The last image we have of golfer Jon Rahm is lifting the U.S. Open Trophy. He is currently the No. 1 golfer in the world and the betting favorite to take home the Claret Jug and the 2021 British Open at Royal St. Georges. It wasn’t that long ago, however, that his epic temper tantrums dominated his narrative.
In 2017 at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, an ESPN reporter pitched his editor a piece on the famous Rahm temper. The editor was nervous Rahm wouldn’t produce the necessary fireworks to make the article pay off. The writer went ahead with the idea, and Rahm delivered in a big way.
Jon Rahm has a reputation as a “hot head”
Rahm’s path to becoming a U.S. Open Champion and one of the best golfers in the world in 2021 starts in Spain and continues to the fabled Arizona State golf team. In 2016, at the age of 22, Rahm turned pro.
By the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, Rahm was already the No. 10 ranked PGA golfer in the world, according to the Golf Channel. He also already had a reputation as a “fiery” and “emotional” player.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound golfer built a well-known reputation for his hair-trigger temper quickly as a pro. His histrionics often included yelling, cursing, and club throwing. The rap on Rahm is that he had all the talent in the world, but the temper was holding him back.
An ESPN reporter covered an epic temper tantrum at the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills
In 2017, ESPN senior writer Kevin Van Valkenburg pitched a story about Rahm – then a 23-year-old up-and-comer – and his storied temper.
“My editor was like, ‘Well, what if he doesn’t do anything being a hot head?’” Van Valkenburg told Joe House and Nathan Hubbard of the Fairway Rollin’ podcast. “And I was like, ‘Trust me, the U.S. Open is going to break Jon Rahm.”
Sure enough, Van Valkenburg got his story on the 15th hole at Erin Hills:
He hit a bad chip, slammed his club into the ground, kicked the club, then hit it out of the bunker, threw the bunker rake, like shot-gunned his putter towards his bag, then walked up the hill and started PUNCHING the sign on the 16th hole, and then threw his ball like into the woods.
The writer tweeted about the episode, and he says the consensus response from social media was, “’holy s—, Jon Rahm is a lunatic!’”
The most interesting part of the story, however, was Rahm’s response afterward. Instead of being upset with the reporter, he had a thoughtful conversation about his issues. He said he knows it’s a problem and that it’s holding him back.
Rahm is getting better at controlling his temper and won the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines
Rahm told Van Valkenburg after that infamous meltdown that his temper is something, ‘I’ve been working on for years.” Four years later, at the same tournament, Rahm kept his emotions in check and won his first major championship.
When you watch Rahm, the emotion is still there. The big man stalks around the course. He also still occasionally drops a loud f-bomb that TV mics pick up after a lousy shot. You’ll see that intensity on good shots too, though. After sinking a long put during his final round, Rahm gave a Tiger Woods-esque fist pump that fired up the crowd.
Whether it’s fatherhood, the maturity that comes with age, or just the fact that his overwhelming talent is leading to fewer bad shots for him to rail against, Rahm seems to be getting a hold of his temper.
No matter the reason for the transformation, the fact is, Rahm is the best golfer in the world heading into the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. Georges. Even so, the wind and the rain and the rolling hills of The Open have broken many a great golfer in the past.
For better or worse, this makes Jon Rahm must-see TV at the British Open.