AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Jon Rahm looked nearly unbeatable just a month ago.
Now, the world’s No. 3-ranked player suddenly finds himself looking for a way to regain his top form this week at the Masters.
After winning three tournaments in a six-week span culminating in a two-shot victory over Max Homa at Riviera, Rahm endured a rough March — making it anyone’s guess as to what to expect from the 28-year-old Spaniard at Augusta National.
Rahm’s issues began at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he followed up a stellar opening-round 7-under 65 with back-to-back 76s, eliminating him from contention at Bay Hill. He ultimately finished tied for 39th, snapping a streak of 10 straight top-10 finishes.
He followed that with a first-round 71 at the Players Championship, but was forced to withdraw because of a stomach illness.
Then came a disappointing effort at the WGC-Dell Match Play where he lost to Rickie Fowler and Billy Horschel, becoming the only top six seed not to advance to the round of 16.
The question now becomes can he return to his dominant form and win his first green jacket — or has he lost that momentum?
Rahm, for one, downplayed the idea of momentum being a factor, calling himself a “week-to-week type of guy.”
Translation: He’s plenty confident he’ll turn things around this week.
“If you believe that something like that can stop positive momentum, when you get on a negative run, you know, how can you change that, right?” said Rahm, who has won nearly $45 million during his professional career. “If you’re waiting for something outside yourself to change things, I don’t think that’s the best way to look at it, in my mind.
“Every single tournament I go to, my plan is to win, and my mindset doesn’t deviate from that.”
Despite his recent struggles, Rahm remains among the favorites to win the Masters according the FanDuel Sportsbook at 19-2 odds, which ranks behind only defending champion Scottie Scheffler (7-1) and Rory McIlroy (15-2).
Those three golfers have separated themselves from the rest of the pack in the world rankings, although Rahm refuses to classify them as the next “big three” of men’s professional golf.
“I think for us to be compared to something like that, we have a very long way to go,” Rahm said. “It could be the start. But still a long way to go.”
Rahm should know.
A self-described “golf junkie,” Rahm said he regularly wakes up at 5:30 in the morning to watch videos of other golfers — past and present — on YouTube because he feels as if he can always learn something from others. He’s become a historian of the game, and he’s well aware of the high bar set by Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia, three Spaniards who have combined to win five Masters.
He’s quick to point out this is the 40-year anniversary of Ballesteros winning his second green jacket.
And while he wasn’t alive when Olazabal won his first Masters in 1994 — and hadn’t even started playing golf when he won his second in 1999 — he’s gone back and watched the videos of those wins, gaining a better understanding of what a great source of pride and inspiration they were for his country.
Rahm’s first appearance at the Masters came in 2017 when Garcia outlasted Justin Rose to win his first major, something that has emboldened Rahm’s desire to win the Masters.
“It’s something that’s important to me,” Rahm said of the prospect of winning here.
History suggests Rahm will play well. He’s finished in the top 10 in four of his six appearances, finishing tied for fifth two years ago and fourth in 2018.
But can Rahm regain that momentum from earlier this season when he surged to No. 1 in the world?
McIlroy, who had breakfast with Rahm on Tuesday, doesn’t see why not.
McIlroy said it’s difficult to imagine Rahm and Scheffler not being in contention on Sunday.
“I look at both of those guys, and it’s hard to see them not consistently finishing in the top 10 of every tournament that they play,” McIlroy said. “They both do it a different way. They both sort of have different attitudes towards the game. But it just seems like every week that we’re playing, one of us has got a chance to win that tournament.”
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