In case you may not have noticed it yet, Jon Rahm is special.
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SAN DIEGO — In case you may not have noticed it yet, Jon Rahm is special.
He’s a special talent as a golfer, as evidenced by his No. 3 world ranking and five career victories already. His current form has him listed as the odds-on favorite to win this week’s U.S Open at Torrey Pines, and justifiably so.
He, too, is a special individual off the golf course — a 26-year-old who’s been mature beyond his years dating to his days as a player at Arizona State, where he was coached by Phil Mickelson’s brother (and current caddie) Tim, when he was in the country for the first time and was still learning to speak English.
These few years removed from his college days, Rahm has displayed an impressive grace on and off the golf course.
Never was the latter more evident than two weeks ago when Rahm was forced to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament as soon as he’d completed his third round with a six-shot lead at a remarkable 18-under par through 54 holes when a COVID-19 test came back positive.
The ordeal drew massive attention as much because of the fact that Rahm was going to win the tournament for the second consecutive year and collect $1.7 million as for the way he was informed in front of network television cameras right off the 18th green at Muirfield Village.
When officials informed him, Rahm doubled over in anguish.
The entire episode was uncomfortable to watch.
In its aftermath, when he could have railed against the PGA Tour’s protocols or why he had to be informed on national television instead of inside the privacy of the clubhouse, Rahm reacted with remarkable perspective.
“This is one of those things that happen in life, one of those moments where how we respond to a setback defines us as people,’’ Rahm wrote on social media shortly after the incident. “Thank you to all the fans for their support and I’m looking forward to watching the showdown tomorrow afternoon with you all.’’
That final-round showdown ended up being won by Patrick Cantlay over Collin Morikawa in a playoff. Both players finished 13-under par, five shots worse than the 18-under Rahm was when he was forced to withdraw.
“Jon’s response is the classiest I’ve ever seen,’’ Phil Mickelson wrote on Twitter after seeing Rahm’s post. “If you’re not already a huge Jon Rahm fan [which I am] you definitely will be now. Amazing character.’’
There was a lot of spirited reaction to the Rahm incident, ranging from people ripping the PGA Tour for how it handled the situation, why it couldn’t let Rahm play his final round alone, to the way they informed him in public.
There, too, were many who criticized Rahm for not being vaccinated, which turned out not to be true.
“I was vaccinated, I just wasn’t out of that 14-day period,’’ Rahm revealed Tuesday. “Looking back on it, I guess I wish I would have done it earlier, but thinking on scheduling purposes and having the PGA [Championship] and defending Memorial, to be honest, it wasn’t in my mind. I was trying to just get ready for a golf tournament. If I had done it a few days earlier, probably we wouldn’t be having these conversations right now. It is what it is. We move on.’’
Rahm was adamant that the PGA Tour shouldn’t be blamed for what happened.
“To all the people criticizing the PGA Tour, they shouldn’t,’’ Rahm said. “The PGA Tour did what they had to do. I’ve heard a lot of different theories [like] I should have played alone. That’s nonsense. The rules are there, and it’s clear. I was fully aware when I was in tracing protocol [because he’d been in previous contact with someone who’d tested positive for COVID] that that was a possibility. I knew that could happen. I was hoping it wouldn’t. The PGA Tour did what it had to do.’’
Now Rahm has to do what he has to do this week: Take advantage of his terrific form and the fact that he’s won at Torrey Pines (his first career win came in the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open) and win his first career major championship.
“When you don’t hit a golf shot for just over a week or just about a week, it’s tough leading into a major, especially a U.S. Open,’’ Rahm said. “[But] I’m confident I can get in form quick enough. I still have the memory of all those great golf shots I played. I’m going to choose to remember that.’’
Win or lose this week, we should remember Rahm for what he’s shown himself to be: a special representative of the game — on and off the golf course.
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Mark Cannizzaro