Dublin, OH — Jon Rahm could not help asking one final question to Memorial Tournament host Jack Nicklaus.
“Could you please sign my award,” Rahm asked.
Nicklaus quickly responded with a yes stating it was the first time he had ever been asked to sign the award, perhaps starting a new tradition.
Every Sunday at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, five collegiate golf athletes are recognized as a Jack Nicklaus Player of the Year. This year, Rahm was the NCAA Division I recipient.
“Being related to the Jack Nicklaus name is a huge honor, it’s an emotional time,” Rahm said. “To work hard all year, play good and be recognized with this award it’s a really great experience.”
Rahm is a Barrika, Spain native who won four times this season at Arizona State. He is the second ever Sun Devil to record a top-10 finish in every outing this season.
As part of the award, each of the five participants gets the opportunity to play the Barbasol Shootout which is played at Scioto Country Club. Scioto has hosted many US Open sectional qualifiers and will host the US Senior Open later this year.
Rahm bested the field posting a 2-under par 68 and earned an exemption into the PGA TOUR’s Barbasol Championship which will be held July 14-17 at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Grand National in Opelika, Ala.
“It’s a great course and thank god we had a practice round, otherwise it would have been a lot harder,” said Rahm. “The rough was extremely high. Luckily for me I came from the conference and national tournaments where we played narrow courses with a lot of rough. Yesterday I was hitting it far and straight. It was hard, and the guys fought hard. I think I had 25 putts so hitting it the way I did off the tee gave me an advantage.”
After such a team oriented week playing in the NCAA Championships, it would seem, at least on paper, that it would be tough to transition to such an individual event with a PGA TOUR exemption on the line but Rahm had not problem making the adjustment.
“As much as of a team sport as they want golf to be for NCAA it’s just you by yourself on the course,” he said. “The best way to help your team is playing your best. That’s how I took it since I came here. There was no other way.”
Now the focus is on Oakmont Country Club and the US Open. Rahm plans on getting in town Saturday night to give himself a couple of extra days.
A big reason for this are the green speeds.
Rahm first visited Oakmont around a month ago and played four rounds in three days. It was then he was warned that the green speeds would be expected to reach 15.
It’s why when Rahm asked Nicklaus for some advice on how to tame Oakmont, he offered to get really good at downhill putting.
But it’s easier said then done. After all, Rahm has putted on a green with a 14 speed once before and not only did it take him a long time to get used to those speeds, but those greens do not possess Oakmont’s slopes.
“It took me a while to get used to it because this was not something we were expecting,” said Rahm of the 14 green speeds. “It’s really hard to get used to hitting the ball so soft when you are putting uphill. It’s just weird. It took me a practice round, one day of the tournament and one afternoon session to be able to get used to it. For a person who likes to hit their putts hard, you can’t over there. That’s one of the reasons I’m going over Oakmont early, to get used to the speeds.”
The end goal for Rahm is to get his PGA TOUR card. Perhaps Patrick Rodgers could serve as an inspiration.
Though Rodgers missed the cut at the Memorial Tournament this year, he received the Jack Nicklaus National Player of the Year Award as the NCAA Division I recipient in 2014. A year later at the Memorial Tournament, Rodgers, a non-exempt player at the time earned enough money to earn his full-time PGA TOUR card.
This is the goal Rahm is shooting for, though he knows it will be a tall order.
“It would be really great to get my card by this time next year,” Rahm said. “I know I will have a couple of starts this summer and it probably won’t be enough with pretty much the best players in the world. If I can do what Patrick Rodgers did last year and get his tour card by this time next year, it would be a huge accomplishment.”