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Eminem on the putting green? The songs that fired Jon Rahm to Irish Open success

 

By Liam Kelly

Jon Rahm, the new rising star in world golf, will fuel his challenge for the Open title at Royal Birkdale with a potent blend of opposites - the angst in Eminem's rap songs and mindful meditation.

Rahm, 22, revealed his pre-round routine yesterday, and at a stroke did wonders for the sales potential of the American rap star's music and the popularity of Buddhist-style mindfulness among golfers worldwide.

The recently crowned Dubai Duty Free Irish Open champion exudes a powerful, electric energy and enthusiasm for life and for his chosen profession just over a year after becoming a Tour golfer.

The Spaniard, who graduated from Arizona State University last year with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, is a thoroughly modern young man.

Rap might have been expected to feature on his playlist, but the taming of an often mercurial temperament is an ongoing process which began in 2014 with the help of a mind coach - Joseba del Carmen - who led him into more gentle areas.

"I listen to a lot of Eminem, and he has a lot of songs that can be very inspirational. To pick one, it's a little hard. Especially with the language that is spoken in those songs, I don't really want to say anything bad on TV or anything," said Rahm.

"But song-wise, there's two of them that I like to listen to before every round - 'Not Afraid' and 'Til I Collapse'.

"They're very motivational. Most of them are about not giving up and fighting your way through. And in my case it gets me to the mental state that I need to be in to play golf.

"I go and practice putting first, for the first 10 minutes I have the earphones on just because it relaxes me.

"I get a little bit in the zone, I don't think too much of the golf game, and then I hit some putts and get the ball rolling.

"Then I do it 10, 15 minutes before I go to the tee box. The same reason, to get in the zone and not get too many technical thoughts."

The mental coach, Del Carmen, brought the mindfulness into the package of work that Rahm felt worked really well for his week in Portstewart.

"There's a lot of things that have been going on, but I've been working a lot on mindfulness, which is being aware of the moment and trying to focus on right now," he said.

"I started a couple of new exercises for the Sunday of the Irish Open, and they worked extremely well. I surprised myself. It shows that whatever we're doing is working, so hopefully I can keep it up."

Clearly, Rahm's state of mind is very positive this week, and no wonder.

He turned pro after playing the US Open at Oakmont as an amateur in June last year.

A win in the Farmer's Insurance Open last January, third place in the WGC-Mexico Championship, runner-up in the WGC-Dell Match Play and his first European Tour win in the Irish Open are the highlights so far of an amazing 13 months in the paid ranks.

A former World No.1 amateur, his talent has long been recognised as prodigious and though Rahm is playing in only his fourth Major, he is rated among the favourites.

"First of all, to me, it still takes a little bit of an adjusting period," he said. "This is my fourth Major that I've ever played, and each one's been a very different feeling.

"At Oakmont, I was an amateur and finished in the top 20.

"At the Open last year at Troon, I was a pro for the first time but my game wasn't there yet.

"And this year, at the Masters I started great and I was already up in the rankings. And after a win in Northern Ireland and being top 10 in the world, it certainly is a different experience, which I'm enjoying a lot.

"It feels great to actually have the people support and help me. I like to put that in a positive place.

"I know why there's some confidence in me from people who think I'm going to play well this week. And I like to think if they have the faith in me, I should have faith in myself that I'm going to do it properly. So I try to feed positively off of that."

The Basque's manager is Tim Mickelson, brother of Phil, and that could prove interesting if he and Phil get into contention and are paired together, as Tim is now the caddie for his brother.

Tim was Rahm's college coach and mentor and their relationship has flourished through the years at Arizona State.

"We're great friends. Whenever I have a problem or anything I need, he's always there for me. He does an incredible job. And then if anything personal comes up, he's always been really helpful," said Rahm.

Inevitably, the arrival of such a talent from Spain brings comparisons with the late, great Seve Ballesteros.

Rahm never got to see Seve play, but is a huge fan and has delved into every video he could access to view Ballesteros' genius in action.

For him, there was only ever one Seve, and that's the way it will remain.

"To whoever compares me to him, I'm never going to be Seve," he said. "Seve was so unique, so special. To be honest, if we ever see someone like him again it is going to be someone very, very special.

"He's a great idol of mine and I try to emulate a lot of things he used to do, and a lot of that is the inspirational power he had. If I could do a quarter of whatever he did, I'd probably be satisfied with my career."

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