U.S. Open

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Dialing it in

Ryder Cup 2023: Inside Jon Rahm's prep for Day 1 at Marco Simone

September 29, 2023
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Jamie Squire

ROME — Jon Rahm marched onto the empty green as the sun was still rising over Marco Simone. The Spaniard always brings with him a certain aura, but the energy felt different on Friday morning.

For Rahm, this morning wasn't about having fun. It was about going to work.

The task of hitting your team's first shot of the Ryder Cup is an honor and a burden. It's perhaps the most terrifying tee shot in golf. This year, Luke Donald enlisted World No. 3 Rahm for the task. That shot wouldn't happen until 7:35 a.m. though, the time Rahm was due on the tee alongside Tyrrell Hatton against Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns.

What did the hours leading up to that pivotal, tone-setting first shot look like for the Spaniard?

1. Rest and warm up

Rahm's day started early: At 4:15 a.m. Rahm (like most pros) tracks his sleep using his Whoop band. Dr. Harry Sese, Rahm's physical trainer, reviewed the data first thing in the morning. Sleep isn't always easy to come by with a nervy morning on the horizon, but Dr. Sese liked what he saw.

"The goal for my players is to get at least seven hours of quality sleep per night," he says. "It's not always easy, especially when you're traveling and have young kids, but quality sleep is what helps your body recover."

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Richard Heathcote

Sese's prescription for anyone who wants better sleep is an early night, no screen time or social media in the hours leading into bed, and a hard limit on sugar and alcohol, among other things. In Rahm's case, it worked. He woke up feeling refreshed, and ready to go.

The second half of Rahm's warm up work happened immediately after waking up: More than an hour in the gym, doing some basic mobility work which would activate different areas of his body. He knew that process would be extra important on Friday, knowing he'd likely play four matches all week.

"The best analogy is that players treat their bodies like Formula 1 cars," adds Sese. "They need every piece of the machine firing."

2. Posture monitoring

It's been a long season for Jon Rahm, with a sizable amount of international travel. That, naturally, takes a toll on your body. It does for Rahm too.

"Sleeping in different beds, traveling in planes, eating different food, moving in different time zones, these little changes can wear and tear on your body," says Golf Digest Top 50 Teacher and Rahm's swing coach, Dave Phillips. "Little things can set in and affect the way your body moves, and John is so driven by the way his body moves."

For Rahm, this meant some sloppiness had snuck into his posture. He was bending too much with his upper spine and not enough from the hips, which was affecting his backswing turn, Phillips explained. The pair spent the week leading up to the Ryder Cup correcting that, and kept a close eye on it during in his warm up.

It's something Phillips says amateur golfers should keep in mind more. Process obsess over the basics, like posture. Amateurs so often take those basics for granted.

3. Clubface Awareness

The first thing Rahm did when he first arrived on the putting green, chipping green, and driving range was hitting a handful of shots with only one hand. He used his right hand with his putter, and his left with his wedges.

Tiger Woods often does something similar and the reason is simple: To build clubface awareness. If you can get a sense of how to square the clubface with only one hand, it'll be even easier when the time comes to swing with two

4. Confidence builders

Another key element of Rahm's warmup was working in a steady diet of confidence builder shots. On the putting green, that meant drilling lots fairly simple putts inside 10 feet and hitting lots of simple wedge shots.

The short putts gave him a sense of confidence, simply seeing the ball go into the hole lots of times.

The wedges gave Rahm the sensation of solid, middle-of-the-clubface confidence. They say the Ryder Cup is about momentum, and in some ways, it's simple stuff like this that helped get Rahm's momentum rolling in a good direction.

It worked. His day started at 4:15 a.m.; his ball was flying down the middle of the fairway at 7:30, and by 10:30, Rahm's first point of the contest was secured. And he'll be ready to do the same thing on Saturday.