Jon Rahm aims to reign in Spain

Jon Rahm will attempt to put his Masters disappointment behind him by completing his collection of national titles in the Open de Espana.

Rahm was in contention for a first major title at Augusta National until finding the water with his approach to the par-five 15th in the final round.

The 23-year-old, who is the reigning Irish Open champion, had to settle for fourth place behind champion Patrick Reed, but is a strong favourite to bounce straight back with a victory at the Centro Nacional de Golf in Madrid, where he practised during his amateur days.

“The Masters was very special in the sense that it was the first time I’d played that good in a major, especially on the weekend, and also adding the fact that I started the week with a 75 and was nine shots off the lead going into the back nine on Friday and I was able to play really good on the last 45 holes or so,” Rahm said.

“When that ball was flying at the flagstick on 15, I really did have hopes that it was going to stick and I was going to have a chance of an eagle like Sergio [Garcia] did last year.”

The Open de Espana dates back to 1912, but was absent from the European Tour schedule last year due to financial issues.

It was last staged at the Centro Nacional de Golf in 2007, while England’s Andrew Johnston is the defending champion following his victory at Valderrama in 2016.

“I am blessed to be able to say I am Spanish Golf Federation national champion for the ages of under 16, 18, 21, and all ages,” world number four Rahm added. “I think it’s four or five different categories that I am champion of and some of them a couple of times.

“I took a lot of pride in winning those championships and it’s not easy. They were always very disputed and on the pro level it was sad for me not being able to play this event last year.

“But for this year to be a part of it and know all the Spanish legends have won it — I would love to add my name to the trophy. I think out of the four wins I’ve had my dad has been at two and my mum hasn’t been at any of them, so if I was able to win in front of them as a pro it would be amazing.”

Meanwhile former world number one Luke Donald will take heart from the revivals of a trio of Ryder Cup team-mates as he looks to arrest his alarming slide down the world rankings in the RBC Heritage.

Donald reached top spot in the rankings in 2011, the year in which he won four tournaments worldwide and became the first player to top the season-long money list on both the PGA Tour and European Tour.

The 40-year-old also won three times the following year and in Japan in November 2013, but has not tasted victory since and is on the verge of falling outside the world’s top 200 for the first time since 2002.

Injuries and a health scare when he was taken to hospital with chest pains before November’s RSM Classic have not helped the situation, but Donald has an amazing record at this week’s event with five runners-up finishes and two top-threes in 12 starts.

“Other players have had struggles as well and tough times and slipped down the rankings and come back,” Donald told a pre-tournament press conference at Harbour Town. 

“Those kind of players and experiences give me heart that I can do the same.

“Ian (Poulter) is an example, Henrik Stenson is another one, Lee Westwood. All these guys have gone through tough patches in their career and come back. I’ve had a similar career to all those guys so if they can do it, why can’t I?”

Donald, who finished a shot behind Wesley Bryan last year despite a closing 68, has made just two halfway cuts from seven starts in 2018, with his best finish a tie for 37th in the Genesis Open.

“A few injuries have made me not be able to hit as many balls as I would like to, but I feel my game is a lot closer than the results are showing,” added Donald, who saw his former Walker Cup and World Cup-winning partner Paul Casey win the Valspar Championship recently.

“In off-week games with buddies everything looks good, it’s more a case of just going out and trusting it in competition more than anything, going out there and seeing the results, seeing good results and putting strings of good rounds together and getting some momentum.

“I often look at videos of my swing now compared to 2011 and there really isn’t a tonne of difference.

“It’s been a tough couple of years on the course. I haven’t had the consistency I had a few years back. Sometimes it only takes one tournament or a couple of rounds to get that going again.

“You always want to come back to places where you play well and there’s no real place that I’ve played better than this place. It would be silly of me not to put this one on my schedule.”



Breaking Stories

Usain Bolt turns down Malta deal to continue Australia trial

Five players extend Munster deals as province announce new signing

Shoulder injury may force David Clifford out of Kerry's Allianz League campaign

Cipriani left out of England autumn series squad despite strong start to season

Breaking Stories

On World Menopause Day: 5 myths you really need to stop believing

Photography awards capture life at its wildest

This is how to stay healthy as a new parent – according to The Body Coach

A question of taste: Sinead Dunphy

More From The Irish Examiner