LIKE one of his heroes, Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm’s first European Tour victory came in sensational style at the Irish Open.
But unlike Garcia, no-one expects Rahm to have to wait 18 years to open his account in the Majors, especially not six-time Major champion Nick Faldo.
The former European captain is in raptures at the prospect of Rahm, 22, making his Ryder Cup debut next year, and Faldo would not be surprised to see him claim one of the game’s biggest titles before then.
He purred: “You just look at what Jon Rahm is doing, and you have to say we’re looking at the game’s next big superstar.
“His is a future world No 1 for sure, and there has to be a Major with his name on it coming up pretty soon.
“What is so exciting about him is that he can overpower a golf course. That is not what we’re used to seeing from the Spanish players, but Rahm hits the ball a mile.”
Garcia added his name to those of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal as an Irish Open winner when he was a 19year old rookie – he fired a stunning final round 64 to beat Angel Cabrera by three shots in 1999.
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Later that year he hounded Tiger Woods all the way to the finish at the USPGA Championship, pulling off a miracle shot when his ball finished next to a tree root on the 16th hole at Medinah.
Garcia.memorably chased down the fairway at Medinah and executed a big scissor kick to see where his ball roll safely onto the green.
Later that year he became the youngest player to make his Ryder Cup debut – and no-one would have believed he would not win his first Major until he triumphed in that epic battle with Justin Rose at this year’s Masters.
After climbing to eighth place in the world rankings within a year of turning professional, Rahm will tee off at Birkdale next week as one of the favourites, even though it will be just his fourth start in the Majors.
Ballesteros was the same age as Rahm when he won the first of his tree Open titles, but the latest player from the Spanish production line was quick to call a halt to those comparisons.
He said: “Seve is the reason why I’m sitting here today. If it wasn’t for that Ryder Cup in Spain, my father would have never started to play golf. If he had never started, I would have never picked it up.
“Nobody in my family played golf until Seve put it on the map in Spain with that Ryder Cup when he was captain at Valderrama in 1997.
“He is the greatest role model a country can have. He broke so many barriers. He was told he couldn’t do so many things. But at my age he won the Open, and a few months later he was the first European to win at Augusta.
“So to try to do things do it in the fashion that he did is all we can do is try to emulate. But there will only ever be one Seve.
“If I leave a legacy close to Seve, even half of what Seve’s was, I think I’ll be really satisfied with my career.
“I’ve always said I want to be the best player I can be. That’s my goal in golf. Try to be the best Jon, the best golfer I can become, without knowing what the limit is.
“That is how I approached the Irish Open. I did not know what I could do when I came to Portstewart. But surprises like this is what help a career lift, and hopefully I can keep it going like that.
“I look at this trophy and my name is going to be there for ever now – but it seems hard to believe that it’s happened. It’s kind of surreal. It’s hard to explain.
“I just look at it and I see Nick Faldo, I see Jose Maria Olazabal, I see Nick Faldo again, I see Colin Montgomerie, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer, Seve.
“That’s a great list of the greatest European Tour players ever, and to have my name next to it – and right beside the last one, Rory McIlroy. It’s so special.”
Birdie of the week: Great 72nd hole birdie from Xander Schauffele to win the Greenbrier Classic, but he has to take a back seat to 14 year old Thai sensation Attahya Thitikul.
She became the youngest player to win on any of the major Tours with a two stroke victory at the LET Thailand Classic.
Bogey of the week: Atthaya Thikitul had to hand back her £40,000 cheque after her incredible win as she is still an amateur – it went to runner-up Ana Menendez of Mexico.
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I just have a special place in my heart for it,” 2013 champion Phil Mickelson can’t wait to try to go one better than last year after shooting a superb final round 64 at the Greenbrier.
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