LONDON (Reuters) - 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 last Sunday, according to Tony Jacklin.
Rahm, 22, 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.
”I love watching guys like Jon,“ the 1969 British Open and 1970 U.S. Open champion told Reuters in an interview. ”He’s a great putter but he won’t be able to hit it off the tee and perform like he did last week.
“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 last Sunday, Jacklin likens the burly 6-foot-2 Spaniard’s core strength to that of 18-times major winner Jack Nicklaus.
”Rahm is clearly a prodigious talent,“ said the 73-year-old Englishman, ”and 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 marvelous.
“His lower body and his hips are reminiscent of Nicklaus at his best, that’s where real power comes from, and a three-quarter backswing.”
Jacklin said that five-times 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,“ he explained. ”No one had more patience than he had.
“All he wanted was to get the ball in play. Birkdale is a thinker’s course, the sort of layout that the great South African Bobby Locke enjoyed,” added Jacklin referring to the 1949, 1950, 1952 and 1957 Open winner.
”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.
“I don’t agree with this modern-day fixation that the authorities have for making courses longer and longer. It’s completely insane,” added Jacklin.
The last seven majors have all been won by first-time winners -- Jason Day, Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Jimmy Walker, Sergio Garcia and Brooks Koepka -- and Jacklin believes there is every chance that 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.
”It’s a bit foreign to me and my era but the modern clubs and shafts are so good now and all the players benefit from that.
”Birkdale, though, is a great, great test of championship golf and it’s one of my favorite Open venues,“ said Jacklin. ”It is steeped in tradition and really tests a player’s patience.
“The weather, of course, can always vary enormously during an English summer. If you don’t get any wind the players can tear it apart but you certainly don’t need length at Birkdale.”
Editing by Rex Gowar