Jon Rahm on a high as he looks for Masters boost

Jon Rahm admits he is feeling the effects of his superb performance in the WGC Match Play, but hopes this week’s Shell Houston Open will prove ideal preparation for his Masters debut.

The Spaniard won all three of his group matches in Austin before easily defeating Charles Howell, Soren Kjeldsen and Bill Haas to set up a final showdown with world number one Dustin Johnson.

Johnson was five up after eight holes at Austin Country Club before being pegged back by Rahm, who was unfortunately disturbed by a noise from the crowd before his crucial second shot to the 18th.

Finishing as runner-up still lifted the 22-year-old to 14th in the world rankings and saw him installed as a 20/1 shot to become the first debutant to win the Masters since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

Asked if his name deserved to be listed higher than the likes of three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, Rahm said: “I feel like if I say it does belong it sounds a little bit arrogant.

“What I would say is certainly I do feel like I belong there, that I belong where I am right now and that I compete to win like before.

“I was always going to play this week. I was tired yesterday. I am tired today. Luckily I’m 22 and I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to get one good night and be ready to play on Thursday.”

Rahm won his first PGA Tour title in the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this season and finished as the leading amateur in last year’s US Open, after which he turned professional.

That meant he forfeited his place in the Open Championship from being the world’s top ranked amateur, but promptly finished third in the Quicken Loans National to qualify for Royal Troon, where he was 59th.

“It’s my first year on tour so I’m really trying to learn what I’m supposed to do,” he added at a pre-tournament press conference in Houston.

“I’ve heard many different things of how to get ready for Augusta or any other major and I’ve heard people playing the week before, other players not playing the week before.

“I’m trying to figure out what is best for me. This time I decided that I’m going to play the week before. When I was at Farmers I played a week before.

“I’ve played three tournaments in a row before and I’ve always done good on the second and third one.

“I’m just trying to learn. What I didn’t want to do was fly early to Augusta and spend too much time in Augusta and make it more important in my mind than it already is.

“By playing here this week the earliest I can get there is Sunday night, three practice rounds and try to think of it as one more week. As simple as that.”

Although Johnson withdrew from Houston after his third victory in succession in Austin, the way the course is set up to resemble conditions at Augusta means that Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Adam Scott are among the field.

Meanwhile Gary Woodland has revealed the tragic reason behind his decision to withdraw from last week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Woodland pulled out of the £7.8million event at Austin Country Club due to a ‘’personal family matter” before his second group match with Rory McIlroy.

The 32-year-old did not elaborate at the time, but posted a message on Twitter on Wednesday which read: “Last week I withdrew from the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play to be with my wife, Gabby, as there were complications with our recently announced pregnancy with twins.

“Gabby and I have since had to cope with the heartbreaking loss of one of the babies, and our doctors will be closely monitoring the health of my wife and the other baby for the remainder of the pregnancy.

“We appreciate all of the love and support during this difficult time as we regroup as a family.

“At this point in time, I plan to play the Masters next week.”


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