Jon Rahm has taken the world of golf by storm this year. He has four top-five finishes, including his impressive victory at Torrey Pines in the Farmers Insurance Open.
His incredible play has seen him climb to 14th in the Official World Golf Rankings, and he has to be considered as one of the favourites for next week’s Masters, in what will be his first appearance at Augusta National.
History is not on the Spaniard’s side, however. Fuzzy Zoeller’s Masters win in 1979 was the last time a rookie rocked up to Augusta’s rolling hills and took the spoils.
The 22-year-old has a certain level of maturity about him that defies his tender years though, and has a high profile admirer in the form of 42 time PGA Tour winner Phil Mickelson. The 46-year-old talked up Rahm’s chances of victory at the first major of the 2017 season, when speaking to reporters, as quoted by British newspaper the Independent:
“Jon’s a real threat, yeah. And he continues to validate that with some incredible play. I think Jon is already one of the 10 best in the world. He’s been out on Tour for nine months and his divisor is the same for a two-year divisor. If you divide it by the actual number of events he’s played, he is in the top 10 in the world.”
So does Rahm have a genuine chance to win at Augusta?
He certainly has all the ingredients needed to triumph on the course designed by the great Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie. At nearly 7,500 yards, length off the tee will undoubtedly be a valuable commodity – something that the Spaniard has in abundance.
He is ranked 21st in driving distance this season, averaging 303.6 yards off the tee, and that combined with his 71.7 per cent of greens hit in regulation could prove to be a winning mixture. But, as everyone knows, Augusta’s undulating greens are where the tournament is won and lost.
And Rahm doesn’t disappoint in that category either. He is ranked 19th in scrambling, with an impressive percentage of 65.64. He also features highly in the putting stats. His average of 1.731 putts per green in regulation sees him ranked 26th in the standings, whilst his average putts per round of 28.56 puts him at 41st.
So, on the face of it, the PGA Tour rookie has all the tools needed to triumph at Augusta. There is one final question that must be asked, however.
Does he have the mental capacity and know-how to taste glory next week?
And the answer has to be a resounding yes. His play this season, when in contention, has proven unequivocally that he is ready for any kind of challenge that he will face at the Masters.
Rahm’s game is symbolic of the new breed of youngsters, who are not afraid to win and mix it with some of the tour’s older statesmen. Gone are the days where a maximum of 10 players were seen as genuine contenders in Major Championships.
Rahm is bearing the flag for the young group of trailblazers who have already upset the apple cart. One thing is for sure, it would be no surprise to see Danny Willett place the famous Green Jacket on the 22-year-old’s shoulders come 7pm next Sunday evening.