Payne Stewart News Conference Transcript- 1999

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 3, 2001, 4:00 pm
PAYNE STEWART:If I did that, I wouldn't be able to speak. All I wanted to do was give myself a chance. And I've got to give thanks to the Lord for giving me the ability to believe in myself. Without that peace that I have in my heart, I wouldn't be sitting here in front of you right now. So along with that I never gave up. I kept playing. I kept plugging. I didn't hit the great shots at certain times and then I did hit great shots, and then I'd hit great putts and poor chips, but I got the job done, and that means a lot to me. I sat here last night and told you all that if I won again that I'm going to enjoy it a lot more, and I will and it will be easier to understand the obligations that come along with being the United States Open Champion. It will be easier to understand that my family comes first and then if I have time for those obligations, I'll take care of them. But having not spoken to my children yet or my mother -- hopefully they watched. I know my mother did. My kids, I don't know.
Q. The last two putts that you made, 16 and 18, tells us about those.
PAYNE STEWART:How about the one on 17? Well, 16 for some reason I felt like I needed to chip that ball in, and I hit a very poor chip, and I shouldn't have thought that way. I should have just -- it felt like I needed to do it. And as it went 25 feet past the hole, I said, you didn't need to do that. So I stood up there and I got my line, and I went through my routine that I've been doing all day long with my putting, and I made my stroke. And I looked up and it's going in the hole and it's another birdie on 16, and off I went. And then 17 I put a real good swing on a 6-iron. And I was telling the local media and everybody else outside that at Hazeltine on the 17th hole the five rounds that I played there, every time I hit a shot, it was right at the pin. And all four of my shots on 17 went right at the pin this week. And when it ended up where it did, I definitely thought Phil was going to make his. After I hit that shot, he makes one of these only bogeys -- how many bogeys did he make today? He didn't make very many, did he? That was it, wasn't it? 16. And once he made bogey, and I stood up there and hit that shot and he followed it up with a great shot. And then he putted first and I expected him to make it and then he didn't and my putt was inside left edge, and I did it again, and I made another one. And then I stood up there and collected myself pretty well on 18 tee and hit a drive. I actually thought that drive was in the fairway. But I got up there, I had no chance to even think about the green, so I took my medicine, and put the ball out there where I at least could give myself a chance to get the ball up-and-down. And that's what I've done this week. When I was in a bad position, I didn't compound the situation by making two mistakes in a row. So once I saw that Phil hit his shot, I didn't feel that I was going to make that one, that was a very difficult putt. And he hit a great putt, and he's such a good putter. And he makes four. And I played my wedge shot in there. I walked up there and I figured out, okay, you want to be underneath the hole putting back up at it. And I would have liked it to have been a little closer, but after watching Phil's putt break hard up there right-to-left, I practiced there before during the practice rounds, I knew my putt is going to go up and was going to go to the right. Even though the mound wanted to influence that, I just knew in my mind that it was going to go to the right a little bit and so I stood up there and I read it. And I said this is an inside left putt, just believe that. And I stood up there and did my routine and kept my head still. I've got to thank my wife for the putting tip that she gave me, which was to keep my head still. She watched me yesterday and she said you're moving your head. So I worked on it a little bit last night and I kept my head still on that putt. And when I looked up, it was about two feet from the hole and it was breaking right in the center and I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that I'd accomplished another dream of mine.
Q. And how long was it?
PAYNE STEWART:Oh, I don't know, 15 feet, probably. That would be my rough guesstimate that it was about 15 feet, probably about five paces up that hill.
