How Jon Rahm overcame a club foot by transforming his body, not his swing, to become World No. 1, and why it could be the key to his long reign

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Bryson DeChambeau isn’t the only golfer who has transformed his body.
Jon Rahm’s evolution from pudgy teenager to broad-shouldered World No. 1 may not have happened seemingly overnight the way DeChambeau packed on the pounds, but it has been every bit the game-changer for the 27-year-old Spaniard.
Rahm’s swing is short and unorthodox, but ever since his teacher Eduardo Celles told him never to change it, he’s gone about making it his own.
“It’s a trademark,” Rahm said.

It’s often been said that Rahm’s short swing is the product of tightness in his hips, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Rather, as he explained at the British Open in July, Rahm was born with a club foot, and it required doctors to break his right foot and ankle. No more than 20 minutes after he was born, he was placed in a cast from the knee down.

“My right leg up to the ankle was straight, my foot was 90 degrees turned inside and basically upside down,” he explained in July. “I think every week I had to go back to the hospital to get re-casted, so from the knee down my leg didn’t grow at the same rate.”
Jon Rahm plays his tee shot on the 16th hole during a practice round at the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, Calif. on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Jeff Haynes/USGA)

The other pivotal moment that shaped Rahm’s swing happened when Ricardo Relinque, the American liaison to the Spanish Golf Federation, asked Dave Phillips, founder of the Titleist Performance Institute and Rahm’s swing coach to this day, to keep a watchful eye on one of its prized up-and-comers who was heading to Arizona State University to play golf. Phillips put a pudgy, 18-year-old Jon Rahm through his paces — body, swing, and biomechanics — and discovered a generational talent.

“He didn’t move that well, but man, could this kid hit it,” Phillips said. “The strike of the ball was exceptional. You could tell there was this fire burning and immediately I thought this guy has the potential to go all the way.”

Rahm remembers that Phillips’s advice meshed with the words of wisdom he’d been given earlier in his career by his coach back home.
“They said, never ever change that wrist position, that’s part of your game, that’s part of who you are,” Rahm said.

CBS Sports lead analyst Nick Faldo described Rahm’s swing as a modern-day version of Hall of Famer Lee Trevino, noting his strong lower-body strength. “The biggest difference, and a great line from Lee, was he was trying to keep the ball on the clubface for as long as possible, where the modern golf (swing) is now trying to repel the ball of the club face as quick as possible!”Faldo said. “Driven by modern equipment, which is completely different, makes a huge difference. That’s why Jon has a great ability to really get a really great low running drive going 320+.
“He’s built a golf swing that fits his body.”

Rahm’s secret weapon in doing so has been Phillips. Whenever possible, Phillips puts Rahm through a nine-step body screening on Mondays and the results determine the adjustments that need to be made. Sometimes he needs more rest, sometimes more practice.
“It kind of gives us the keys to the car that he is driving this week,” Phillips said.

Rahm’s husky build belies the work that he’s done to transform his body, and his comments ahead of the American Express made clear that it’s a bit of a sore subject with him.

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“I do hear and I do see a lot of comments from the people who think I don’t work out which to me is laughable,” he said. “I do work out. I work out every single day. I’m just not working out to be in the skinniest shape of my life, I’m working out to be the best golfer I can be. So I do have routines that I do every morning, every night.”

At first, Rahm failed several of the screenings, which include a lat test, standing on one leg and rotating, and internal and external hip rotation, but now he usually passes them all. Of all the tests, Rahm typically struggles the most to do an overhead deep squat.
“I try to find the one thing that affects my students the most and then I go to work on it,” Phillips said.
The fact that Rahm’s right leg is slightly shorter than his left is the reason he has a very stable locked right ankle. Phillips said it was critical to take that into consideration when shaping Rahm’s golf swing.

“His tendency due to the ankle was to load his right side,” Phillips explained. “He would move left early and then back out of the shot. He actually drew the ball when I first met him and didn’t have a consistent fade. Jon was always strong but didn’t have the stability he has today. As his lower body got stronger, it enabled him to load into his right side better. This helps him move through impact and rotate into his lead side. That creates the stability he needs to use the ground more effectively and that’s what makes him such a consistent ball-striker.

“I didn’t change his swing,” Phillips added. “I just made his body work better so he can be more powerful and more efficient.”
Jon Rahm and Cameron Smith walk off the 14th green during the third round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)

It’s a swing that showed little rust in Hawaii two weeks ago as Rahm shot an astounding 33-under 259 total at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, yet still came up one stroke short of victory. And it’s a swing that makes him the favorite this week at the American Express and most every week the reigning U.S. Open champion tees it up, for that matter.

“Two months off and he shoots 33 under. When he warms up, he’ll do pretty well,” cracked Faldo.
Here’s the scary part for all those golfers trying to replace Rahm at World No. 1. “If I can keep his body functioning the way it should,” Phillips said, “he’ll never have to worry about his golf swing.”

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