BYTeddy Greenstein | Chicago Tribune,April 8th, 2018·
At the risk of offending my "America First" readers, the guy I'm rooting for Sunday is not named Patrick Reed or Rickie Fowler. Or, for that matter, Rory McIlroy.
I'm going for the Spaniard who intimidates playing partners because he looks as big as Ernie Els and hits it as long as Bubba Watson. And yet he's relaxed. Exceeding comfortable considering his age. And quite funny.
Jon Rahm took his seat in the interview room Saturday after his third round in the Masters and immediately said, "Ow" after banging his knee on the table in front of him. Tough being 6-foot-2, I know.
At one point, Rahm answered a question in Spanish and the moderator -- an Augusta National member in requisite green jacket -- asked him to summarize his answer in English. Which he did. But he was confident enough in himself to give the gentleman some grief, joking: "With the Spanish history, you should have some translators here."
That history is one Rahm, 23, can rattle off without consulting Wikipedia: Seve Ballesteros used his short-game savvy to win here in 1980 and '83. And Sergio Garcia, of course, can wear the green jacket for one more day.
"Seve inspired everybody, right?" Rahm asked. "If you believe you can do something, you'll be able to accomplish it. He was able to win here as a 23-year-old as the first non-American besides Gary Player. He actually had a huge lead (10 strokes) in the final round. He was doing unimaginable things, the same way Tiger (Woods) did the first time he won here.
"And then Sergio doing it ... maybe the Spanish character and the Spanish game is built for this place. Miguel (Angel Jimenez) has a good history before. Ramon Sota had a good history before Seve. Why can't I follow that?"
Rahm has four professional victories but never has finished better than 23rd in the Masters, either Open or the PGA Championship. He appeared headed for another major siesta after shooting a 3-over 75 here Thursday.
He followed that with 68 and a scintillating 65 that he described, in Spanish, as one of the best rounds of his life. He had to hook his approach shot on No. 1 around some trees from the first cut but the ball checked up to 6 feet on the moist green.
"To be honest I couldn't believe that ball stayed on the green," Rahm remarked.
Rahm eagled No. 8 with a high pitch from 32 yards -- "I was on an upslope, a perfect lie to that pin" -- and maintained his focus with a 10-second meditation while on the 16th green. He birdied 16 and 17 to get to 8-under.
As Rahm spoke, Reed was 13-under par.
"There's a lot of ground to make up," he said.
Then, in mid-sentence, the electronic scoreboard in the interview room changed Reed's number from 13 to 15.
"Oh, he made another eagle," Rahm said. "It's kind of hard to imagine (winning) after that. But, you know, it will be amazing to hopefully be a part of it come Sunday."
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