Jon Rahm finds expectations rising with great play at young age

Jon Rahm earned a PGA Tour card after just four tournaments. He won in his 11th start with an eagle on the final hole at Torrey Pines. He already has 10 victories worldwide. He’s only 25.

Jon Rahm, of Spain, hits from the first tee during practice for the PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco on Tuesday.   -  AP

Even though his reign at No. 1 lasted all of two weeks, Jon Rahm can be considered in some circles as among the best players to have never won a major. Never mind that he’s only 25 and didn’t turn pro until four years ago.

Golf is getting younger.

Rahm understands why there might be certain expectations on him. After all, he earned a PGA Tour card after just four tournaments. He won in his 11th start with an eagle on the final hole at Torrey Pines. He already has 10 victories worldwide.

"My third major, the Masters, I was already one of the favorites to win because I played good golf,” Rahm said. “So I never really had that adjustment period, and maybe I didn’t manage it as best I could have.”

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"I didn’t play my best golf, top 25, so I was like, ‘Well, if I play good I’m going to be able to win,’” he said on Tuesday. “You get a reality check that major championship golf is not just playing good. It’s more a mental test than anything else. I’ve been having some good showings and somewhat close calls, but I’m ready to have a better chance on a Sunday.”

"When I first started until now, especially when you have a chance to win a major and know that you can, it does make the expectation or level of play a lot higher, sets the bar higher,” he said Tuesday through an interpreter. “I haven’t really been playing well as of late, but hopefully this week I can turn it around and contend again.”

THE SEARCH FOR NO. 2

Justin Thomas has reason to feel fortunate. He won the PGA Championship in 2017 at Quail Hollow for his first major at age 24. He got it out of the way early, unlike his friend Rickie Fowler, who is still searching for his first one.

Thomas doesn’t see it that way.

Yes, he has a major. He’s just bothered that he doesn’t have more at this point. His victory last week in the World Golf Championship was the 13th of his young career.

Thomas considers himself an underachiever at age 27.

"I don’t want to say anybody can win one, but it’s definitely harder to win two than it is one,” he said. “It seems like to get to that other level, and to be getting up into the double digits in majors for a career, you need to get going a little bit. ... And when you’re stuck on one, it’s pretty hard to get there because you’ve got to get to two.”

Double digits in majors is asking a lot. Jack Nicklaus (18), Tiger Woods (15) and Walter Hagen (11) are the only players to do that. But he came to one conclusion everyone appreciate.

"It’s hard to win golf tournaments. It’s really hard to win majors,” he said. “No matter if you have won them or haven’t, it’s still tough.”

PGA AWARDS

A shorter PGA Tour season because of the pandemic has led the PGA of America to modify its two major awards for tour players.

The Vardon Trophy, which dates to 1937 and is given to the PGA Tour player with the lowest adjust scoring average, required a play to complete at least 60 rounds. That number has been reduced to 44 this year because the tour went three months without playing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still in place are players becoming ineligible if they withdraw in the middle of a round.

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The PGA Player of the Year Award, first presented in 1948, is based on points for winning tournaments, position on the money list and scoring average. This year it will only have one major count toward the award because the U.S. Open and Masters are in the fall and the British Open was canceled. Majors count for 20 points. Regular PGA Tour events are worth 10 points.