Rahm would love to become second Spaniard after Ballesteros to clinch Open - GulfToday

Rahm would love to become second Spaniard after Ballesteros to clinch Open

Job Rahm

Spain’s Jon Rahm during a press conference on Wednesday, ahead of the 148th Open Championship teeing off on Thursday. Reuters

Hoping to emulate the legendary Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros, Jon Rahm said on Wednesday that he would “love” to become the second Spaniard to win the British Open this week, 40 years on from Ballesteros’ first major win at Royal Lytham and St Annes.

The late Ballesteros won the Claret Jug three times, but Spain is yet to have a second champion, with Jose Maria Olazabal twice finishing third, while Sergio Garcia is a two-time runner-up.

In-form Rahm is hoping he can be the man to end the wait, as he enters the tournament at Royal Portrush full of confidence after his Irish Open triumph at Lahinch two weeks ago.

“Obviously it’s an event that’s really important as a European and as a Spaniard,” said the 24-year-old Rahm.

“And it would be really incredible to do something that great players after him (Ballesteros) haven’t been able to do at the Open.

“Olazabal came close quite a few times. Sergio has come close quite a few times. It would be an honour to be the next Spanish player to win an Open. I would very much love to.”

Ballesteros was known for his swashbuckling style and incredible recovery shots, but world number eight Rahm unsurprisingly says he would settle for winning ugly.

“The inspiration (from Ballesteros) -- there’s a lot to look up to,” he said.

Rahm also won the 2017 Irish Open at Portstewart, which is just four miles (6.4 km) down the Causeway Coast from Portrush. He is yet to win a major, but posted his best result at one of the big four events when finishing tied-third at last month’s US Open.

Rahm starts his first round on Thursday at 1421 GMT, playing alongside Americans Patrick Cantlay and Matt Kuchar.

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy said on Wednesday that he is not feeling extra pressure this week as the British Open returns to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951, and is hoping home fans can help him end a five-year major drought.

The world number three is the bookmakers’ favourite to lift the Claret Jug for the second time on Sunday, despite not having claimed a major title since the 2014 PGA Championship.

He said in the past he struggled being the focus of attention at Irish Opens, although he did win that tournament in 2016.

“I think it’s probably easier this week because it’s such a big tournament,” said McIlroy, who opens his title tilt at Royal Portrush at 0909 GMT on Thursday alongside US Open winner Gary Woodland and England’s Paul Casey.

“You’ve got the best players in the world here, and I don’t feel like I’m the centre of attention.

“I’m here to enjoy myself. Hopefully it doesn’t take another 68 years for the tournament to come back here. But at the same time, I mightn’t get an opportunity to play an Open Championship here again. “I’m really just treating it as a wonderful experience and one that I really want to enjoy.

“I’m going to love being out there and having the crowds and having the support. If that can’t help you, then nothing can.”

McIlroy fired a course-record 61 on the Dunluce Links at the age of just 16 in 2005, and is one of three Northern Irish major champions in the field along with Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke.

He said his first memories of Portrush came as a child when watching his father play.

“I remember chipping around the chipping green, being seven or eight years of age, my dad out playing on the Dunluce,” added McIlroy, who played a practice round on Tuesday.

“Portrush... At least the golf club, has been a big part of my upbringing. It’s sort of surreal that it’s here.

McIlroy has been in strong form this year, winning twice, including the Players’ Championship, and posting 11 top-10 finishes.

He also finished in a tie for second at the Open at Carnoustie last year.

“I think it’s probably the most consistent period of golf I’ve ever played,” the 2014 champion said.

Agence France-Presse

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