Spain’s Jon Rahm admits he has ‘a number of reasons’ to be excited about making his first European Tour appearance on Europe soil this week in the HNA Open de France – the second tournament in the European Tour’s new Rolex Series.
The World Number 11 begins a two-week run on the European Tour at Le Golf National, a venue he rates as one of the best courses he has played after tackling it back in 2009 as a young amateur. It will host The Ryder Cup next year and a place in Thomas Bjørn’s team for that contest is very much on Rahm’s longer term radar, but for now he is eager to perform well in his debut in Europe, before heading to Portstewart next week for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation.
Rahm is currently third on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai after an impressive start to the year, having finished tied second on his first European Tour start in the WGC-Mexico Championship before reaching the final of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where he took World Number One Dustin Johnson to last hole.
With a prize fund of US$7million on offer in the HNA Open de France, which is one of eight Rolex Series events, Rahm will be looking to make up ground on his compatriot Sergio Garcia, the Masters Tournament Champion who currently leads the Race to Dubai.
Rahm is joined in Paris by Sweden’s Alex Noren, the World Number Eight, who is looking to win back-to-back Rolex Series events after claiming the inaugural title at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last month.
“This is probably one of the best golf courses I’ve ever played. I played it when I was 14 or 15 years old in the European Young Masters in 2009, and it’s changed quite a bit since then, and so have I, so I really wanted to come back. Being one of the Rolex Series events, being one of the most important events of the year, I wanted to come here and hopefully show my support and try and play as best as I can.
“It’s obviously a beautiful course – it’s a great design – and it’s challenging in every aspect. You do hit almost every single club in the bag and courses that make you do that are really fun to play.
“My game feels pretty good, so hopefully I can keep it in the fairway this week, which is something very important and something to keep in mind for the next few events I’m going to play leading up to The Open. I’m a believer that you need to fit the course instead of the course fitting you, and I think I can adapt pretty well.
“Being a Rolex Series it stands out a lot. I think it’s a great thing it’s doing for the European Tour, and I want to show as much support as I can, and I’ll try to play as many as I can. Obviously, I can’t play all of them but I’ll try.”
“My mind drifted to The Ryder Cup, let’s say about ten years ago. When I played here, it was Ryder Cup and 2018 was already set, and I said, I want to be there and to come here and play here and to have a chance to be there next year, it’s more realistic and it’s like a dream come true.
“Hopefully I can keep my game up and I will be able to represent Europe, my first Ryder Cup in Europe in a great city like Versailles, and so close to Spain where hopefully I’ll be able to get some support. I really can’t describe how it will feel but I know it will be a pretty amazing feeling. I’m excited to try to play my best golf to make that dream come true.”
“I’ve had a good season so far, half of the tournaments have been good and half maybe not as well as I hoped to but yeah, it feels nice. I like this place. It’s a very tough course and a very good course.
“It was nice to play some tournaments in America, that really gave me a lot of confidence to play. Here you play the same courses all the time and you get used to them and you know coming back here, after a good finish last year, you have good memories.
“It is a great season coming up. Every tournament is unbelievable. I think the European Tour has done such good work in getting these tournaments to incredible money and stature. I’m looking forward to it, and we’ll see what happens.”