Spanish Homecoming - Jon Rahm at Valderrama

Jon Rahm unleashes down the olive-tree lined fairways.

Inspired by his Spanish idols and home soil, the 23-year-old Spaniard seeks to forge his own path as he pursues the coveted Race to Dubai title and a further rise up the Official World Golf Rankings. Jon spoke before the start of the tournament about his thoughts on his form and the European events he has been playing. 

European Tour vs. PGA TOUR Tournament Courses

Jon plays the majority of his golf in the United States on the PGA TOUR, but is also a full-time member on the European Tour and has been competing overseas over the last 3 weeks as he chases the prestigious Race to Dubai title.

As the courses and setups are different than those on the PGA TOUR, when making the transition to playing on the European Tour, Rahm focuses on the following elements of course management and gameplay:

  • While courses are designed similarly, the strategy and approach to play is much different as they are a lot tighter and a lot more penalizing.
  • Not only do you need to hit fairways, you need to hit the proper sides of fairways (left or right side) or you won’t be able to attack the pins due to landing areas, trees or green protection.
  • The greens are extremely small compared to courses in the U.S. He focuses more on hitting the middle of the green because regardless of the pin location, generally speaking the furthest putt he’ll be left with is +-20 feet.
  • In the U.S., players can hit driver on just about every hole. In Europe, especially at Valderrama, strategy and course management are much more important off the tee. While driver is an option, if the target line isn’t hit the penalties are much more severe than those made on stateside courses.
  • Iron play is very similar to courses the professionals play in the U.S., but targets are much different because you are hitting to such a smaller landing area – an area generally well-protected by a bounty of sand traps and deep, thick rough.
The narrow approaches to small greens are a feature at Valderrama.

Adapting to the Greens

After a frustrating T15 finish last week at the Italian Open, Jon was eager to solve his recent struggles with his Spider Tour Red putter. He was rolling the ball well but the putts simply weren’t dropping. Adrian Rietveld, Tour Operations Manager of Europe, suggested they build him a new Spider Tour with the original specifications that he has played with much success in his first full season on Tour.

Jon felt like the slant neck on his now former putter was twisted and he realized every time he was lining up a putt, his putter face was aimed (a ball) right of target, leading to a lot of alterations in his stroke.

His new Spider is set up perfectly square and Jon feels like he is now aiming left, but in reality it is perfectly down-the-line.

“I’m starting to feel like I’m rolling it like I did the entire year; I’m confident that I’m close to returning to form with a good week putting and hopefully it starts here at Valderrama.”

Ready to roll - Rahm has a new Spider Tour red in play this week.

Here is a full breakdown of Jon’s specs on his Spider Tour Red:

Loft: 2.75°

Lie: 69°

Neck: Short Slant (3/4 offset)

Insert: Black Surlyn

Back weights: 2 grams

Length: 37 1/8 inches

Grip: SuperStroke Ultra slim Black

Swing weight: F9.5

Rahm has experienced significant successes since switching ball.

“TP5x is the best ball on the market and it’s not even close.”

On the range on the PGA TOUR, athletes have the option to select the ball they want to practice with so they can replicate the shots they will hit during competition. The European Tour is different, however, as they only supply the players with Titleist golf balls to practice with (excluding the Rolex Series Events where players can choose their ball.)

Jon could not help but notice the performance drop off in the windy, cold conditions at Valderrama.

“This ball just doesn’t go straight! Man, I really need my TP5x. The difference is definitely noticeable.”

Two-time major winner Martin Kaymer, practicing a few stalls down from Rahm on the range, chimed in on the conversation when hearing Rahm’s comments working with Rietveld (note: Martin switched into the TP5x himself two weeks ago at The Dunhill.)

“This is the best ball on the market and it’s not even close. The performance difference shot-to-shot with the same club and same swing is truly unbelievable.”

Jon has made it one of his personal goals to continue switching over as many of the Tour’s top athletes as possible. As he told Rietveld on the range, “I’m going to keep getting people to switch, you just watch. They need to know about this ball.”

Add Martin Kaymer to the list of players who have made the switch with a nudge from Rahm; a list that already includes four-time Major Champion Rory McIlory and more recently, Tour Championship winner and 2017 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele.

¡Vamos, Jon!