Q. I know this is anticlimactic, but we must do this.
PAYNE STEWART:3-wood, 7-iron on 1 to 10 feet, 15 feet and made it for birdie. Driver, 3-iron to the -- bad 3-iron to the right of the green on 2, even a worse chip. And then putted my next one and made about a 5-footer for bogey. 3 iron, 9-iron to, to two feet on 3, birdie. 10 I got away from that bunker today, but then I played a bad shot as my third shot, spun it back and made bogey there, missing about a ten-footer. 12, drove in the rough, took my medicine, chipped out, wedge shot to 15 feet, two putts. 13, 3-wood, 9-iron, 15 feet and made it for birdie. 15, 4-iron, missed the green left, chipped a 7-iron about 8 feet and hit a really good putt there. I thought I made that putt. When I looked up, I couldn't believe it didn't dive in the hole. 16, driver, 2-iron, you saw that, 25-footer. 17, 6-iron to 3 feet. And 18, driver, 9-iron, lob wedge, putt.
Q. Payne, congratulations. When we spoke a couple of weeks ago, you told me that your most cherished victories was the first one you ever had, even in spite of the '89 PGA and '91 U.S. Open, that was Quad Cities in 1982, because that would be the only one your father would see you win. Do you still feel that way after what happened today?
PAYNE STEWART:Oh, yeah, Rich, that will never change. He was there and we had a good cry on the green after I won in '82 at Quad City. And that will never change, no matter how many -- if I'm fortunate enough to win more Majors or more golf tournaments. The '82 Quad Cities will be my most cherished victory.
Q. Just some thoughts on this being Father's Day on what he might have thought had he been here to see it?
PAYNE STEWART:Well, we were at home before I came to the golf course today and the opening of the show on NBC Today, they ran a little piece, and it talked about myself and my father, and showed a picture of him, and I stood there and bawled in front of the television. And Tracy was in the other room, so she didn't see it, but I stood there and cried and thought a lot about my father and probably got a lot of strength from that, and then came on out to the golf course.
Q. Payne, Phil said that on 16 when you chipped past there, he was already in his mind thinking about Tiger being his closest pursuer. And could you talk about how big it was for you to make that putt?
PAYNE STEWART:Well, it's obvious that that was one of many putts that I made today that won the golf tournament. But timing was everything. Like I said, it was a horrible chip, and I was thinking about trying to make a chip rather than thinking about getting the ball up there and making my four and going on because Phil's missed the green. I didn't go over and see what kind of lie he had. It didn't matter. I had to take care of myself.
Q. Payne, when Phil was in here, he said he thought he was in control of the tournament until 16. You hit that shot on 17. He said that was the first time he realized you could beat him. What were your thoughts, and did you ever feel like you were controlling the tournament?
PAYNE STEWART:In control? I thought I played a beautiful front 9, except for the shot on 9, but that was a great par -- I forgot about that. That was a good par. Until the back 9 where I missed the fairway on 12, and that rough was nasty, it was wet and it just wasn't -- it was nasty. So I wasn't thinking about Phil or Tiger or David or anybody. I was thinking about getting the job done and doing what I had to do to give myself a chance. And after I made bogey on 12, my caddy said there's a long ways to go in this golf tournament. And I came right back with a birdie on 13. And there it was. I just wasn't going to hand the trophy over to him.
Q. Payne, could Tracy join you? She's over here --
PAYNE STEWART:She doesn't want to be up here at all.
Q. She's got a little press conference going over in the corner.
PAYNE STEWART:She's not enjoying that, either. Sorry, Honey. Something you've got to go when you're my wife.
Q. Payne, I wonder if you could elaborate a little bit more with your fantastic putting today and the super par-saving putts. That really, I think, won this championship.
PAYNE STEWART:Well, I knew that it was going to come down to having to make putts to win the golf tournament. It happens that way anywhere. And last night on the putting green I'm -- Tracy stayed at home because you can't see in the gallery, so she watched it on TV. And first thing she said to me is you've got to hold your head still. She said you're wanting to see it go in, wanting to see it go in. I went out on the putting green last night after I left here and I worked on that. I putted with my eyes closed. I putted and never looked up. And I took that out on the golf course today and I never moved my head to watch a putting in until I knew it was well away from the putter. And I've heard on television before that the thing that -- one of the detriments of Payne Stewart's golf game is he's not that good a putter. Well, maybe I squelched those rumors.
