Mexico Open at Vidanta: Underperforming Jon Rahm hoping to find a spark

The Spaniard is the star name in this week’s field and loves playing on Mexican soil but the stats suggest there are problems in his game that need to be solved.

When Jon Rahm came in to speak to the press at this week's Mexico Open at Vidanta, something jarred straight away.

Introductions from interviewers are meant to be platitudes just to get the ball rolling but this one unintentionally shone a light.

"Jon, you're making your 11th start of the season, first since the Masters. Four top 10 finishes so far."

And there it was. "Four top 10s". If it sounds underwhelming, that's because for a player of his stature it is.

In 2021 when Rahm was making his way to World No.1, the Spaniard had reeled off seven top 10s from his opening nine starts.

This time he has just four from 10. Four top 10s is the same number as Keith Mitchell, Cameron Tringale, Keegan Bradley, Adam Hadwin and Kevin Kisner.

So what has changed?

Comparing Rahm's stats from last year to this

Rahm's numbers last season were superb as the following list shows.

Strokes Gained: Off The Tee - 2nd

Strokes Gained: Approach - 8th

Strokes Gained: Around The Green - 42nd

Strokes Gained: Tee To Green - 1st

Strokes Gained: Putting - 42nd

Strokes Gained: Total - 1st

So far from his 10 starts in 2021/22 there are some glaring differences.

Jon Rahm at Sawgrass

Strokes Gained: Off The Tee - 1st

Strokes Gained: Approach - 12th

Strokes Gained: Around The Green - 173rd

Strokes Gained: Tee To Green - 2nd

Strokes Gained: Putting - 132nd

Strokes Gained: Total - 6th

While he's driving the ball better than ever and hitting his irons to an elite level, Rahm's short game has taken a serious nosedive: 173rd Around the Green and 132nd in Putting are drops of 131 and 90 places respectively.

In addition, he's near the very bottom of the Sand Saves stats: 196th to last season's 37th.

His alarming Around The Green stats help explain why he suffered the joint-worst Masters finish of his career earlier this month: tied 27th after a run of four straight top 10s.

SG: Around The Green is a hugely important stat at Augusta National, as highlighted by winner Scottie Scheffler and runner-up Rory McIlroy, who were ranked 2nd and 1st.

Rahm lost strokes to the field in that department and it clearly hampered him.

Not only that, his tetchiness in interviews has been all too apparent.

Asked to sum up his opening 74 at the Masters, Rahm snapped: "Most hated question on the planet - not happy.

"Played great golf, got four mud balls. What am I going to do about that? That's what it is. It's bad luck, and that's what p*sses me off. That's all I can say."

It's February since the 27-year-old last had a top 10 in a strokeplay event so will that change at this week's event in Mexico?

Rahm is the hot favourite to see off a modest bunch of rivals but with no win since his US Open victory last June, many punters are happy to put their money elsewhere.

Ahead of his first start since The Masters, this is what Rahm said in Tuesday's press conference.

On the state of his game

"It was a good start to the year, the first few events of the year (2nd Sentry Tournament of Champions, 3rd Farmers Insurance Open). I would say I could say numbers-wise it hasn't been my best, but, you know, I've been practising hard, feeling confident.

"It's just golf. Sometimes you're feeling good if things happen. Actually, golf is life; sometimes you just don't get the results you want. I keep putting in the work so very positive about the future. I'm happy with the state of my game's at right now."

Jon Rahm at the 17th Sawgrass

On playing in Mexico

"You know, I've been pretty much all around the world, been to a lot of places and I always say the same thing, the Mexican hospitality's hard to match and I think that's one of the things that just keeps me coming back.

"You get treated so well, it's a very enjoyable experience whether you play good or bad. That's happened so far all three events I've played in Mexico. On top of great golf courses and good crowds, right, the main thing is hospitality's amazing."

On this week's course

(Asked whether he's played it) "I have not. So far what I've heard the last few days is it's in incredible condition, so that's always a good thing. And I'm expecting a resort type of golf course, but I'm saying there's some long holes out there, which is not characteristic of resort golf, and it's a quality design.

"So I'm looking forward to it. I really don't know much about it. I haven't been able to speak to Carlos or the Ortiz family at all. I have to basically go by what players have told me the last few days and everybody says it's in great shape."

Rahm's past starts in Mexico

Rahm has a pair of top three finishes in the WGC-Mexico Championship at Chapultepec.

He recorded his first in 2017 and added his second in 2020 when firing a stunning 61 in round two.

Rahm also has a 10th in the Mayakoba at El Camaleon where he had his first PGA Tour start as an amateur in 2014.

READ MORE: Mexico Open at Vidanta: A new event on the PGA Tour but one with a strong heritage

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