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Rahm, the Spaniard, entertains in home arena

Europe's Spanish golfer, Jon Rahm (C) cheers with The Ryder Cup and his teammates at the presentation ceremony following the final day of play in the 44th Ryder Cup at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome on October 1, 2023. Tommy Fleetwood clinched the crucial half-point as Europe regained the Ryder Cup from a battling United States on Sunday, taking an unassailable lead despite a blistering American singles charge. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

MADRID, Spain (AFP) — Defending champion Jon Rahm impressed a delighted home crowd in Madrid with an opening 67 at the Spanish Open in Madrid on Thursday.

The World No. 3 excelled in Team Europe’s Ryder Cup win in Rome and has now set his sights on a fourth Spanish Open triumph — he is currently level on three with late icon Seve Ballesteros, while Angel de la Torre leads the way with five victories.

“You can’t win it on the first day, but I put myself in a good position,” Rahm, who finished at four under par, told the European Tour website.

“I feel like I drove it so good, I just wish I would have taken advantage of a couple of other opportunities.”

Rahm produced five birdies and a solitary bogey as he fed off the energy from the crowd.

“The beauty of something like this is… maybe when I’m not hitting my best shots, just using that crowd to my advantage,” Rahm added.

France’s Matthieu Pavon produced a superb opening round to lead at eight under, followed by Wil Besseling at seven under and three players at six under, including Eddie Pepperell.

The Englishman had suffered two missed cuts in his last three starts but impressed at the Club de Campo Villa with an eagle, five birdies, and just one bogey.

“It’s been quite frustrating and bewildering to be honest, my golf lately. I feel like I should be doing better than I am,” he said.

“It’s a funny game, I have driven myself mad with it, but I am just trying to keep focused and forget about everything else. I do need a decent result to be honest.”


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