It’s not often a professional athlete possesses the poise and thoughtfulness Jon Rahm put on display this past Sunday night. Certainly, we all were impressed by his prowess with the putter, but it was more in his actions surrounding the birdie on the 72nd hole that really caught my attention.
It started out as a positive week for Jon Rahm. After all, he was at Torrey Pines and cleared to play in the 121st US Open. His last tournament experience at The Memorial in early June did not go as smoothly. Walking off the green following a scintillating 64 in the third round, Rahm was informed he had tested positive for Covid-19 and that he would have to withdraw. He had just finished a record round and was leading the tournament by six strokes.
Rahm is also a new father. His son Kepa was born on April 3, 2021, the week of the Masters. With this news, he had to become concerned about his newborn son. His world was unravelling at a very fast rate and on national television. Most male and female professional athletes are tightly wound. One must be confident and have a short memory to compete at the highest level in the world. Jon Rahm had displayed both attributes on several occasions throughout his rapid ascendancy to golf’s most prominent stage.
We can all remember his temper on full display at the 2019 Players Championship. In fact, there isn’t a golf media pundit who hasn’t commented on how Rahm’s temper may be holding him back. Yet when the world rocked Jon Rahm over the past three weeks, he responded in a manner none of us expected. His composure and grace under such certain and difficult mental strain has to be the defining characteristic of our national champion.
Only three other times in 120 previous editions of the US Open had the champion birdied the final two holes. Those men who did it? Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. That’s not elite company, that’s Mount Rushmore company. Even with his historic finish, the moment that really caught my attention actually started in the press room earlier in the week. When the media began their usual major championship onslaught of expectations, Jon stayed calm and answered all of their questions.
A bettor might have been inclined to wager on Jon watching his confident demeanor except for the fact he was already the tournament favorite. Rahm’s first of six PGA Tour victories came at Torrey Pines back in 2017. Who could forget that sixty-foot eagle he made on the final hole to secure the win? Jon Rahm proposed to his wife in San Diego. He admittingly loves southern California and the San Diego region.
Jon Rahm had a very focused and positive outlook on the US Open. Although Bryson, Brooks and others believed in their chances, Rahm was different. None of the others had been asked to withdraw from a recent tournament with a six-shot lead. If Jon’s reaction to that moment had been more of aggravation and frustration, could we have blamed him? Probably not, but we also would have known Jon was still the same fiery competitor he had shown himself to be in the past.
Hogan, Nicklaus and Watson had done it. That was not Jon’s moment. Jon’s moment came when he spoke following his victory. He echoed the same gracious sentiment he uttered earlier in the week. The power of positive thinking had carried him to his goal. Life threw everything it had at Jon and he stayed the course. Rahm didn’t falter and remained steadfast in his belief that he was destined for more going forward. We heard it in his words and connected with it in the sound of his voice and the look in his eye.
“This is the power of positive thinking. I was never resentful for any second for what happened. And I don’t blame anybody. This is — It’s been a difficult year, and unfortunately COVID is a reality in this world and it’s affected a lot of people. And I got, out of what happened, the best possible hand, because nobody in my family got it, I barely got any symptoms.
I know what happened a couple of weeks ago, some people might say it wasn’t fair, but it was what had to be done. We still have to be aware of what’s going on in this world. Take care of it yourself, and everyone around you, so we can get over it as quick as possible.”
-Jon Rahm accepting the trophy
His address was as empathetic as it was powerful. He captivated all of us with his putting performance on Sunday. As a result, Jon Rahm is now the #1 ranked player in the world. A position he has earned because he understands not what it takes to play great golf, but rather what it takes to be a champion.
Keith Stewart is a PGA Professional and storyteller. He has built a unique marketplace perspective through two decades in the golf industry. As a professional, he has worked at many prestigious clubs on the east coast, most notably, Isleworth Country Club from 1998 to 2003, home to Tiger Woods at the time. Currently, Keith uses his talent as the host of the ProShow on ESPN radio across the New York City market. His expertise in the industry blended with a comedic pop-culture filter entertains his listeners. He's a 5-time award winning PGA Professional who brings credibility to any discussion covering the world of sports. Keith resides in Hopewell, NJ with his wife Laurie and their two kids Owen and Abbey. He's a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA and an avid golfer.
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