I don't put a ton of stock in golf predictions, and you shouldn't either. This is a sport where the "best" player wins significantly less than 25% of the time, as long as the best player isn't Tiger Woods in the 2000s. That level of parity means that most articles trying to sell you on the winner of a major tournament are more or less useless, even though they're often fun.
But that all changes today. I don't expect you to believe what comes next, and if I were you, I wouldn't believe it either. I only expect that when I'm proven right on Sunday, you form an orderly line to apologize for ever doubting. Because here's the truth: I know that Jon Rahm is going to win the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Is this part gut feeling? Yes. Yes it is. I freely admit it. But I would also argue that it's rational and even likely. What follows is a list that proves, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Rahm will be hoisting the claret jug come Sunday.
1. We are in the year of the young merciless conqueror. Patrick Reed won the Masters. Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open, again. These two are birds of a feather—men in their 20s who are afraid of nothing. Where the generation above them wilted and floundered under the harsh light of Tiger's greatness, they—along with Spieth and Rory and Justin Thomas—have shown none of that same hesitation or fear. They are born world beaters, and they're not the kind of people to wait around for permission to win the game's biggest prizes.
Jon Rahm is of their ilk. At age 23, his resume is already stunning. He won 11 times at Arizona State and became the first player to ever win back-to-back Ben Hogan Awards as the best collegiate player in the country. That success translated to the professional scene almost immediately. He has won five times on two tours already, including the World Tour Championship in Dubai. He finished fourth at the Masters. He is ranked fifth in the world. Despite his young age, it somehow already feels like he's been on the verge of a major breakthrough for years. His time has come.
2. Rahm's anger, which has earned its fair share of criticism in the golfing world, is actually a good thing. It can be hard for people to accept when someone like Rahm offers the explanation that his small outbursts actually help him on the course, and it would be even harder for many to accept the idea that anger can be a sign of the inner desire every champion needs. We're used to thinking about anger as a negative emotion, and of course we've seen many athletes get carried away and embarrass themselves with displays of rage. But Rahm's anger reads differently—it reads as the outward sign that he really cares, and that he's never going to settle for anything less than playing like one of the best golfers in the world. That chase for perfection can hurt, and he'll surely have to find a balance, but his history of winning proves that far from being debilitating, Rahm's fury has already propelled him to the upper echelons.
3. He has been in extremely good form lately. In the last two months, he's put up a fifth at Fort Worth, a fifth in France, and a fourth in Ireland. He also bombed out of Shinnecock, but I think it's safe to ignore that anomaly—the course was a monster, and a little bad luck at a place like that goes a long way.
4. He drove the ball 418 yards in Mexico. He's going to drive the ball 500 yards at a baked-out Carnoustie. The course has played quite difficult in Opens past, but with the sheer amount of roll available to players this weekend, it's setting up for some historically low scores. Rahm, the kind of bomber who won't get overwhelmed on fast greens, is perfectly suited to take advantage of the conditions, especially if the forecast holds true and the rain and wind stay away.
5. Let's put on our tinfoil caps. See if you detect a pattern here:
2013 champion: Phil Mickelson 2014 champion: Rory McIlroy 2015 champion: Zach Johnson 2016 champion: Henrik Stenson 2017 champion: Jordan Spieth
American. European. American. European. American.
And now? European.
Jon Rahm is Spanish. Spain is in Europe. Eureka!
The evidence is crystal-clear: Rahm is the man of the hour. Two of my biggest regrets after writing a book about the young players of the PGA Tour in 2014 was that I didn't get the chance to profile Brooks Koepka or Jon Rahm. Rahm was still a couple years away, and Koepka wouldn't win his first big professional tournament until after that year's Ryder Cup. Neither ended up in the book, but both now are now major champs. And in some ways, they're like mirror images of each other.
In short, I'm not going to miss the boat on Rahm twice. While most golf predictions are unusable and far-fetched, this one is good as gold: Jon Rahm will win the Open Championship.