PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA | Will Jon Rahm ever be able to step out of the shadow of Seve Ballesteros? Not that Rahm, who is 23 and a bull of a young Spaniard, minds all the references to his famous, much-loved predecessor who won nearly 100 tournaments worldwide and five major championships. He pays his allegiances to the legend of Ballesteros, as well he should.
“Seve was a huge inspiration not only for Spanish golfers like me but for golfers all over Europe and all over the world,” Rahm said with due sincerity and humility. “I have said it many times in Spain that if ever I could do a quarter of a quarter of what he did for golf in Spain, I would declare my life in golf a success.”
There were more questions for Rahm on the eve of this week’s Players Championship because Monday was the seventh anniversary of Ballesteros’s death.
“I met him once,” Rahm said of Ballesteros. “I was too young to even appreciate who I was meeting. I was 12 years old, I think. Seve and (Jose Maria) Olazabal were both there. I knew who Olazabal was and I shook his hand. I had no idea who Seve was and I almost missed him. My dad almost had a heart attack because I had the chance to shake Seve’s hand and I almost didn’t. I have that memory. I never got to meet or speak to him again.”
For all his success, Ballesteros never won the Players. Rahm has the game and the time ahead of him to do so, perhaps more than once. He has the strength to overpower golf courses and the subtlety to sneak up and strangle them. It’s a rare gift to have both these attributes but that is why Rahm, who will turns 24 on Nov. 10, is so highly thought of.