Q. Payne, how long was your putt on 18 last year during the Open, and talk about how difficult that putt might have been and compare the situation if you would, please?
PAYNE STEWART:Well, I don't think I can compare the situation for the fact that I wasn't playing as well last year. I was just struggling to hang on. And I thought I did a pretty good job of that and then got beat by a great round. But I felt like I was playing a lot better this time. And the putt at Olympic last year was probably 20, 25 feet, but it had huge break in it. And this putt today, like I said, from 15 feet, it was right up inside left. It was a very makable putt. The one at Olympic Club was one in 50, maybe.
Q. Payne, on Tuesday, when you did your preview interview, I asked you a question about having extra bounce. I knew that you were up, because it was a Major, everybody is up more for a Major, but it just seemed like you had more. And when I wrote about that, I said I had two kids that went to semi-formal dances for the first time this year and they had what I called anxious anticipation. And I compared that to you. I said you struck me as someone, the only player here that really seemed to have anxious anticipation. Did you know something we didn't know?
PAYNE STEWART:Well, I thought I was very prepared for this golf tournament. It was probably a blessing in disguise that I missed the cut at Memphis, because I came in here Saturday, my swing teacher, Chuck Cook, and I walked around the golf course. I took an 8-iron, a 9-iron, pitching wedge, sand wedge, and we just walked the golf course. Hit a bunch of chip shots and a bunch of shots from all sorts of areas, and I did that again on Sunday. And I was here when nobody was around and I got a lot of good work done on the golf course. And I think that my preparation was why I was so excited, because I knew I was playing well. Even though I didn't make the cut at Memphis, I think my mind was thinking about this week. And I've been working at it and putting the time in and seeing the results, and I felt like I was very prepared for this week, and I developed a gameplan during my practice rounds, and I stuck to it. Even when the wind started blowing, I never hit a driver off the first tee. I hit 3-wood every day, and I hit the fairway every day. And, by the way, I drove the ball pretty well for the week. So maybe my stats on the PGA TOUR will get better.
Q. Payne, you talked the other day about unfinished business.
PAYNE STEWART:I'm on the Ryder Cup team, now.
Q. I know. You talked very unemotionally and technically about 18 and the way that you played the hole, the way you lined up the putt. With all that unfinished business and all that, could you talk about the emotions and what it takes to stand there and maybe block all that out?
PAYNE STEWART:Well, I'm proud of the fact that my faith in God is so much stronger and I'm so much more at peace with myself than I've ever been in my life. And that's the reason that I was able to gather myself and conduct myself. And where I was with my faith last year and where I am now is leaps and bounds. And that gave me the strength to stand up there and believe in myself and get the job done.
Q. You didn't question yourself at all?
PAYNE STEWART:I didn't question how I played the hole. I stood up there -- we come walking off the tee and I saw the marshal go over there and stick a yellow flag in the rough. And I looked at my caddy and said, 'That's in the rough?' And he said, 'Yeah, I think so it is.' So I got up there, and you've got the walking announcers always go over there (indicating). (Laughter.) So I got up there. I kind of knew what kind of lie I had, and so I dealt with it. The only option I had was give yourself a chance to get it up-and-down with your wedge game. And my wedge game was pretty decent all week. And boom, I put it in there. I walked up there and saw where I wanted to try to make a putt from, and I put the ball in that position. I wanted it a little bit closer, but I played what I thought all week long was very smart golf out there.
Q. Payne, could you discuss what winning on this golf course means, if it is special, and winning in this area?
PAYNE STEWART:Well, I think myself and all the contestants this week will attest to how grand Pinehurst No. 2 is and how special a place it is. I don't know that anybody's walked in here and said this is horrible. If they did, then they've got a different perspective than I do. But it's a special golf course. It goes to show one under par wins the golf tournament. Even par was, I'm sure, most of you were betting on a playoff tomorrow, thinking, oh, man, I've got to hang around again. Stewart's doing it to me again (laughter.) But I think the USGA is very pleased with what happened this week with the -- I'm sure they wanted it drier, but the golf course stood the test of the United States Open, and I think that they will be back again.
