Birkdale will not suit Rahm to a tee, says Jacklin

LONDON • Precocious Spanish talent Jon Rahm has no chance of landing the British Open title this week if he performs the way he did while winning the Irish Open on July 9, according to Tony Jacklin.

The 22-year-old triumphed at Portstewart despite having an unreliable driver and, if he is equally as unpredictable off the tee at Royal Birkdale, Jacklin said he will find it tough to stay out of the long rough and the fiendish fairway bunkers.

"He's a great putter but he won't be able to hit it off the tee and perform like he did (at the Irish Open)," the 1969 British Open and 1970 US Open champion said. "He hardly found a fairway in the final round at Portstewart. He won't be able to find his ball in the rough if he does the same at Birkdale."

Despite being less than impressed with Rahm's long game at the Irish Open, Jacklin likens the burly 1.87m Spaniard's core strength to that of 18-time Major winner Jack Nicklaus.

"Rahm is clearly a prodigious talent," said the 73-year-old Englishman. "He's got this fiery Latino temperament. He kicks tee boxes at times but that's about him and a perceived lack of discipline.

"He's pushing himself to the limit, which is marvellous.

"His lower body and his hips are reminiscent of Nicklaus at his best; that's where power comes from, and a three-quarter backswing."

Jacklin said that five-time Open winner Peter Thomson provided a perfect example of how to tackle the stiff challenge that the par-70 Birkdale layout provides when the Australian won at the Southport links in 1954 and 1965.

"I played in that tournament in 1965 and Thomson didn't hit his driver off the tee, he used a three-wood," Jacklin explained.

"No one had more patience than he had.

"Birkdale is a thinker's course, the sort of layout that the great South African Bobby Locke (the 1949, 1950, 1952 and 1957 Open winner) enjoyed.

"It may only be 7,156 yards long but, like all great links courses, you have to stay out of the bunkers and you have to plan your way around."

The last seven Majors have all seen first-time winners - Jason Day (2015 PGA Championship), Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Jimmy Walker, Sergio Garcia and Brooks Koepka (2017 US Open) - and Jacklin believes the sequence can be extended to eight.

"There is just so much talent around these days," he said. "It's driven by different factors; all the players now work out at the gym and they all hit it 300 yards plus.

"The modern clubs and shafts are so good and all the players benefit from that."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2017, with the headline 'Birkdale will not suit Rahm to a tee, says Jacklin'. Print Edition | Subscribe