No self-respecting journalist wants to ask a question of one of the great players that has been asked before and, for a moment, it seemed that I was guilty of just that. Mirabile dictu, the question was one which Jon Rahm had never heard before and apparently liked. Perhaps because it had given him an opportunity to speak out about how his short swing was down to having been born with a club foot.
The question followed a spiel in his pre-Open media interview in which he was saying that he tends not to fiddle with his swing when he is at a tournament.
“If you’re searching for a swing during a major championship week, it’s usually a red flag for me,” he said. “That’s just the way I choose to do things. … It’s a little different for me because I haven’t actively tried to change my swing in over 10 years. I have the swing I have. I’ve gotten more mobile and stronger in some parts of my swing, so that might slightly change it, but I have unique parts and certain unique, say, physical limitations that let me swing the way I swing and I don’t deviate from that.”
Apart from being fearful of how my question could have been asked previously, it goes without saying that it seemed a tad risky to be asking the current US Open champion about “physical limitations” when those might have been altogether more serious than his seemingly over-abundant supply of fine muscles. The risk taken, I went ahead, suggesting that other people might want to know more about the problem – and maybe wish they had a touch of it.
“I’m going to say I’ve been a pro for five years and this is the first time I’m getting this question,” said Rahm, before adding that he was tired of hearing people say that the reason for the short swing was that it had ‘tight hips’ or other things.
“If you know anything about golf, that is the stupidest thing to say. So for people that don’t know, I was born with a club foot on my right leg. My ankle was straight, but my foot was 90 degrees turned inside and basically upside down.”
He said that when he was born, the medical men pretty much broke every bone in the ankle and his leg was put in a cast from the knee down within 20 minutes of being born.
“I think every week I had to go back to the hospital to get recasted, so from knee down my leg didn’t grow at the same rate. So I have very limited ankle mobility in my right leg. It’s a centimetre and a half shorter, as well. …
“So what I mean by limitations is I didn’t take a full swing because my right ankle doesn’t have the mobility or stability to take it. So I learned at a very young age that I’m going to be more efficient at creating power and be consistent from a short swing.
“If I take a full to parallel, yeah, it might create more speed, but I have no stability. My ankle just can’t take it.”
“Your body is going to tell you what it can and can’t do. Some things you can improve, some things you can’t. In my case, the right ankle is not going to move any more than it can right now so that’s the beauty of that.” – Jon Rahm
He said that his many TPI tests (TPI is the organisation who analyse how the body moves in relation to the golf swing) revealed he had amply demonstrated how his wrists didn’t have much mobility either. Here, he showed his audience how he was hyper-mobile one way and not the other.
“That’s why I also naturally turn to bow my wrist to create power in every single sport I do.”
“So that’s why my swing, I bow my wrist and that’s how I hit it. It’s little things that I think a lot of people can learn. Let your body dictate how you can swing. Simple as that. That’s why my coach, Dave Phillips, has been such a great addition to me when I started going to TPI with the Spanish Golf Federation, because they can teach me how my body moves and what I can or cannot do, what I’m going to be more efficient at doing.”
GGP were still wondering if he saw his short swing was more of a blessing than anything else.
“It’s efficient for me, right,” he noted. “Very efficient. It’s what works for me.”
At this point, he delivered a comment from which many a young player might learn a thing of two. “I think it’s the biggest lesson I can give any young player. Don’t try to copy me. Don’t try to copy any swing out there. Just swing your swing. … Learn from your body. Your body is going to tell you what it can and can’t do. Some things you can improve, some things you can’t. In my case, the right ankle is not going to move any more than it can right now so that’s the beauty of that.”
There was an intriguing postscript to all of the above when Matt Cooper, an internet-savvy colleague, found an old post (four years old) from a punter who said he had seen a few pictures where Jon appeared to have muscle atrophy in his right lower leg. I’ve never heard/read any mention of this and was wondering if anyone knew any more about it or if my eyes are playing tricks.
That entry was followed by six comments, all of them agreeing and one hitting the nail on the proverbial head. The sender said Rahm could very well have been born with a club foot and that he himself had had one. “My legs,” he added, “look identical to his.”
It was the same Cooper who unearthed an article from not too long ago entitled, “The 20 things you didn’t know about Jon Rahm.” In a mistake which the rest of us would have made just as easily, there was no mention of a club foot.
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