Jon Rahm describes himself as someone who has “golf on my mind 24/7.” And the golf-on-my-mind-24/7er needed to take both those numbers down.
It was the middle of last October, and after a missed cut at the Andalucia Masters in his native Spain, which had followed the Ryder Cup, and 21 tournaments in 2021, and his first major championship, not to mention the birth of his first child, and two positive Covid tests, Rahm said “this is the first time in my life that I don’t want to see a golf club.”
“More than my body, it is my mind that can’t take it,” he said at the time. “… If we add it all up, I need to rest.”
And rest, at least from tournament golf, he did. But notice, at least from Sunday’s finish, you probably did not. When he returned last week at the Tournament of Champions, Rahm hadn’t seen a leaderboard in two-plus months. But there he was, right near the top, as if he had never left.
On Thursday, Rahm shot a seven-under 66 (and hit his first shot back down the fairway). On Friday, another 66. On Saturday, he shot a 12-under 61, a course record on the Plantation Course at Kapalua. On Sunday, he shot his third 66 and finished second, a stroke behind Cameron Smith, who he had played with, in the final pairing, over the entire weekend. Surprising? Maybe a little. But while golf lends itself to repetition, over and over and over, Rahm said he also found benefits in stopping.
After his final round, he was part of the following exchange with reporters:
Question: Curious, when you were during your time off, when you were still working, but not necessarily playing, what’s a workday for you? Six hours, eight hours?
“Depends,” Rahm said.
Question: What do you think it was 40 years ago for someone in your shoes?
“I have no idea,” Rahm said. “I’m usually, I mean I have golf on my mind 24/7. I’m a sunrise-to-sunset type of guy, so I don’t know. I mean, there’s very well weeks where I average 10 hours.”
Question: If you’re not working, you’re falling behind?
“No, I believe …” Rahm said.
Question: Do you think that’s true?
“Not always, no,” Rahm said. “I think there’s a point of detriment when you do too much. I feel like you got to understand and know your body. If you’re recovering properly and you know you can take it on, I think it’s important, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes you need to rest, your mind and body need to rest, and I don’t think you’re getting worse; it’s just taking care of yourself.”
Of course, you don’t need Jon Rahm to explain to you that vacation is a good thing. (No matter the vocation!) Still, when the world No. 1 punches out, then comes back throwing haymakers, it’s a bit of an eye-opener.
Before the TOC, Rahm said he had “needed a break, not only for me but also for my family.”
“We all endured it [the year] together, and I just wanted the time to be a dad and be a husband and just be there for my wife and my son,” he continued. “I’m really glad I did it because since he was born we had help at night and Kelley [his wife] had help, but I wasn’t that help, because I was competing and I had to sleep to be able to compete.
“So as soon as I got back home, I told her, you know, I want to be more involved, obviously I want to help out, and for those two months I really, really, really enjoyed having to wake up a couple times a night and take care of my son. Be able to be there in the morning, give him a bath in the morning, feed him, give him a bath at night, just enjoy the simple things of parenthood and knowing that basically once he starts going to school, I’m pretty much going to miss 50 percent of his life. I really wanted to cherish those moments.
“I know I’m not going to regret any time I decide to spend more time with my family, and that was what that decision was based on, and I couldn’t be happier that I made that decision.”
Rahm was asked how much golf he played over that stretch.
“I took the first two weeks off, completely off of golf,” he said. “I still went to the gym and worked out just because it’s more of a mental thing. Then I slowly just started playing some games with my friend and then practicing. But the first month wasn’t very intense. I was there, wanted to be there with my family.”
And then Rahm was back. A new man.
And same as the old one.