Even for a player as accomplished as Jon Rahm, the first-tee introduction Thursday at the Scottish Open took him by surprise.
“The U.S. Open champion … the Race to Dubai champion … the world No. 1 … from Spain, Jon Rahm!”
This, after the starter introduced Rahm’s playing partners, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, by only their names and not their accolades.
“I was just a little surprised by it,” Rahm said. “I didn’t expect it. My ego might have gotten a little too big, so I tried to hit a little too hard on No. 1.”
Indeed, he blocked it miles right – “probably about as bad a tee shot as I can hit” – but was able to save par. From there, Rahm settled down and played the type of golf he’d come to expect: seven birdies in a round of 66 that put him just two off the early pace at The Renaissance Club.
“It can be difficult to follow a tournament after accomplishing something big like I did,” he said. “I did take some time off after the win and getting back into it, it’s a little bit easier in Arizona where it’s warm, the body’s warm and very low air density, so the ball goes very straight and very easy. It’s a little bit easier to get into it. It can be a challenge, long flight, but it gets a little tight coming to a course where the wind will move the ball a lot and little mistakes can be magnified quite a bit.
“But I just told myself to really trust the visualization process, see the shot, trust the shot and trust that your body can do it, and it really worked out. Sometimes you’ve just got to get out of your own way.”
On a day of good scoring and benign conditions, Rahm went out in 34 before roaring home with three consecutive birdies on Nos. 11-13. His opening 66 put him in the mix for yet another title: In his last three starts, he tied for eighth at the PGA Championship, was running away with the Memorial before an untimely withdrawal because of COVID-19, and then won the U.S. Open for his first major.
“It’s a great way to start my trip to Europe and the U.K.,” he said, “and a great way to start my first time here in Aberdeen.”