fourth in the Race to Dubai rankings, and even though he can’t win the overall title, he will leave Dubai with at least one piece of silverware.
Not bad for a player who didn’t even begin 2017 with a European Tour card.
“Just to be here, in this position, I’m really happy and blessed, and it’s something I’m really proud of,” Rahm, 23, said as he received his rookie honour from European Tour CEO Keith Pelley at the beginning of his press conference at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
“It’s a very, very satisfying feeling. If you told me at the beginning of the year I was going to be here at fourth in the Race to Dubai standings, playing the way I’ve done, Rookie of the Year when I wasn’t even a member at the start of the year, it’s a truly special feeling.
“I haven’t checked all the names on it but I’ve seen Sam Torrence there so I’m guessing there’s a lot of other great names, so it’s a huge honour.”
When he looks a little closer Rahm will find he’s in excellent company. Tony Jacklin, Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie, Thomas Bjorn, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Martin Kaymer and Brooks Koepka are previous recipients. And although he said luck had played a big part in his remarkable debut season, he revealed he’s been preparing for it for years.
“I feel like every star or planet that needed to be aligned, did, for me to accomplish this,” said Rahm, a native of Barrika, near Bilbao, in the Basque Country.
“I really don’t know why. I’ve gotten myself into a situation where I could get something out of a lot of tournaments.
“It’s just preparation. I’ve been getting myself mentally ready for my rookie year a long time and, like a few others, I’ve been able to have a really successful rookie year. I just hope it’s not the highlight of my career.
“It’s a question I feel like I answer every week (are you surprised with how rapidly you’ve progressed). Never in a million years would I have expected to have accomplished what I have and be in the position I’m in.
“Top five in the world, fifth in the FedExCup, fourth in the Race to Dubai. I could have hoped for it, but never have predicted it. I’m really, really proud. I know it’s hard to keep it going but I want to keep it going.”
So busy has his first year as a pro been, that Rahm admitted he hasn’t even had the chance to properly celebrate his stellar campaign with many of his friends and family back home, having only spent a week of 2017 in Spain – and that was in the south, preparing for The Open.
“I haven’t been there (home) yet, I don’t know,” said the Arizona State University graduate, whose father Edorta was in attendance at the press conference, when asked what the reaction had been in Barrika.
“The only week I was able to be in Spain was after Ireland and I was in the south of Spain, trying to practice for The Open.
“You can ask my friends and my dad that. They keep telling me you can’t imagine the reactions, I can only think. So I can’t tell you. But I’ll be going home at Christmas for three weeks.”
Prior to his press conference, Rahm is presented with the @EuropeanTour #RookieOfTheYear trophy by Kieth Pelley, the tour’s CEO. It’s been won previously by such names as Sam Torrence, Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazábal, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Poulter and Garcia pic.twitter.com/67PFwSZGqd
— Matt Jones (@MattJones360) November 14, 2017
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