Q. Payne, I run the New York State Junior Golf Tour, and everybody in this room I'm sure as a kid dreamed of being in your position today, and the kids, I can tell you from here on in, at least for the next couple of weeks, are thinking, I'm Payne Stewart. I'm going to hit this putt. What does that do to you?
PAYNE STEWART:I'd like to think I was Jack Nicklaus. The same thing, on the putting green. I'm going to be Jack today. I'm going to make this one and win the U.S. Open. I guess I'm proud of the fact that the kids would want to be Payne Stewart. I think that's pretty neat that somebody would aspire to be myself.
Q. Payne, how much do you attribute your past success in the U.S. Open to this victory?
PAYNE STEWART:I think what happened last year I really built on and I was prepared for today. I was prepared for all the media. The USGA did great jobs of blocking off tees. We got put on the clock again. I was prepared for that. I was prepared for that sand divot I got on No. 4, but I didn't play that good a shot, but I was prepared to play a good shot. I just think that I learned a lot from last year. If you can learn from defeat, then I think that that makes you a much better player.
Q. The U.S. Open last year, is that responsible for what lit a fire in you this year, or was there another moment or something that has turned your game around?
PAYNE STEWART:Yes, what happened last year at the U.S. Open and everybody, oh, man, what a great try you did, great try. Well, I didn't want to hear that today. I didn't want to hear that when I got back to Orlando and all my friends came up and said, boy, you sure tried. It was a great effort. You're a great competitor, but bad luck. I didn't want to hear that, and that motivated me. I mean, the Ryder Cup -- I've contended all year long the Ryder Cup's motivated me. That's one cup that isn't sitting on this table right now. It's on the wrong side of the ocean. Hopefully, I can do something about it. I maintain if I wasn't on the team, the only way I can make a difference is get on the team. I can't rely on Crenshaw to pick me, so that's been the driving force for me. And 300 points will put me up to 917, thank you very much, and I will be on the team. (Laughter.)
Q. Payne, when you were studying that last putt, you're right, we were all telling you to make it so we can go home tomorrow.
PAYNE STEWART:I appreciate that.
Q. Besides inside left what were you telling yourself?
PAYNE STEWART:I was saying, look, just give yourself -- you've given yourself a chance. You're here. Do the same thing you're doing. Believe that you've read it right and make your stroke. And I did all of the above. But I putted -- you guys watched it, I putted my little derriere off today.
Q. 24, how good is that?
PAYNE STEWART:Well, that's better than I've been doing all week.
Q. Payne, would you elaborate on just how hard you had to work today? And would you have been able to summon that tomorrow if you had to?
PAYNE STEWART:I would have had to. I would have had to summon that again. You have to do what you have to do to win. But I'm fatigued right now. I'm tired. Your gut just churns and I know I should be hungry, but I'm not. And if I had to play tomorrow, I would have gotten up for it.
Q. Payne, how is this different from the two previous Major titles you've won? You tracked down guys in those two, but the emotions of holding people off here. How is that different? And also where do you think three Major titles in 10 or 11 years puts you in the golf lineup?
PAYNE STEWART:Well, I'm going to answer the latter question first. Where it puts me in the golf world is what I believe in myself. I'm a pretty good and pretty accomplished player, and nobody can ever take that away from me, no matter what's written about me. So I think that I've accomplished a lot in my golf career. And I forgot your first question.
Q. Was it different from coming from behind?
PAYNE STEWART:Yeah, I kind of came from behind on Simpson in '91. There was a two shot swing on 16 on Sunday. There was a 2-shot swing on Monday in the playoff. But it felt so good today. I don't know how high I jumped. I know that I got a credit card jump shot. But it felt like I was sky high. It felt like I was way up there. But it felt so good to accomplish what I did today.
