AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Spain’s Jon Rahm will seek inspiration from the late Seve Ballesteros this week when he makes his first appearance in the U.S. Masters after a stellar start to the season.
The 22-year-old won the Farmers Insurance Open and finished second behind world number one Dustin Johnson in the WGC Dell Matchplay to put himself in contention to become the first player to win on his Augusta debut since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
Ballesteros, who claimed the Masters title twice, would have celebrated his 60th birthday on Sunday. He died of cancer in 2011 at the age of 54.
“Seve is my ultimate idol and the name Seve Ballesteros is really important to me,” Rahm told reporters on Monday.
“I try to emulate a lot of things he did.”
Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal was the last Spanish Masters winner in 1999 and he also donned the Green Jacket in 1994, the year in which Rahm was born.
“For a Spaniard, it’s hard to explain all the feelings that come to mind,” Rahm said. “It really is a place that seems to suit the Spanish character, the Spanish way of playing.”
Rahm has climbed to 12th in the world rankings and really sprung to prominence in a dramatic WGC final against Johnson last month in which he fought back from five down to lose at the last hole in the matchplay event.
“I learned that if I have a good day I can take on the number one player in the world,” Rahm said.
Rahm has benefited from a close relationship with five-times major champion Phil Mickelson whose brother Tim is the Spaniard’s manager.
”Obviously I’ve been able to play a lot with Phil,“ Rahm said. ”We all know how great a guy he is and how much he can help a person and how knowledgeable he is in the game of golf.
“The way he studies the game, he thinks about it more than anybody else. The insight he’s got, it really is amazing.”
The muscular Rahm, who drives the ball a prodigious distance and has the shot-making skills required to win at Augusta, is not short of confidence either.
“If I didn’t think I could win the tournament, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
“When I tee it up, it’s just because I want to win and I believe that I can win.”