US Open at Torrey Pines: Rahm is ready to become a Major man

The Spaniard is the clear favourite to take victory in San Diego this week when he returns to the scene of his first PGA TOUR win.

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John Rahm to win at 9/1

With current form of WD-T8-T34-MC, it doesn't seem immediately obvious to casual golf bettors why Jon Rahm is such a clear favourite to win this week's US Open.

The Spaniard is 9/1, seven points shorter than anyone in the field.

Isn't he just another of the elite bunch at the top of the world rankings who should all be around the same odds?

In fact, as the only player in the world's top five without a Major, there's a case that his price should be a little bigger than some of his rivals.

However, there are two very clear reasons why many expect that this could be Rahm's time.

First, there is current form. That WD for withdrawal should really be a W for win. Rahm was six shots clear after 54 holes of the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago and about to defend his title in convincing style.

And then came those unfortunate Saturday scenes at the 18th when he was informed of a positive covid test. From Sunday being a march to victory, Rahm was now having to draw up plans for self-isolation: all while trying not to think about winning another prestigious title and the $1.7m winner's cheque that was surely set to come his way.

However, the first 54 holes did still happen. His Memorial result remains a WD but it's clear to anyone how well he played at Muirfield Village and the bookies have taken note.

Rahm's other big asset this week is course form. Torrey Pines was the scene of his first PGA TOUR win when he captured the Farmers Insurance Open back in 2017 and he's since added finishes of 29-5-2-7 at the famed San Diegan venue on the California coast.

With many of his rivals lacking either course or current form, Rahm's dominance of the betting starts to make sense.

Initial reports said he wouldn't be able to set foot on Torrey Pines until Tuesday but Rahm arrived on Monday and managed to play nine holes.

It's been a difficult week and a bit for the 26-year-old and he offered some interesting insights when talking to the press on Tuesday.

On his early look at this week's course

"I played the back nine yesterday. Still early in the week, obviously. I'll play the front nine today. But it's not a golf course that I haven't played before; that's the good news about it. Tee to green, it doesn't change.

"A little bit more relaxed around here, just trying to get the touch around the greens, feel the speed of the greens, the firmness of the greens, and the thickness of the rough, which it is a little bit more severe than we're used to playing early in the year.

"Overall, happy to be here and comfortable. I've played good here in the past, and hopefully I can keep up the good play."

On the differences between Torrey Pines in June and January

"The biggest difference besides the rough, obviously, it's a little bit thicker, and this thick blade grass that you have, you can actually get lucky and get some decent lies, or you can get some that it's hard to move five yards. So the discrepancy is big. It's going to happen. It's a U.S. Open. You're going to get good breaks and bad breaks.

"Now, you add that to the fact that you have quite a few 500-yard par-4s, and you have a monster of a golf course.

"But I think what's the bigger difference is how firm the greens are. When we play early in the year, usually you can hit anything at the pin. It's going to land and stop wherever it lands. That's why you can get some scoring opportunities, and you've seen some low ones in the past.

"With this firmness, I don't think it's going to happen. You're not going to see that many of those 5-, 6-, 7-under rounds, but you've still got to go play it."

On the aftermath of Memorial

"Well, priority number one amongst all that happened was, obviously, letting the people I had been in contact with the two previous weeks, letting them know, making sure they were all okay, and then trying to get out of there and go home and at least be in a familiar place. Hoping I was going to -- just getting ready for the worst.

"I tried to watch a little bit of Sunday. It was quite a good showdown, a great playoff, you know, how good of golf they played, that golf course is not easy.

"Then after that, just isolated. I was a little bit scared because, even though I was feeling fine, I didn't want to give the virus to anybody in my house. I didn't want to possibly give it to our young son. Yeah, I think the hardest part out of all this was for just over ten days not being able to even spend any time with my little one.

"Adding to that, my parents came into town, couldn't be around them. My mom is fully vaccinated, so I spent a little bit of time. My dad is in the process. I wasn't there when my parents met my son, and I hadn't seen my parents in over a year, almost a year and a half. Those are the hard parts about this virus in life.

"Whatever happens on the golf course was absolutely secondary in my mind. For anybody wondering what was going through my mind, all that was going on because my parents landed Monday, Tuesday they met my son, and I wasn't there. That was truly, truly a hard thing."

"The PCR I got done on Thursday was my first negative. Then I got my results Friday, got the other one on Friday, and Saturday morning I got my second negative. I was like, all right, at least I can go hit some balls and get ready starting a little bit earlier because otherwise today at 7:00 a.m. was my tenth day, and I would have had to have flown in this morning. I would have felt a little bit under-prepared. At least starting Saturday, I can get on a bit of a roll."

On why he didn't get vaccinated

"Well, truth is I was vaccinated. I just wasn't out of that 14-day period. I had started the process, and unfortunately, that's how timing ended up being. Yeah, I was vaccinated. It's just I was still within those 14 days when I started COVID tracing protocol, and I had to stay in it."

On his confidence levels ahead of this week

"Well, when you don't hit a golf shot for just over a week or just about a week, it's tough leading into a Major, especially a US Open. I'm confident I can get in form quick enough. I still have two more days.

"Yeah, I still have the memory of all those great golf shots I played, right? I'm going to choose to remember that. I've been playing really good golf all year. Two weeks ago, it's finally clicking all together like I was waiting for it to happen. Finally everything was firing on all cylinders. Not that I'm expecting to play that perfect again, but I know that I can play at a really high level. So I'm confident, yeah."

On proposing to his now wife at Torrey Pines

"So it wasn't on the course. It was on the Torrey Pines hikes just past the North Course, just going down to the beach. Before we even met, this was Kelley and I's favorite city in the world. We'd always come here, I would say, at least once a month. Just we'd go to the Grand Del Mar. I'm a member there now. We go, we stay there, we have a really good time. We love the city.

She used to come with her parents pretty much one weekend a month. It was their vacation spot. She loves coming to La Jolla, and I love coming here and spending time with Dave Phillips, my instructor, I go to Callaway, and spend time with friends I have around here. It's a nice place to recharge our batteries.

It was only right that I proposed in our special place. Plus I promised her, I promised her it would be the most unexpected time for us to propose. She expected it a bunch of other times through her life, and I was like I'm going to do it when we're in sweat pants, okay? Don't expect this whole movie speech and me being in a tux and all that. I was able to do it in a really pretty spot, and it turned out with great pictures and being us.

That's who we are. Being in athletic clothes at home, relaxing, going on walks, hikes, whatever it is, and it turned out perfect. I'm pretty sure she is happy I did it the way I did."

READ MORE: Four angles at the US Open: Numbers and trends ahead of the third Major Championship of the year

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