Waste Management Phoenix Open: Jon Rahm looking to emulate Phil Mickelson in Arizona

The Spaniard will be hoping to replicate the left-hander’s feats in Phoenix this week as he seeks a first victory at TPC Scottsdale.

Jon Rahm is already one of the most popular golfers on the planet but the roars will be even louder for the World No.1 at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona this week.

Rahm enjoyed a stellar career at nearby Arizona State University, winning 11 college golf tournaments to rank second in the school's history.

He first played this week's Waste Management Phoenix Open as an amateur during his junior year at ASU and immediately marked himself down as a star of the future by finishing in a tie for fifth.

That was in 2015 and Rahm has never finished outside the top 16 in five subsequent appearances.

But while that's impressively consistent, results of 16th, 11th, 10th, 9th and 13th from 2017 to 2021 have left Rahm far from sated.

He wants the win and the adoration afforded to perhaps the most famous ASU grad of all.

The man who banked more titles at ASU than anyone else was none other than Phil Mickelson, the left-hander collecting 16 wins to Rahm's 11.

Not only that, the six-time Major champ has emerged as the hero in this event three times, Mickelson hoisting the silverware in 1996, 2005 and 2013.

No doubt, Phil will have repeatedly reminded Rahm that he's a triple winner in Phoenix. But this time the Spaniard has an obvious riposte to the trash talk as he'll tee it up as the current US Open champion.

That, of course, is the one Major to elude Mickelson, his string of near misses resulting in six second places.

But the banter is good-natured between the two Sun Devils. After all, it was Mickelson's brother, Tim, who offered Rahm a full scholarship to ASU. It's a friendship that runs deep.

Arizona resident Rahm is the hot favourite with the bookies to win this week so can he justify favouritism and send the locals into a frenzy?

Planet Sport looks at what he said in Wednesday's press conference and how he's performing this season…

Rahm on playing this event again

"It's always a week I look forward to. Spent a lot of my time in Arizona, being an ASU graduate, that I have a lot of support this week. It's a home week. It's a special event, right?

"It's one of those where luckily, you know, I'm in my home court, so I get a lot of support. It's one of those we look forward to every year. Can have a lot of fun on this golf course. It can be difficult, but moments on 16, 17, 18, and some of the holes are now creeping up and being bigger than they used to be are a lot of fun.

"Looking forward to the week, and hopefully I add a first place this week."

Rahm on the state of his game

"You know, I'm comfortable. I think one of the best decisions I have made in my life was taking those two-and-a-half months off at the end of the year.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it's something I do more often, because with how hectic our year can be, how much effort we put into this, to have some time to just be home and enjoy the time off is great. This is probably one of the reasons why I have started playing so good.

"Even though my game didn't feel at its best, I feel like I'm refreshed enough and we can call it, say, competitive stamina. It's high enough to where I can actually pull it through and finish strong.

"Shoot 33-under (Sentry Tournament of Champions) on a golf course where in the past I struggled putting at. Clearly I didn't struggle putting. Finished in second at Torrey (Farmers Insurance) when I definitely didn't have my best ball-striking week, which is supposed to be a ball striker's course.

"So, yeah, I'm playing good golf and hopefully starting this week things start clicking a little bit better. Hopefully I end up on top this week."

Rahm on comparing TPC Scottsdale to other Arizona courses he plays

"Most courses won't be able to achieve the firmness that this golf course can achieve, especially with the weather we have had. These greens are firm and firmer than usual.

"You're used to playing desert golf, and I think the altitude, just living here, I'm used to how far the ball goes, which can be a challenge for some people, but, you know, it's hard to get used to how firm and fast the greens are, right?

"I play in Silverleaf a lot. The greens are just as fast but they're definitely not as firm. That's something you can only accomplish here.

"Plus each course is a little bit different, right? Everybody says it tends to break towards the Valley, but each green is a little bit different. Some things you learn only by playing a golf course enough times. One of the reasons I have done well is because I feel like I have a bit of the home field advantage."

Rahm's form in 2022

Rahm has played three times on the PGA Tour this season.

He finished runner-up at the Farmers Insurance Open, tied 14th in The American Express and tied third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Across those three events he was a combined 61-under! That included a first-round 66 in all of them.

Rahm's stats in 2022

The sample size is small (11 rounds) but some patterns are starting to emerge in his season-long numbers:

Jon Rahm at the 2021 US Open

Strokes Gained: Off The Tee - 2nd

Strokes Gained: Approach - 8th

Strokes Gained: Around The Green - 163rd

Strokes Gained: Putting - 22nd

Strokes Gained: Tee To Green - 5th

READ MORE: Waste Management Phoenix Open: Leading contenders and angles at raucous TPC Scottsdale

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