It's hard not to be impressed with Jon Rahm. He’s arguably the most promising talent to come out of Europe since Rory McIlroy. Perhaps since Seve Ballesteros.
He surely has major wins in him? How many he'll rack up remains to be seen, but his potential is frightening.
But I sometimes have a hard time warming to him. That was my immediate thought when I heard him opine on the chance of winning $15 million this week in the Tour Championship. When asked if he felt guilty about the chance of winning an eight-figure cheque, Rahm replied:
“Well we can’t control what happens in the world, and I certainly can’t control how much we play for.
“The truth is the PGA Tour and many PGA Tour players do an outstanding job with the platform that we have to help communities all around the country. We play 40-plus weeks a year, and each week we help a community.
“So no, I don’t feel guilty. I myself have donated a lot throughout my four years on Tour to survivors of sometimes natural disasters, or sometimes different people might need help, and I think that’s where the PGA Tour comes in. So I think that’s a bigger picture than just how much money one player gets. And honestly, in my case, if I were to win, yeah, the money is great, but I think we’re all here to try to be the best. That is much more enticing than anything else.”
If ever there was a time for a wee bit of humility it was then. Rahm’s answer should have been along the lines of “I feel fortunate I’m in a position to be able to do that, considering all that’s going on in the world right now.”
Rahm‘s correct about the PGA Tour and what it gives to charity every year. Millions have been raised for good causes. As I wrote the other day, however, the $45 million pot on offer this week is hard to justify in this Covid-19 era. So is the $15 million for the winner.
The young Spaniard didn’t endear himself to some golf fans when he won his singles’ match against Tiger Woods at Le Golf National in the 2018 Ryder Cup. Rahm holed the decisive five-foot putt on the 17th green, and then went into delirious mood, fist pumping and geeing up the crowd before body bumping with his caddie. Only then did he take his hat off and shake Tiger’s hand. Of course, it should have been the other way around.
We can cut Rahm some slack on that occasion. He was 23 years old, playing in his first Ryder Cup and had just defeated his boyhood idol. He’ll learn. Hopefully in future he’ll shake his opponent’s hand first before getting delirious.
There are parallels with another Spanish great. Jose Maria Olazabal is none of the most respected players in the game. He’s a player who wouldn’t think to celebrate before shaking his opponent’s hand. Yet Olazabal was once a chest bulging, get in his opponent’s face guy, too. Thankfully not for long.
The two-time Masters winner was taken aside and given a wee talking to about his machismo when he faced and defeated Colin Montgomerie in the final of the 1984 Amateur Championship at Formby. Hard to believe the seemingly mild-mannered Spaniard was ever thus.
Olazabal has gone to become one of the game’s most respected players, a man for whom every European Tour player has a soft spot. That much was obvious when he led Europe to victory in the Miracle at Medinah. Don’t think doing it for the man nicknamed "Chema" wasn’t part of the chemistry that helped the European team overcome a 6-10 deficit heading into the Sunday singles in that 2012 Ryder Cup.
Rahm’s got a long way to go to match up to the elder statesman Olazabal has become. Learning a wee bit of humility will help him attain that status.
#JustSaying: “Be ruthless but be respectful.” Ian Poulter