AFP/ Augusta, United States
New father Jon Rahm arrived yesterday at Augusta National on the eve of the 85th Masters, hoping an improved mindset could offset his late arrival and help deliver a first major victory. The world number three from Spain was with wife Kelley as she gave birth to baby boy Kepa on Saturday morning.
He made sure both were well before leaving for his first look at the famed course since last November. “It was really hard to leave,” Rahm said.
“For the first few days it was even hard to leave her room if she was doing something with him. All these instincts that come on. I had never changed a diaper in my life, apparently never really held a baby in my life, and as soon as it was my turn, somehow I knew what to do.”
He’s hoping for a similar revelation this week at Augusta, where he played a practice round on a firm and fast layout unlike the rain-softened setup of five months earlier. “The course hasn’t changed,” Rahm said. “Luckily I’ve played here before and I always have a good vibe when I come here. Kind of hoping the late arrival just plays in our favor somehow.”
Rahm, 26, has had three consecutive top-10 Masters finishes, his best a fourth place in 2018, and has been at par or better in his past 11 rounds at Augusta National. He also has been in the top 10 in seven of his past nine US PGA starts. “My concern is that I’m coming to a Masters and from Thursday to Monday didn’t sleep much, didn’t hit a single golf shot,” Rahm said. “Maybe haven’t prepared as much as I have in the past, but definitely mentally in a different state. A lot of times practising for a major you spend so much time thinking about golf, and for four or five days, it wasn’t even on my mind, which is kind of refreshing. Coming here later than usual, but I’m here ready to compete. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
Playing as a new dad is a challenge that Rory McIlroy, one of his playing partners for the first two rounds, knows well. He and wife Erica welcomed baby daughter Poppy last August. “My first round as a dad, I shot 64, so he’s got that to live up to,” McIlroy said.
“He has probably just had the greatest few days of his life. It’s such a cool feeling. If you can keep that mindset, being here and being relaxed, maybe having your mind not fully on Augusta and the Masters and the green jacket is not a bad thing.”
Rahm, 12th-ranked McIlroy and sixth-ranked American Xander Schauffele tee off together today morning and in tomorrow’s penultimate group. It’ll be sleeping in for Rahm. “Stay up all night and change diapers. That’s basically all I can do, try to get the baby to sleep,” Rahm said. “I learned pretty quickly, she’s the one that has obviously all the power over the baby. My job was taking care of Kelley.”
Rahm said he looked forward to playing on a firm, fast Masters course and little practice was not a worry. “I’m not concerned. I went through a major life experience,” he said. “If anything I’m just happier. I’m thankful to be here. Definitely a different mental state, but I would say it’s a better mental state. I’m happy she’s healthy. I’m happy he is healthy and I’m really happy I can be here rested and ready to compete.”
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