Jon Rahm's success brings comparisons with Seve Ballesteros

Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm has five European Tour titles to his name after victory at the Open de Espana

It may not have been against the strongest field, but Jon Rahm's latest victory inextricably linked him to one of golf's all-time greats and gave further evidence that he is one of the most important talents in the game.

Still only 24, the burly Spaniard entered the record books by notching his fifth European Tour triumph through a commanding win at the Open de Espana in Madrid.

His five successes on the continental tour have come in just 39 appearances, superseding the great five-time major winner Seve Ballesteros, who needed 10 more tournaments before collecting a fifth victory.

It is a stat that is hard to ignore. Rahm is currently enjoying a faster winning rate than a fellow Spaniard who went on to collect 50 European Tour titles.

"He did turn pro a lot earlier than I did so age-wise I think he's beaten me," Rahm conceded.

"Still, to beat Seve in something, it's unbelievable. He's one of the main references from European golf and world golf in general."

It is also worth noting that Rahm now has nine professional wins overall, three of them on the PGA Tour where he spends much of his time.

This has happened in little more than three years after turning professional, following his finish as the low amateur at the 2016 US Open. A year earlier he was fifth at the Phoenix Open, emphatically showing he would live well in the paid ranks.

Now back up to number four in the world, Rahm is capable of success all over the golfing globe. He possesses an appetite to travel and conquer and, no doubt, these are traits that would win massive approval from the late Ballesteros.

Last weekend, his biggest battle was probably with himself. The Basque Country-born champion admitted he felt extra pressure in Madrid to perform in front of Spanish fans.

"It's great that I've done it here, to beat Seve's record with his last professional win being at this course as well," Rahm said. "It's very special for me.

"Any time I can do anything close to what he did is unbelievable. That's why I'm here, trying to make Spanish golf bigger and grow the sport in Spain like he did."

And this commitment stretches beyond the borders of his home country. Even though his elite amateur golf was played in the United States, Rahm is proving a significant ambassador for the European Tour.

He has unhesitatingly stated that he will return to defend his Irish Open title next year, despite a date shift that hardly helps the world's leading players.

Spaniard Jon Rahm
Rahm has promised to defend his Irish Open title next year

The tournament will be played from 28 to 31 May, sitting in the middle of the month-long gap between the US PGA Championship in San Francisco and the US Open in New York.

"I'll be there, don't worry," he stated when the Irish Open question came up, adding that the decision to defend his title next year was not difficult.

"It was really easy, honestly," Rahm told me. "I've won the event in two out of three years I've played.

"I love coming back to Europe and I'm defending champion. And I feel like, as defending champion, there's a responsibility to come back and defend your title.

"I didn't even think about it twice. I was aware that the WGC in Memphis could have been the same week, but even if that was the case, I would have gone to Ireland."

To accommodate the Irish date change, Rahm will probably sacrifice the invitational event at Colonial Country Club in Texas, a tournament he likes and has played in each of the three years of his professional so far.

These are refreshing sentiments from one of their biggest stars for the European Tour - particularly in the wake of Rory McIlroy's criticisms of the circuit's course set-ups, which he felt were not challenging enough.

Rahm, by the way, won by five shots at 22-under-par last Sunday, while Kevin Na edged a play-off against Patrick Cantlay after both finished 23-under on the PGA Tour in Nevada.

The young Spaniard now leads the Race to Dubai, which reaches its climax in the United Arab Emirates in November with the DP World Tour Championship - the event Rahm won in 2017.

Despite his prodigious talents, he is by no means the finished article and remains prone to temperamental meltdowns on the biggest stage.

At the Open last July, where he was among the favourites, he had one such moment on the second day. He racked up a momentum jolting seven at the par-five second, having been just short of the green in two.

Rahm has yet to challenge at the very sharp end of the championships that matter most, but it seems only a matter of time. The Open is the only major where he has not chalked up a top-four finish.

He is taking such rapid strides it surely will not be long before he joins Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia as a Spanish major winner. Already, though, European golf has much to cheer about Jon Rahm.