Rozner: Emotional Rahm doing just fine, thank you

  • Jon Rahm, with caddie Adam Hayes, gets in some work Tuesday at the BMW Championship at Medinah Country Club.

    Jon Rahm, with caddie Adam Hayes, gets in some work Tuesday at the BMW Championship at Medinah Country Club. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Jon Rahm talks with his team on the range Tuesday at Medinah.

    Jon Rahm talks with his team on the range Tuesday at Medinah. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/13/2019 7:30 PM

It doesn't have to be true.

It just has to be the narrative, because narrative in the current version of our world has become reality.

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And the story that dominates Jon Rahm is that he won't become a truly great player until he learns to control his temper on the golf course.

Never mind that the 24-year-old Spaniard is the fifth-ranked player in the world, or that he's won eight professional tournaments -- including the Irish Open twice -- or that in his last eight majors he has four top 11s -- including three in the top four -- or that he was the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world for a record 60 weeks.

And, oh yeah, he took down Tiger Woods in Sunday singles at the Ryder Cup a year ago.

So sometimes he gets mad at himself on the golf course. Show me a golfer who doesn't at any level of the game. What's remarkable is ships can sail and boats can float despite the number of clubs thrown in the planet's waterways.

Woods gets mad, but he's a 15-time major winner and the greatest player of all time, so it's fine.

Patrick Reed breaks a club over his knee, but he's a bulldog and a Masters champ.

Jordan Spieth snaps and yells at his caddie, but he's a competitor who's won three majors.

Zack Johnson has a temper, but he's a two-time major champ.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But Rahm gets angry after a bad shot and he's immediately denounced by broadcasters and writers. They say he's immature. Yet, when he makes a birdie he's really starting to grow up.

It's absurd.

"It's reoccurring and it's funny to me because golf is the only sport where people complain about a player having emotion. In every other sport it's a good thing," Rahm told me Tuesday afternoon after prepping for the BMW Championship at Medinah. "At the same time, people complain when a winner is not displaying enough emotion.

"Pick a side.

"You can always see how I feel and pretty much what's going through my mind when I'm playing golf. For a lot of people, that's entertaining.

"That's how I am. In real life, if I'm happy I'm going to be happy. And if I'm upset, you're going to see I'm upset.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's just how I am and I'm never going to change who I am."

He has, however, tried to curb certain physical aspects, knowing there are some things he shouldn't do.

"More than if it affects you or not, it's how it's displayed. I do agree that sometimes I might have done things that weren't up to PGA Tour standards," Rahm said. "I agree and I regret a lot of those things. It's been slowly getting better.

"But, again, we're human. We all make mistakes."

Still, the contradiction is apparent even to Rahm, who hasn't been in this country long enough to understand true American irony.

"The funny thing is how they don't want us to get mad or upset, but they want us to be extremely emotional when we win. That just doesn't exist," Rahm said. "Tiger had some of the best celebrations, but he also got mad.

"Then, you have people who don't display anything when they get mad, but it also doesn't seem to change much when they win.

"I like to say I'm more on the Tiger side of things."

But conventional wisdom is like concrete. Once it hardens, good luck busting it up without a jackhammer or an earthquake.

Or a major championship.

Yeah, see that's the difference. If you've won a major, you're fiery and tough and your desire to win is coming through.

Spare me.

Rahm was in the lead at Liberty National late Sunday afternoon when a pair of awful breaks and one bad shot cost him the tournament.

Was he angry? Yes. Did he lose a lead because he got mad? Or did he get mad because he lost a lead? The hope here is that you're not seriously asking those questions.

Athletes get mad. They don't like losing. They don't like making mistakes.

It's just more obvious in golf because the cameras are hot and there are no teammates.

Of course, being near the lead so often means more camera time. There are plenty of guys snapping, but you don't see it because they don't get TV time.

As long as a player can move on to the next shot, which Rahm says he does, then who cares?

The experts are all still talking about The Players Championship this year when he held the 54-hole lead and made a poor club selection on Sunday, finding the water from a fairway bunker instead of laying up.

Rahm cursed at himself and lightly kicked the grass. Of course, it was all on camera and the media hammered him for letting his anger decide the shot.

Such nonsense.

He made a bad decision. Then, he got mad at the result. Sounds eerily like golf. But his anger came after the shot. Emotion didn't cause a bad decision.

Believe it or not, he's not the first pro ever to try a hero shot that cost him a tournament. It only seemed that way from the coverage.

He will learn from that to trust his veteran caddie, Adam Hayes, to throttle down at the appropriate moments and make the smart play. As for handling a bad shot, all the players named above still curse and fire clubs after an errant play.

That's sports. You get mad when you don't perform. At least, most great players do, the ones who care, anyway.

But the judges say Rahm needs to grow up, the ones who don't know -- or have forgotten -- that Rahm arrived at Arizona State at 17 years old without knowing a word of English, attending classes freshman year and playing golf with teammates while unable to understand a word anyone was saying to him.

Six years later and only 18 months after turning pro he was the No. 2 player in the world.

How's that for growing up?

Rahm is more mature than people will ever know, and if desire to win causes him to get upset with a bad shot, that sounds like a decent formula.

It's worked pretty well for that Tiger Woods guy.

And as soon as he wins the big one, that's when the headline writers will embrace him with, "Fiery Jon Rahm wins his first major."

So much for narratives.

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