Golf: Seve Ballesteros will be with me in spirit at Masters, says Jon Rahm

Spanish golfer Jon Rahm hitting a shot at the Shell Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston on March 31, 2017.
Spanish golfer Jon Rahm hitting a shot at the Shell Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston on March 31, 2017.PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Augusta, United States (AFP) - Jon Rahm says fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, the late golfing legend who would have turned 60 on Sunday, will be watching over him as he competes in his first Masters.

Rahm, one of golf's most exciting new talents, has always idolised Ballesteros, a two-time Masters champion, and the 22-year-old Augusta newcomer says he will count on help from him all the way to the final hole on Sunday.

"If I have a chance on Sunday, I'll keep in mind that he'll be out there," said Rahm. "I know he will be out there for the entire week. But hopefully on Sunday he can make a special present."

Ballesteros died nearly six years ago and is remembered at Augusta National and other major golf venues as one of the greatest players who ever lived.

"Seve is my ultimate reference, idol," said Rahm. "I try to emulate a lot of things he did. You know, the name Seve Ballesteros is really important to me."

Though playing his first Masters in only his second year as a professional, Rahm, ranked 12th in the world, is billed as a potential future world No. 1 and one of the genuine contenders to win the 81st Masters.

No Masters debutant has won the green jacket since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 but Rahm said he would not have troubled himself to come to Augusta if he thought he had no chance.

Rahm won at Torrey Pines in January in his first appearance at the event and felt he could follow up at Augusta.

"If I didn't think I could win it, I wouldn't be here. Truly, Torrey Pines is not one of the places rookies usually win for the first time and I was able to do it," he said.

"Obviously this is different. This is a Major and my first time in Augusta. It is very, very impressive. I am going to tee up believing that I can win. I might do it. I might not. But that's how I do it."

Rahm belongs to an emerging breed of big, fit power-hitters but has a complete game reminiscent of Tiger Woods in his pomp.

If he has an Achilles' heel, it may be his youthful inexperience in dealing with emotion and tension that he says have taken a toll in the past.

At last month's WGC Match-Play, Rahm took world No. 1 Dustin Johnson all the way to the 18th hole in the final, showing his enormous talent and potential.

But he had to come back in the match, after messing up the first nine holes because he failed to master his nerves.

"I couldn't control my body, honestly," Rahm said. "I didn't know. It was like my body was independent from my mind. I was trying to focus and do my routine, but things just weren't happening."

Once he mastered his emotions, Rahm took away an important lesson from Texas.

"I learned that when I am playing good, I can take on the number one player in the world," he said.