World Number Five Jon Rahm has his sights set on winning the Race to Dubai title and hopes to steal a march on his rivals with victory at this week’s Italian Open – the fifth Rolex Series event of the year – at Golf Cub Milano.
The 22 year old sits in third position in the rankings following a stellar start to life on the European Tour which has seen him taste victory at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation in July, and finish joint third and second in the first two World Golf Championship events of the season.
Only Englishman Tommy Fleetwood and fellow countryman Sergio Garcia – who like Rahm is making his professional debut in Italy this week – are above the young Spaniard in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex, with Rahm focused on finishing the season in the number one spot.
Rahm will get his opening round under way alongside Fleetwood and Masters champion Garcia tomorrow, meanwhile defending champion Francesco Molinari will look to maintain his outstanding record in the Italian Open. The 34 year old has five top ten finishes in his last ten appearances, including his win in 2006 and victory last year over Englishman Danny Willett.
Jon Rahm: “I already expressed this in France and Ireland, how important I think those tournaments are for The European Tour. I think it’s great, Rolex is getting this involved in it for The European Tour.
“You have six or seven events that are very important throughout the year, and I think it’s great, not only for players who are out here every year, but for people like me who are playing bother tours to have some parts of the year to focus on. It’s always great to see The European Tour grow. I think it’s the beginning of something great and hopefully it can become something greater.
“It became a goal of mine after Ireland. Before that, I wasn’t really anywhere in the Race to Dubai. I was up there after Mexico, but after winning Ireland, I really became conscious of the fact that I could win it, especially once I learned that nobody since Seve (Ballesteros) in Spain has won it.
“The course is fantastic. It’s always great to come back to Europe and play all those traditional golf courses that I don’t play in the States that often.
“Thanks to The 1997 Ryder Cup, my dad started playing golf. Nobody in my family ever played golf before and because of that I play golf nowadays. I do believe it can make a huge impact on Italian golf. Nothing special needs to be done. It’s probably the best 24 players of the year playing, competing against each other. It will help Italian golf a lot.”
Tommy Fleetwood: “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it or aiming to win it. I am in a very strong position but I’ve just got to keep concentrating week in, week out. That’s the thing you know, with such big events it’s not as if I can sort of hope that nobody plays well and I end up winning, so you’ve got to go out and play well.
“It’s a massive event with a lot of World Ranking points, so you are always looking to improve your world ranking and to improve as a golfer, so there is always a lot to play for and hopefully I can keep going and keep playing well.
“It’s a great tournament anyway. We all love Italian courses, they’ve got a lot of class to them and I think it’s great that we have such a strong field coming into this part of the year.
“I’ve played alright the last couple of years. I like most golf courses, I like finding out a way to play a golf course and then trying to do it, but it’s a lovely course, one that you have to think your way around.”
“You’ve got your dreams and what you work for as well, and Race to Dubai will be on that list, so I don’t know how many chances I will get of winning a Race to Dubai and this might be one of the best chances, so hopefully I can do that.”
Francesco Molinari: “It’s great to be back here in Monza, lots of good memories from last year and the course is in great condition, the weather looks like it is going to be great, so everything is in place for a great week.
“It’s one of the great new things this year with a bigger purse we are playing for and the prestige for the tournament of being part of the Rolex Series, which started earlier this year, I think it’s great for this part of the world with The Ryder Cup in Rome in 2022, it’s going to benefit the whole of Italian golf.
“With players like Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm and Martin Kaymer it’s great. It is the strongest field ever for the Italian Open and this can only be good news for Italian golf, and hopefully like last year the crowds will be big ad they will support the great players who are here this week.”