Jon Rahm says the best lesson he will take into his first Major Championship title defence is that “perfect golf” is unrealistic as he outlined mental strength will be his greatest asset at the 2022 U.S. Open.
The Spaniard became the first player to birdie the last two holes to win golf’s second oldest Major at Torrey Pines last year, two weeks after he had to withdraw from the PGA TOUR’s Memorial Tournament after testing positive for COVID-19 when he held a six-shot lead through 54 holes.
Rahm, ranked second in the Official World Golf Ranking, became the fifth player from Spain to win one of golf’s four Majors and insists he is a more relaxed player ahead of teeing it up at The Country Club in Brookline.
“There's no extra pressure, no,” said Rahm when asked whether this tournament held any different pressures. “I want to (win) it again. It's pretty much the same as it's always been. With the different factor being that I've already won a major. I feel like a lot of the pressure I used to put on myself is not really there.
“I feel like I can enjoy it a little bit more and know that you don't need to do anything special to get it done. It's easy to think you need to be playing perfect golf, and I remember watching my highlights of Sunday last year, and I thought I played one of the best rounds of my life, and I kept thinking, I cannot believe how many fairway bunkers I hit that day, how many greens I missed, and how many putts I missed.
“You truly don't have to play perfect, and that's I think the best lesson I can take from that."
Rahm had long looked a Major champion in waiting and admits the realisation of one of his long-held goals provoked a reaction he had not envisaged.
“Getting the first major was a big weight off my shoulders,” he added. “I think the surprise is I didn't expect it to be that. Right away when everything happened and I was done with it, with all the media obligations, it was just I felt so tired and just could just take a breath and sigh of relief from what had happened.
“Obviously, the euphoria came afterwards, but I didn't realise my first reaction would be that.”
The 122nd U.S. Open returns to Brookline – venue of the 1999 Ryder Cup – for the first time in 34 years and Rahm, whose playing experience at the venue is limited to playing the front nine on Monday, is excited by the challenge that lies ahead.
“You are going to have a lot of holes where things are going to go wrong, but I just have to know going into it and accept certain things that happen. Obviously, as every U.S. Open, par is a good score.
“It's a beautiful design. I always love coming to places and courses that were designed so long ago because even though they add tee boxes, the uniqueness of the architecture from back then still stands.
“I think a big testament of what I saw are the 3rd and 4th hole where it's one long fairway connected but you have the rocks in between. It's very, very cool. I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the course.”