Jon Rahm-Rodriguez has never been bashful about setting lofty expectations for himself. In February 2015, as a junior at Arizona State University, he challenged for the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open title. Highlighted by a 5-under-par 66 in the third round, Rahm, of Spain, finished in a tie for fifth at 12-under 272, three strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka.
A few months earlier in Japan, Rahm, who turned 21 on Nov. 10, broke a 54-year-old record held by Jack Nicklaus when he shot 23-under 263 in the World Amateur Team Championship to better the mark by six strokes.
Rahm, who won four college events last season, including the NCAA San Diego Regional, and posted the third-best single-season stroke average in NCAA history (69.15), also claimed the 2015 Ben Hogan Award, which recognizes the best male college amateur golfer in the U.S.
All of these accomplishments helped Rahm, a quarterfinalist in the 2015 U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club, earn the Mark H. McCormack Medal in late August for being No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR). Winning the McCormack Medal also landed Rahm exemptions into the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club and The Open Championship, conducted by The R&A, at Royal Troon in Scotland, provided he remains an amateur.
Rahm, who will receive his McCormack Medal at halftime of an upcoming Arizona State men’s basketball game, was asked to list his top five goals for 2016:
1. Graduate from Arizona State. Amid speculation Rahm would turn professional last spring, Arizona State coach Tim Mickelson reiterated that one of Rahm’s main goals when he enrolled was to graduate. If all goes according to plan, Rahm will receive his degree in May. “I made a commitment to my dad when I left for ASU that I would graduate,” said Rahm. “And I’m going to honor that commitment this spring.”
2. Win a second Ben Hogan Award. Since the award’s inception in 1990, no golfer has won it twice, but Rahm is off to a strong start in his pursuit. Despite briefly losing his No. 1 spot in the WAGR to 2015 USA Walker Cup competitor Maverick McNealy, Rahm regained the top spot with his victory in the Tavistock Invitational in Windermere, Fla. He also has three other top-10 finishes in the 2015-16 collegiate season, including a tie for second in the Alister Mackenzie Invitational, and he tied for 10th in the PGA Tour’s OHL Mayakoba Classic in Mexico that concluded on Nov. 16. “It would mean I had another great year,” said Rahm.
3. Win the NCAA individual championship. Despite an outstanding junior campaign, Rahm posted a disappointing tie for 22nd in last year’s NCAA Championship at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. With the NCAA Championship on the West Coast in 2016 at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club, Rahm hopes to join fellow Sun Devils Phil Mickelson, Jim Carter and Alejandro Canizares as an individual champion. Should it happen, Rahm would become the seventh foreign-born player and second from Spain (Canizares) to win the title. “I only have one more chance at winning an NCAA championship for ASU and I really want to bring either an individual or team championship to Tempe,” said Rahm. “It would be a great way to say thank you to ASU for what they’ve provided me.”
4. Win a 10th college tournament. Currently, Rahm owns eight individual victories and is tied with five-time PGA Tour winner and 1986 U.S. Amateur champion Billy Mayfair for the second-most among Sun Devils. Rahm won’t catch all-time leader Phil Mickelson’s 17, but he would reach double digits and solidify himself as the second-most decorated player in ASU history with a couple more victories. He’ll have several chances in the spring to accomplish that goal.
5. Win the 2016 U.S. Open. It has been 83 years since an amateur last won the U.S. Open, with John Goodman edging Ralph Guldahl by one stroke at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Ill. Since then, amateurs have challenged for the second-oldest major championship, including Jack Nicklaus’ runner-up effort in 1960. Marty Fleckman, who faded in the final round in 1967, and Jim Simons (1981), each held the 54-hole lead, and Paul Dunne shared the 54-hole lead in last year’s Open Championship at St. Andrews, only to struggle in the final round. “I try to win every tournament, so there’s no reason this should be any different,” said Rahm. That might seem a bold statement from a collegian, but Tim Mickelson was once quoted as saying that Rahm just doesn’t want to be the best college player, he wants to be the No. 1 player in the world.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.