Q. Congratulations to you from those of us who came from Europe. We came here expecting a good chance of us winning here, instead we got stuffed out of sight. What have we got to do to win this tournament and what are the implications of the American dominance of the result sheet for the Ryder Cup, which is obviously close to your heart?
PAYNE STEWART:Well, I don't have an answer to why the Europeans don't perform well at the U.S. Open. There's some great players over there that should perform well at these tournaments. And why that happens, I don't know. Maybe it's a mental block to them. I don't have the answer for that one. But the Ryder Cup, I'm excited about that. And there's going to be a lot of new faces on both sides. David Duval has never been on a Ryder Cup team, which is really hard to believe. But this will be his first Ryder Cup. And there will be a lot of new faces on the European team. I understand that Jesse is not going to play, whether he makes the team or not. It would be tough to be a playing captain, it really would. And I think he's going to do a wonderful job as captain. I think Crenshaw is going to do a wonderful job, also.
Q. Payne, could you let us in on the putting routine that's worked so well for you this week?
PAYNE STEWART:Well, what I did today was I choose the line that I saw the putt, and then once I took my position to the side of the ball, I made two practice strokes with my eyes closed to feel the distance. And then I got up and I aimed my putter on the line that I saw, and I said hold your head still, and I made the stroke. And I didn't do that routine all week long, just today.
Q. Payne, a few years ago, you said that being Open Champion actually -- you found yourself going out trying to play like a U.S. Open Champion, and be a U.S. Open Champion. You said you're going to handle it differently this time. Is that what you're talking about, and how will you handle it differently?
PAYNE STEWART:It's exactly what I'm talking about. I think I'm a lot more prepared to deal with everything that goes along with holding onto this trophy for a year. I don't plan on changing my schedules. I plan on doing the same things that I've been doing that got me in position to win today, which is working out and spending a lot of time at home and playing when I want to play and playing when I feel at golf tournaments that I enjoy playing at. And I'm not going to -- I don't think I'm going to -- I don't look forward to running after the elusive dollar, because I've been invited to go and play here and here and here and here. I'm looking forward to as soon as the tournament in Valderrama is over, which is the 7th or 8th of November, I'm not playing again until the Hawaiian Open. I had so much fun being at home, being a father, getting up in the morning, making breakfast, taking my kids to school, going to high school athletics, that's what my life is right now, and I'm not going to do what I did in '91, along that line.
Q. Happy Father's Day, congratulations. What do you think you're going to bring to the Ryder Cup team, now that you're officially on it?
PAYNE STEWART:Well, officially -- well, I don't know, I think I bring enthusiasm. I'm a very outspoken person. I've got a lot of energy. I think I bring some knowledge to the guys that are going to be on the team, such as David Duval, that are not going to be used to hearing people cheer when he misses a putt. And being able to prepare the guys on the team -- I feel like I'm a rah-rah person. I'm going to -- if I'm teamed up in whatever I'm playing in and I have a partner, boy, I'm going to be in his ear if he doesn't want me to be in his ear, then I'm not going to be there. But I'm going to be very supportive. And I'm a very supportive person when I'm on a team.
Q. Two part question, Payne. How much did it hurt being not considered last couple of years, last couple Ryder Cups. Secondly, how much of a tougher player are you inside now than you were in the past?
PAYNE STEWART:Well, I think what's motivated me to this year was the fact that I couldn't rely on the captains to pick. I felt like I was a legitimate selection, the last two Ryder Cup teams. I thought the captain's choices that they picked were good choices. That's something that maybe I'll have the opportunity to do later in my career is be a captain, and then I can be analyzed, well, why did you pick him? I can be that -- be analyzed, be put on that pedestal and be carved about. In answer to your second question, yes, I'm a lot more mentally prepared to deal with these situations than I have been in the past. And I'm going back to the fact that my faith is strong. And the Lord's given me the ability that he wants me to use so I can stand up here and give him the praise.
More Transcripts from Past U.S. Open Champions
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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

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“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.