The Players: Jon Rahm says title would be 'career defining'
Last Updated: 17/03/19 12:48am
Jon Rahm credited his growing maturity over the past year as he moved into position to land a "career-defining" victory at The Players Championship.
The 24-year-old Spaniard began the day five shots behind overnight co-leaders Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood but posted an excellent eight-under 64 in softer conditions at TPC Sawgrass to earn a one-shot lead over his European counterparts.
Rahm mixed three birdies with a sole blemish of the day at the sixth before his round caught fire around the turn with five shots gained, including an eagle at the par-five 11th, in a five-hole stretch before back-to-back gains at the 16th and 17th.
The five-time worldwide winner has spoken openly about his desire to make his mark on the sport and Rahm believes winning the PGA Tour's flagship event would go down as a sizeable success.
It would be absolutely amazing to name yourself a Players champion. It's definitely one of those events that they consider to get you in the Hall of Fame. It's career defining.
"This would be absolutely amazing," Rahm said. "The last two years I played okay golf. I was able to post scores but I didn't see myself - I wouldn't say that next year I was going to win this event.
"So it would be absolutely amazing to name yourself a Players champion. It's definitely one of those events that they consider to get you in the Hall of Fame. It's career defining.
"There's very few select players that get to win here and only a very few number that have gotten to do it more than once, so it shows that to win out here you need to play really, really good golf, so it would be an incredible win if I get to do it."
Rahm admitted he was unaware he could have matched the course record of 63 with a birdie at the 18th but the conviction he has shown over his shots this week in the different course conditions presented by the tournament's move to March gives him confidence he can seal a notable triumph.
Asked whether he was learning to avoid placing unnecessary pressure on his shoulders at tournaments like The Players, he said: "Oh, I have before. I mean it's happened and you learn from your mistakes, it's as simple as that.
"And what I need to remember to remind myself when I get to the first tee the first day is that it's 72 holes, you can't win the major the first two or three days, but you can for sure lose it.
"So remember there's lots of holes to be played and just stick to my own game and that's what I've been doing the last few times.
"That's why I played better last year in a couple of majors and I've been playing better now, just focusing more on myself rather than the exterior and just do the best that I can play."
Rahm, whose last title came at the Hero World Challenge in December, is optimistic he is on the right path to a "very good final project".
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"Like I said, last year was - I've said it many times, it was a year of personal growth rather than golf game," he added.
"It's been a work in progress of many years to get to this point, and it's hard to do when you're playing highly competitive golf. It's very hard to do.
"So I can't attribute it to one thing because I worked on many things slowly, and this is what I called earlier a midterm of hopefully it's a very good final project."