By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer
PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Jon Rahm watched video of the last PGA Championship at Oak Hill, which would not seem to be of much value considering the restoration work on the East Course, the rain-soaked week in 2013 and the fact that it was in August.
Rahm picked up a few details that could serve him or anyone well, particularly the discipline Jason Dufner showed when he got in trouble off the tee and how he relied on his wedge game.
More than a student of the game, the 28-year-old Spaniard is simply a golf nerd who recently described himself as “beyond addicted to the game.”
“I do it pretty much for every major,” Rahm said Tuesday of his film study. “I just like it. Even if it’s not major season, I’m doing it at home. I’ve seen on social media about every Sunday round you can find about Augusta and most majors. It’s not research. I just like it. It’s just fun.”
So is winning, and Rahm is having the time of his life.
The Masters was his fourth victory of the year, and he is among the leading favorites in the PGA Championship at an Oak Hill course that would seem suited to his game – bullish strength, clean contact, great wedge play. Rahm is bold.
He is not interested in a Grand Slam. As the Masters champion, he is the only one with a chance at the feat never accomplished since the Masters began in 1934. He is not interested in the career Grand Slam – he is halfway there with the Masters and his U.S. Open title from Torrey Pines.
Rahm cares about all majors, running the tally as high as he can.
“Winning two majors is not easy, and picking which ones you win is a little ludicrous to think about,” Rahm said. “Without sounding too conceited or arrogant, I’d rather focus on the number of majors you win than having the Grand Slam. Obviously, it would be amazing. But the more you put yourself in the position to be able to win majors, the more likely you might get it done.
“But it’s a very small number of players to do it, the last one being Tiger,” he said. “It’s obviously not an easy thing to accomplish.”
No need to tell that to Jordan Spieth – particularly this week – much less Rory McIlroy or Phil Mickelson. They are one leg away from being the first since Tiger Woods (2000) and the sixth overall to win all four majors.
McIlroy lost another chance at the Masters when he missed the cut. Mickelson is a six-time silver medalist at the U.S. Open, the only major he hasn’t won.
Spieth needs the Wanamaker Trophy, and he finally got to the course on Tuesday with his left wrist wrapped and a piece of kinesiology tape running down to his elbow. The concern is how to handle the rough, and there is plenty of that.
The concern about Oak Hill in May was the weather and how quickly the grass would come in. That no longer is a problem.
“You’ve got to hit it far and you’ve got to hit it straight,” Tony Finau said. “This golf course is going to start from the tee box. If you’re not hitting enough fairways, you’re not going to be able to play this place. The rough is long enough to where you’re not going to be able to advance the ball to the greens.”
During his practice round, even when he did find the short grass, Finau found himself reaching for mid-irons – that’s usually for par-5s as far as he pounds it.
“It’s all you can handle, but that’s what you want in a major championship,” he said.
So pristine is Oak Hill that members have not played on the course this year – the golf season doesn’t start all that early in western New York, anyway. But the condition is supreme, and the test has some players comparing it to a U.S. Open. That makes sense, since Oak Hill has hosted three Opens, most recently in 1989.
Asked what Oak Hill would test the most this week, McIlroy replied, “Discipline.”
McIlroy was short with a lot of his answers, whether it was related to LIV Golf or how to best prepare for a major. He felt his game was in the best shape possible when he went to Augusta National, only to have a short week.
Rahm hasn’t had too many bad spells. One reason he and Scottie Scheffler have separated themselves in recent months is their consistently good play. Scheffler, who won The Players Championship and the Phoenix Open, hasn’t finished worse than 12th this year.
“I’m confident. I feel good,” Rahm said. “It’s been an amazing year. I’m just hoping to keep adding more to it. It’s been a lot of fun, and hopefully I can keep riding that wave.”