(Reuters) – For all his success, Jon Rahm has yet to successfully defend a title on the PGA Tour but the Spaniard can change that at this week’s Mexico Open where he will be a red-hot favourite in his second start since winning the Masters.
World number one Rahm has already won four times on the PGA Tour this season and a win at Vidanta Vallarta this week would make him the first player to win five times in a season since Justin Thomas accomplished the feat in 2017.
“Obviously I would love for this to be something I’m doing in Spain right now this close to the Masters, but this is the next closest thing,” Rahm told reporters on Wednesday.
“The Mexican crowd, the Mexican people have all accepted me not as one of their own but like you just mentioned as an Hispanic playing golf as the champion at the Masters, they’ve taken me in very, very well.”
Rahm has made six prior starts as the defending champion on the PGA Tour and his best result in those title defences came at La Quinta in 2019 when he finished in sixth place.
At last year’s Mexico Open, Rahm pulled out of a four-way tie during the final round with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole and held on for a one-shot victory over Tony Finau, Brandon Wu and Kurt Kitayama.
“To be able to come here and go wire to wire, take the lead on Thursday and never give it up and never really be trailing from that point on was big,” said Rahm.
“To get it done in any Spanish-speaking country makes it a lot more special, there’s always a little bit of extra pressure, extra motivation for me to want to win.”
In 11 PGA Tour events this season, Rahm has four wins, seven top-10 finishes and zero missed cuts.
Rahm has not had much downtime since the Masters as he teed it up the following week at Hilton Head Island in South Carolina where he finished in a share of 15th place but feels good about the state of his game nonetheless.
“Playing Hilton Head helped getting in a competitive mode right afterwards. I think in a weird sense it did help, so I’m glad I went. It was a lot of fun, played good golf,” said Rahm.
“Feeling good with the game where it’s at right now.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)