2023 PGA Championship: Jon Rahm hopes to ‘ride the wave’ to another major victory at Oak Hill

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Jon Rahm isn’t a surfer, but he chose a surfing metaphor to describe his recent run of four PGA Tour wins this year, including his second major championship, the Masters in April.

“I’m just hoping to keep adding more to it. It’s been a lot of fun, and hopefully, I can keep riding that wave,” he said on Tuesday during his pre-tournament interview ahead of the 105th PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

One might say the 28-year-old Spaniard has been hanging 10 on the rest of the PGA Tour fields this season as he’s climbed to world No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, the top of the FedEx Cup point standings and the presumptive favorite every time he tees it up.

“It’s the best metaphor I could find in the couple seconds after the question (was asked),” Rahm later explained of his reference to riding the wave. “I think Arnie said it, ‘The road to success is always under construction.’ It’s not a linear, constant path of improvement. It’s ups and downs.”

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Indeed, with the exception of Tiger Woods, many of the multiple major winners in recent years have won their titles in bunches — Padraig Harrington won two in a row and three in all during 2007 and 2008; Rory McIlroy won his four between 2011-2014; Brooks Koepka won four in a span of playing in eight majors between 2017-2019; and Jordan Spieth nabbed his three between 2015-2017. Rahm is attempting to be the first player since Jordan Spieth to win the first two legs of golf’s Grand Slam.

“It doesn’t happen often that a player wins more than one major in a year, so it would be amazing to be able to join my name to that list,” Rahm said.

It’s only May and Rahm, thanks to eight top-10 finishes, already shattered the Tour’s single-season earnings mark, and he could be on his way to having a historic year said two-time major winner and ESPN analyst Curtis Strange.

“He’s a guy that could be one of the few guys in the history of this game that could win eight or nine tournaments in a year,” said Strange, noting that Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh are the last two players to notch that many wins in a season. “How can he win eight or nine tournaments a year? He physically has the strength. He mentally has the focus and the intensity to last through that 12-month period and to stay on top of his game. Then he’s got the talent. He’s got the length off the tee. When he gets on a stretch putting, he’s tough to beat…He doesn’t look like he’s going to win some and back off and get comfortable.”

Rahm’s caddie, Adam Hayes, echoed that sentiment.

“He’s not done. He’s going to win a lot of tournaments,” Hayes said.

To continue riding his wave of momentum, Rahm plans to stick to the game plan that’s been working all year. He said that Oak Hill is a course that reminds him of Bethpage, site of the 2019 PGA in Long Island, New York, or Winged Foot, which hosted the 2020 U.S. Open, big, brawny courses where Rahm’s power game should come in handy. All three are courses that Rahm said demand discipline, and a sharp short game could do the trick, too.

“Everybody will miss fairways, everybody will miss greens, so if you can get those up-and-downs,” he said, “it’s not only a confidence booster, but it’s something that will keep the round going.”

Rahm knows that the wave could crest at any time and his incredible consistency — he’s shot in the 60’s in 27 of his 37 rounds on Tour this year — could dry up at any time. But don’t bet on it, said Strange.

“He looks like he’s got an inner drive to do the best he can over a 20-year career,” he said.

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