We told Jon Rahm the U.S. Ryder Cup news. He gave us an earful
FORREST HILLS, N.Y. — What was it like inside Jon Rahm’s head when he learned about this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team?
I’m glad you asked. And I’m glad we asked.
On Tuesday afternoon at the U.S. Open (of tennis), I found Rahm in the latter stages of what one might call an “interview gauntlet” on behalf of his Tequila sponsor Maestro Dobel. Reporters from every publication had spent the day flooding Rahm’s ears with questions about golf, about life, and — we had readily assumed — the Ryder Cup.
Just a few hours earlier, the U.S. team had released its six captains’ selections, rounding out the 12-man roster and solidifying the American side for next month’s competition in Rome. Rahm, as the third-ranked golfer in the world and arguably the European side’s most gifted player, seemed like a natural target to be asked about the Ryder Cup about a million times.
Surely, we figured, by the time I reached him after about a half-dozen interviews at 3 p.m. local time, Rahm had heard the news about the U.S. team. I was so confident of this fact I hadn’t prepared for the possibility that he hadn’t.
“I assume you’ve seen the Ryder Cup news,” I said shortly after we sat down. “Any first impressions?”
And this, dear reader, was the moment I realized that I was about to break Ryder Cup news to the reigning Masters champ.
Rahm’s eyes practically bulged out of his head as the question landed.
“I have not. I have not seen the picks yet.”
He peered away from me in the direction of his manager, who was wearing a grin.
“I’m assuming Justin Thomas was picked and that’s what people are trying to create a buzz about,” he said.
I began to tick off the list. Soon, Rahm was in full CBS mode, offering an insightful, 15-second scouting report on Zach Johnson’s roster decisions.
“No surprises there, I would’ve been able to tell you 11,” he said. “That twelfth spot was maybe between three players and you could’ve made an argument for each one. Not surprised that Sam got picked. He’s been playing great the last few years, this maybe wasn’t his best year. But he did win the [Dell WGC-Match Play].”
Before long the topic switched back to Rahm’s own performance in the Ryder Cup, which in two appearances has see-sawed between a “terrible” effort in a winning performance in Paris and an “amazing” effort in a losing performance at Whistling Straits.
As we spoke about the competition, I wondered if Rahm, always the picture of intense focus, ever felt first-tee jitters.
“It’s not anxiety. It’s more excitement,” he said. “The level of adrenaline going through your body is unlike anything else. It’s more excitement than anything else. Your emotions are running pretty high, it’s hard to explain.”
With the Cup (very suddenly) looming closer than ever, Rahm went even further.
“When some of the greatest of the game are telling you they couldn’t even tee up the ball, they were so nervous and shaking,” he said. “You go in there and you’re like, ‘if you were like that, what the heck am I going to be thinking?'”
“It’s very, very special. Every time. It doesn’t get any easier.”