REUTERS - Jon Rahm may have been too tired to play a full practice round this week but there was no chance the red-hot Spanish rookie was going to skip the final pre-Masters tune-up at this week’s Shell Houston Open.
Rahm, who will make his Masters debut next week, played 108 holes in seven rounds over five days during his run to the WGC-Dell Match Play final, and fatigue forced him to end Tuesday’s practice round after nine holes.
“I was tired yesterday. I am tired today. That’s just things that happen, right?” said Rahm. “Luckily, I‘m 22 and I‘m pretty sure I’ll be able to get one good night (of rest) and be ready to play on Thursday.”
Rahm, who fought back after losing five holes during a six-hole stretch on the front nine to push world number one Dustin Johnson to the 18th hole on Sunday, has been hot all year.
In his last five starts, Rahm has four top-five finishes, including his first PGA Tour win at January’s Farmers Insurance Open and back-to-back top-three placings in World Golf Championships events in Mexico City and Austin.
While Johnson, whose win on Sunday was his third victory in as many events, decided to withdraw from this week’s tournament, Rahm felt it was important to keep playing.
Rahm played two majors last year – the U.S. Open and the British Open – and did not compete in the final tune-up before either tournament. So after finishing in a tie for 23rd at Oakmont and a tie for 59th at Royal Troon he decided to try a new approach this year.
“For the British Open, I think I would have benefited from playing the week before,” Rahm said. “That’s why I want to play this week. ... Last week I played good. Why wouldn’t I keep that level of play up?”
The world number 14 will face stiff competition at the Golf Club of Houston in Humble, Texas, where 2011 winner Phil Mickelson is among 10 previous champions in the field.
World number five Henrik Stenson heads the list and will be looking to go one better than his 2016 runner-up finish to American journeyman Jim Herman. The other top-10 players in the field are Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott and Rickie Fowler.
The tournament, which begins on Thursday, is the final chance for PGA Tour players to secure a last-minute invitation to the Masters.
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond