There have been times recently where the temperament of Jon Rahm, has been brought into question.
While the 28-year-old Spaniard isn’t alone in this regard, keeping a clear head should be less of an issue for the former number one, given that the two-time major winner has Joseba del Carmen as his mental coach.
As Jon Rahm tells RSNG.com, in this exclusive interview, not only was del Carmen a pro golfer himself, but has also worked as a bomb disposal expert so preventing blow-ups on the course is second nature!
Don’t Say Golf!
Jon Rahm had a lightning ascent to becoming the world’s best golfer in 2020, a title which he held for 43 weeks. In 2022 he has proved his ability to fire back from adversity. Winless and seemingly luckless in the early part of the year, he raced back in May to clinch the Mexico Open in May and, with it, a seventh PGA Tour victory.
“My mental coping mechanisms begin way before I set foot onto the course,” he begins. “I need to arrive fresh, firstly, and then I need to start fresh, and that’s two different things that need to knit together if I’m to get the best out of myself.”
Rahm tells RSNG that his work with Joseba del Carmen forms a big part of his ability to access that mental sweet spot, particularly on the course…
If I don’t win a certain tournament – or if I have a bad round – it doesn’t define me as a person
“As Joseba played college basketball back home in Spain, he knows how to handle pressure,” he begins. “He’s also an instructor of golf, so that’s his job – he’s here to help me play my best golf when it matters.”
In the first instance, that means not talking about golf. “Our first conversation will always be about home,” he says. “We’ll talk about family, about barbecues, about traffic, or restaurants, or anything. We will focus on the separation between sporting life and everyday life, because Joseba knows the two must be kept separate.
“Ultimately, he will remind me, every time, that if I don’t win a certain tournament, or if I have a bad round, it doesn’t define me as a person.
“So after I’ve played a bad shot or even when I’ve flushe d a drive over 350 yards, he reminds me that this is not everything. The traffic will still be the same!”
Play Hard When The Chips Are Down
At the age of 22, Rahm came to the attention of the golfing world when he became the youngest ever winner at Torrey Pines in 2017. Phil Mickleson outlined the Spanish sensation as someone who played fantastically under pressure.
It certainly proved to be a coming-of-age victory as Rahm made two eagles in the last six holes on the Sunday, with an almost unprecedented nine different leaders of the tournament in the final round.
Rahm had demonstrated that playing to his optimum when the chips were down was something that, even at such an early age, he was capable of.
That’s still something I need to work on – maintaining my concentration at a time when I feel I can get away with making a mistake
While his mental game is one that sets Rahm apart from a lot of players, he accepts he is far from the finished product when it comes to staying in the zone, particularly when things are going well.
“I like the closeness of battle – it keeps me focused more than if I’m a few shots clear. That’s still something I need to work on – maintaining my concentration at a time when I feel I can get away with making a mistake. In that instance, I might make two or three.
“Ultimately I am a player who likes to have a goal to aim at, maybe coming from off the pace and rising to the top of the leaderboard towards the end of the competition. It’s always vital that I keep my composure – it helps me have a clear mind.”
Accept Bad Shots For What They Are
In addition to his two majors, Rahmbo has claimed three other top 25 finishes in the same major between 2019 and 2022. It’s the one the Arizona-based hitter prefers best, despite mixing up a menagerie of locations across both the European and PGA tours.
“The variety works for me and feeds into my desire to problem-solve my way around a course,” he says. “And in each location the mental strength that Joseba and I have built will come into play at some point.
“You can’t always be at your best, we’re not robots. So, being able to have a clear mind and think about what you’re going to do when things go wrong, is the key thing on any course.
“In the past, I have been prone to anger issues, but now I accept that bad shots are going to happen and deal with the result. The difference is I now use them as motivation for my next shot,” he says. “I use the disappointment as a fuel to fire back and make amends, and that’s really valuable.”
Rahm also admits becoming a father has altered his perspective to anger. “Many years ago a poor shot may have led to my whole round being derailed.
“When I became a Dad, it really shone a light on the fact you cannot stay angry with your children if they do something wrong – they cannot even stay angry with each other! In that respect they are resilient and perhaps even fickle – they move on so quickly and are friends with each other again.
“So as a person, and a competitor,” he continues, “I need to be a friend to myself. I need to be that strong, or fickle, or whatever it is, that I can draw a line under it and restart, straight away.”
WHAT NEXT? Find out what it takes to win The Open in this exclusive RSNG.com interview with Cameron Smith….
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