Written by
Mike McAllister
May 14 2024
- 7 MIN

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A couple of weeks ago when Jon Rahm played in the same group with Anthony Kim during the second round at LIV Golf Singapore, the Legion XIII captain brought up the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla.

For Kim, a rookie on the victorious U.S. team, it was a highlight performance. He won two matches while partnering with Phil Mickelson, then knocked off Sergio Garcia 5 & 4 in the leadoff match of Sunday Singles – and famously wasn’t aware of his win until somebody stopped him from charging to the next hole.

For Rahm, rooting hard for his fellow Spaniard Garcia and the European Team, it was a tough loss to accept. He was also a bit peeved at Kim for inadvertently walking off the green – although 16 years later, the two could share some laughs in Singapore.

Of course, Rahm wasn’t actually part of the competition in 2008. He wasn’t even at Valhalla. He was just 13 years old at the time, watching back home in Spain.

That’s why he had to confess Tuesday, when recalling the conversation with Kim, “I made him feel pretty old."

It’s easy to think of Rahm as much older than 29. After all, he already has 20 professional wins even though he didn’t turn pro until 2016. Two of those wins are majors, and he’ll be seeking the third leg of the career grand slam at Valhalla at this week’s PGA Championship.

Even Rahm is surprised how much he’s experienced in such a short time frame. Told that he was making his eighth PGA Championship start, he replied with raised eyebrows.

“It's more the fact that I still consider myself quite young,” Rahm explained, “so to think that I've already played eight is crazy.”

For a world-class golfer, Rahm is approaching that perfect intersection of significant and useful experience matched with a still-wide window of opportunity. He’s already made 30 career major starts, but it will likely be the next 30-40 – in other words, the next decade when he’s in his 30s – that will ultimately define his career.

His ability to adapt and adjust will be a big key. He’s shown with his recent major success – the 2021 U.S. Open win and last year’s Masters victory – that he’s found a winning strategy, especially with his prep work.

“I think the preparation changes obviously quite a bit because early on you don't know quite what to expect,” Rahm said. “It's brand new. The majors obviously are an upscale to any other event you play, so I think in my case it was controlling how much I wanted to do.

“Like I wanted to come out here and spend extra hours practicing, extra hours doing this, and maybe even sometimes changing things I didn't need to change. Took me a little bit to realize that maybe the week before, I need to get the work done at home, and then this week just enjoy it and feel like I'm prepared to play the tournament.”

Last month, in the week prior to his title defense at Augusta National, he and his fellow LIV Golf players were in Miami. Rahm finished tied for fourth at Doral, shooting three consistently solid rounds. It was a reflection of his entire season since joining LIV; he’s the only player to finish top 10 in each of the first seven tournaments.

But he wasn’t a factor at Augusta National, shooting 73-76-72-76 to finish tied for 45th – the same position as fellow LIV Golf captain Brooks Koepka, whom he rallied past the year before to win.

Entering this week’s PGA Championship, Rahm has had a week off since the last LIV Golf event in Singapore, when he shot a final-round 67 for a backdoor top 10. He said that while his approach heading into Valhalla has been different, there were no significant alterations in his prep work.

“I think the prep always changes based on where you are physically with your swing and the time of season, how you're feeling with your game and how you are physically, right?” Rahm said. “So prep work can change a little bit. I wouldn't say maybe the drills I do and what I'm focusing on change, but the overall plan doesn't really change.”

While Rahm remains in search of his first individual victory since last year’s Masters (he has celebrated two team victories with his expansion team, Legion XIII), he certainly is comfortable with his current form and rejects any insinuations that he’s off the mark.

“I don't think my game is in any sort of issues,” he said. “I didn't play good at Augusta, but so far I haven't missed a top 10. I know it's smaller fields, but I've been playing good golf. It's just the one major that I played clearly wasn't great.

“Have I played my best golf? No. But I do feel the last few weeks, especially coming off Singapore, I felt, you know, made a couple tweaks that you wouldn't be able to tell. It's just very minor things. Like it could be ball position, small things that have made my game be consistently much better even when I'm home and in general just feel more like the norm, right, a little normal.

“So I never, never felt like I was far off – and when I say I'm not playing my best, just hadn't had my A game for a week yet, but still I've been close to my A game and B+ multiple times.”

If the A game shows up this week, Rahm should be a factor on Sunday. And if things break just right, he might just leave Valhalla with a much better feeling than the one he had from afar 16 years ago as a teenager.

Oh, and he doesn’t turn 30 until November.

(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/PGA of America)

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