June 11, 2019
MIKE TROSTEL: Good afternoon, everyone. It's my pleasure to welcome Jon Rahm into the media center. Jon, playing in his 4th U.S. Open, was the low amateur in the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont.
Jon, you played a practice round today with Phil Mickelson. What were some of your first thoughts of the course under these conditions?
JON RAHM: Well, played 18 yesterday, so at least I've seen them all. It's very different to what we see in February, obviously. The main difference to me, besides the weather and the firmness of the course, the dryness, is the setup. There's a couple of holes that play very different. The fairways are so much narrower, it makes you think a little bit. Such as No. 8 is usually a layup. It's a free layup. You just put it up there and worry about the second shot. This time you need to worry about the tee shot first.
11, a lot narrower fairway.
15, a lot narrower fairway.
But then 18. I think 18 was the biggest change. That fairway coming in, left of the tree kind of makes you wonder if you want to be aggressive with the driver or just take a three-shot hole and make a birdie that way or try to make a par.
Definitely loving so far what I've seen this week. The last few years the setups have been a little bit different. And this is what I consider, at least personally, more traditional U.S. Open setup at a very unique golf course. I don't think it's going to get much better than this.
MIKE TROSTEL: This year eight top-10s. Had the win at the Zurich Classic. How are you playing going into this week?
JON RAHM: It's been very good. Besides my last two starts, two missed cuts, it's just unfortunate, a little run down, played a little bit too much golf in a row, and my body and my mind just couldn't handle it, and I was tempted to stop for a little bit.
But besides that, I've been playing consistently good, as has been the last few years, consistently good off the tee. And that's allowed me to be good, to be able to shoot low scores.
I think the main difference from last year, I've been putting a little bit better, especially inside six feet. And that's definitely helped keep rounds going, and keep it more together. Hopefully I can putt good inside six feet here, because it will be important.
Definitely important to make pars and make a couple of good putts around here. But if I can keep hitting off the tee like I have and the rest stay what has been going an average, I have a chance on Sunday.
Q. Quick question about No. 7. What are your thoughts on No. 7?
JON RAHM: Easily top three par-3s in the world for me. I feel like first time I played it, me and Adam threw a golf ball on the green, my caddie, Adam, and me. So that tells you it's not long, very short. It's a flip wedge, honestly. In a day that it's downwind, I can probably hit a 60 degree there.
But it's never easy. It's definitely a tense shot. You've got four or five yards right and left of the pin for the most if the pin is in the center. You need to hit a good one. It's always windy there. Every time I play it, it's a good side wind. You need to strike it well and choose your line carefully in the shot. Anytime you can hit the green and have a chance to birdie, it's going to be good.
Q. Is that what it makes it a top-3? Is it the difficulty of the wind or the beauty of it? What is it?
JON RAHM: It's beautiful. It's not long. It's just the wind, the conditions. When you're playing a links or playing on the coast, the wind dictates so much of how the golf course is played. If you play at Pebble Beach with no wind whatsoever, I think everybody is expected to shoot under par. But that rarely happens. When you get to the golf course and it starts blowing wind, and you get to holes like No. 5, which for me is a stock 6-iron to the center, and you have a side wind going on, that might be hurting, might be helping. You can't miss it left, because it's a hard up-and-down; you can't miss it right because it's a hazard. You have to step up and hit a really good shot. Otherwise, you can have a tough time.
Over there, same thing on 7. I hit 8-irons on that green before. I've hit a pitching wedge, a 56. The variety of clubs that everybody has hit throughout history, it's what makes it difficult. You might have 1-wood when the weather is good, and it feels like a little bit of a break. But for the most part the wind is going to make it difficult.
Q. So what is it with you and California? You do good around here. Why is that?
JON RAHM: Yeah, even from college. My record in California has been pretty good. I think it's a couple of reasons. When I grew up in Northern Spain, it's somewhat similar to California. Very similar coastline and very similar golf courses. So I feel comfortable.
And I think the second reason was growing up in poa annua, poa annua greens, it's something that I'm comfortable on. I'm comfortable reading those greens. And more so than any other week I know that we're going to miss putts. It just happens when poa annua comes. And it's just hard to make them. Unless you're Tiger in 2000, you don't miss a putt inside six to ten feet. That rarely happens. If you can be patient and have a decent putting week, you're definitely going to probably beat the average on the golf course.
I'm just comfortable in this type of weather. Anytime it's between 60 and 70 degrees, and a little breeze, it's right where I grew up. It's that nostalgic feeling to being back at home without really being there, it makes me comfortable.
