Spain’s Jon Rahm and Kevin Na of the USA have joined the European Tour as affiliate members for the 2017 season.
Both players are inside the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking, with the promising 22 year old Rahm currently ranked 38th, thanks in part to his recent victory at the Farmers Insurance Open, while Korean-born Na – also a winner on the US PGA Tour – is 44th.
Rahm and Na will now be able to earn Race to Dubai presented by Rolex ranking points, beginning this week at the WGC–Mexico Championship, while Rahm will also be eligible to earn Ryder Cup points when the race to qualify for Thomas Bjørn’s European Team for Paris 2018 begins.
Providing they stay inside the world’s top 50, Rahm and Na would be eligible to play in any of the first five tournaments in the European Tour’s new Rolex Series – an alliance of eight events each with a minimum prize fund of US$7million.
Rahm has already represented Spain in the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf, finishing eighth alongside 2016 Ryder Cup star Rafa Cabrera-Bello in Australia last November.
He was born in the Spanish town of Barrika before studying at Arizona State University, where he was the world’s top-ranked amateur before bursting onto the professional scene with six top 25 finishes in nine starts on the PGA Tour last season before his breakthrough win in January.
It means a lot to me to join the European Tour – I’m European after all! - Jon Rahm
Rahm said: “I have always wanted to play the Ryder Cup and I have always wanted to be a member of the European Tour. I have obviously taken a different approach to tour life than a lot of other Europeans who went to college in the States, but I thought this was my best shot. I’m surprised I have been able to take this opportunity so early but it’s great to be able to join.
“I have so many memories of the European Tour – one that stands out was watching Justin Rose’s hole-in-one on the third hole at the Volvo Masters the year he won the Order of Merit at Valderrama. I remember Miguel winning the French Open; Pablo winning the French Open and then Pablo and Sergio’s play-off at the BMW International too. I’m really looking forward to playing some tournaments on the European Tour.”
Na has previous experience of the European Tour, having played 14 events in the 2003 season – making 12 cuts – while he also played the UBS Hong Kong Open in 2006, the 2012 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the beginning of the 2015 season.
Na said: “I played a little bit on the European Tour on sponsors’ invitations in 2003 when I was 19. I enjoyed playing the Tour then and I always thought about becoming an affiliate member. I felt like this year was the right time for me.
“I’m looking at adding a few events to my schedule in Europe and I’m looking forward to seeing different parts of the world, and not only playing golf but going sightseeing too.”