World No.5 Jon Rahm begins 2023 with high anticipation of a big year ahead on the PGA Tour. The long-hitting Spaniard is among an elite 39-man field at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii where he has two runner-up finishes from six appearances. The $US15 million showpiece marks the first of 17 designated tournaments that will have elevated purses and commitments from the tour’s top players.
It’s always great to be back. I’ve had some success here in the past, highlighted by the battle I had with Cam [Smith] last year in the final round. I mean, those scores were pretty incredible. The three lowest scores ever on a PGA Tour event were out here. So I’m hoping to have another good showing and start the year off on a positive note.
Last year was the lowest I’ve ever shot (33-under 259) without winning a tournament. I think it was unique because we didn’t have as much wind as we usually have here, which is the defence of this golf course. And then it was softer than it has been in the past. You had to be that aggressive.
I think it’s a massive bonus to be able to come to a field of 39 players where we get to compete for the same amount of FedEx Cup points and a huge purse. You only have to beat 38 players compared to any other event. And it’s earned by having an amazing year. I think it’s great they’re allowing the players who make it to the Tour Championship to be here as well. I believe it’s right to have the best players of the year here, and making it to East Lake should be an accomplishment. I think a player like Cam Young has earned it and it’s only going to make this tournament better. It’s an ‘All Star’ field that you can take advantage of and start the year on a good note.
I set my goals every year and I’m pretty ambitious. I’m not always going to accomplish everything I set my mind out to do. But in this sport, if you’re not winning as much as you would like, you’d take it as a bad year. It can be tough in a sport where the most accomplished athlete of all time won 30 percent of the time… that being Tiger. It’s a little bit subjective, in my opinion. I think there are a lot of things you can do well as an athlete to consider it as a positive year. Obviously, you want to win events, and the only thing I didn’t do last year was that I wish I’d competed better in the Majors and given myself a better chance. So obviously that being a goal this year, hopefully get No.2 and give Spain another Major.
I was close at the US Open last year. I was one shot back going into the last day and I just had a bad final round. I don’t think there’s a way to explain it. For people that may not believe it, I battled my swing for most of the year. I wasn’t as comfortable as I was in the year prior and that showed. Then when you go to Major-championship golf where you need to be better in every single way, those mistakes are going to show.
The swing didn’t feel as smooth as I would have liked last year. I still had an abundance of top 10s. I think I was close to 50 percent of the tournaments I teed it up in and ended in the top 10, which is not bad. I just didn’t give myself a chance to win as often as I would have liked.
Everybody was talking about my putting because I could still hit fairways and greens, but nobody talked about how my proximity to the hole was much higher than it was in the past. Therefore, I’m not going to make as many putts, and my putting stats are going to be bad. That’s why I kept saying a lot of times my putting felt good, I just didn’t give myself the best chances.
In the autumn, things got going a little better. I felt like for the most part I was playing better than the scores were showing. Maybe once the 2021-2022 PGA Tour season was over, I took some time off and reset and that’s why I played well in the American autumn. I’m never too far off, honestly. With the swing mechanics I have, it’s never a big change. That’s why I can be consistent.
The off-season has been great. With two kiddos, it’s been a lot of fun. Kepa’s kind of getting an idea of what Christmas is and doing some of the fun things, so it was really cool to see it through his eyes a little bit, and to also have the family time, the time off, that we all needed. In that sense, I’m well rested. I came here a little early, enjoyed the islands of Hawaii, enjoyed Maui for a few days before getting here to Kapalua to start my work again.
Jon Rahm is a seven-time PGA Tour winner and a former world No.1. You can watch him and the best players in the world on Fox Sports Australia and Kayo.