Q. I was going to ask you about the greens. There's a factor there of not losing your confidence with these greens, not blaming yourself?
JON RAHM: It happens. Probably why I won at Torrey, I just knew ball-striking, it's important, because it's really hard to make putts consistently throughout a whole tournament. You might have nine holes where you make them, but a lot of times the ball is going to bounce at some point. It's the beauty of poa annua. It's what it is. And, again, since I grew up in this, I'm used to it. I know it can happen. I know it can be very stressful and very difficult for some people to understand, like it was for me when I first had Bermuda greens. It's something to adjust, but hopefully I can roll a couple of them in this week.
MIKE TROSTEL: You mentioned Tiger in 2000. You were quite young when that tournament was played. But when is the first chance that you had to read about that or watch that and to kind of understand how historic that 15-stroke victory was.
JON RAHM: I was five. I hadn't turned five yet. I didn't start playing until I was about seven. And to get sense and knowledge about the golf history, it really started in college. Like I knew about it, but I've loved the history of -- world history. I've always liked that subject and always been good at it. Once I started getting into Seve's life and what he stood for and reading more and watching more videos, I kind of got into everything.
I think I've seen every Tiger Woods video you can watch. I've seen that Sunday round. You see every single shot, it's like 22 minutes, something like that. I've seen it so many times. I've seen videos of Jack winning here, Tom Kite, Tom Watson and Graeme. Especially with the USGA making this video, this series of "This is My Open" they all say and the past champions, I've seen a lot of shots in the history of this tournament, a lot of shots in the history of this golf course, and a lot about the week.
Anytime you win a tournament by more than three shots, it's a great performance. Anytime you shoot under par in a U.S. Open, it's a great performance. Winning by 15, when everybody else is over par. It's not like he was 18-under par and the rest were at 3, which is still difficult, to be the only one under par and beat by that far, bogey-free final round, there's so many things. How many records did he break? I know he broke the 36-hole record, the 54-hole record, the 72-hole record. I know Rory broke a couple afterwards. But the age he did it at, it's performance for the ages, like they said on TV. It's unique.
And I seriously doubt anybody will be able to do something similar to that again. I think it's hard to replicate. And it's quite impressive. To me out of what Tiger has done, besides his first major win, to me the most impressive performance. And I've heard him say many times in interviews that this is one of those weeks that will never happen again for him, and it was quite impressive.
MIKE TROSTEL: You've been very good driving the golf ball. Top five strokes gained off the tee for the past three years. How do you think that gives you an advantage here at Pebble Beach?
JON RAHM: Well, given the fact that I think I'm only going to the hit two drivers on the front nine, not that much. It's a golf course where you don't need drivers. It certainly helps, but it's not going to be as important as it was in Erin Hills and Shinnecock. You can definitely go around with irons and 3-woods and do quite well, obviously.
But if you get a chance to play it, like hole No. 2, hitting a good drive is going to help. Holes like No. 9 and 10. I think I'll hit driver on 11, as well. If you can put it on the fairway and give yourself a better chance of being aggressive on the green, it will be important. The last champion here wasn't the longest hitter even though a long hitter is going to help. You never know. Hopefully I can have, like I've been doing this year is have a good week, and give myself a chance is all I can say.
Q. When you play in a practice round in a major like today and you're still a relatively young player, you're playing with a veteran player like Phil, are you picking his brain about situations on the course and strategy during his championship?
JON RAHM: I asked Phil a lot of questions, because there's going to be very few players playing here that know more about the golf course than him. This will be his fourth U.S. Open at this golf course, so he's seen it all. Being a lefty, there definitely is a big difference on how you see the golf course, right? I was shocked this person is so different, it's completely opposite. It plays different. So the more questions I'm going to have is really around the greens which I've tried to spend most of my time just getting used to chipping from the rough and putting on these greens. From tee to green it is -- I'll do what I always do. I get to the tees read the pin positions and see what I feel that day during that day is going to be the best for me. I can't ask him much, what's going to happen. We do hit it very differently. A perfect example of is going to be hole No. 1. If we hit the same club and he pulls it, hits it hard, it's most likely going to cover the corner and be in the fairway. If it comes out of it and hits a weak left it's probably going to be in the fairway, as well. In my case, same club, if I pull it long left I'm in the rough, if I come out of it I'm sure right in the rough. Very different ways of seeing the golf course, very different ways of playing it. I tried to ask as many questions around the greens and hope to apply as well as he does.
MIKE TROSTEL: Jon Rahm, best of luck this week.
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