‘I am here because of that’ – Seve Ballesteros’ 1997 Ryder Cup heroics set Jon Rahm on path to golfing greatness

Jon Rahm has admitted Seve Ballesteros’ heroics during the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama led to him taking up golf.

It proved to be a wise decision, as Rahm has gone on to become a major winner, world No. 1 and last weekend won his home Open de Espana for a third time – taking him level with Ballesteros.

While golf has been a key sport in Spain for many years, it was the exploits of Ballesteros through the 1970s, 80s and 90s that inspired a generation to take up the game.

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Rahm had a flirtation with golf prior to the 1997 Ryder Cup, but Europe’s exploits in winning in epic fashion 14.5-13.5 under the captaincy of Ballesteros lit the fire.

The 27-year-old’s focus turned to golf and after improving rapidly through his teenage years, Rahm went to college in America where he sharpened his game before turning pro and enjoying huge success.

Rahm has admitted he was not really aware of Ballesteros prior to the 1997 Ryder Cup, but admitted it was the five-time major winner who inspired him.

“He wasn’t really somebody I thought about that much until I got better at golf,” Rahm said. “I wasn’t very good at golf until I was 13, 14.

“When I started getting better I learned a lot about him and what he did.

“I have spoken many times about that 1997 Ryder Cup, and Seve making that happen in that week.

“Some friends of my dad convinced me to start playing golf, otherwise who knows what I would be. I am here because of that alone.”

Ballesteros was a mentor to Jose Maria Olazabal, and also a pivotal figure in the career of Sergio Garcia.

Rahm praised his fellow Spaniards, and dedicated his third Open de Espana win to them.

“The path he created for all of us,” Rahm said. “Not only him, but Ollie and Sergio.

“Sergio has been instrumental and carried the torch for many years.

“It is not only for me, it is for them. And hopefully for many to come.”

Rahm’s win at Club de Campo in Madrid lifted him to No. 5 in the world rankings and sets him up for a shot at beating Rory McIlroy at the DP World Tour’s season-ending World Championship at Jumeirah Estates in the middle of November.

The Spaniard climbed eight spots to 10th but has work to do to overhaul McIlroy.

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