Masters 2017 pretender or contender: Can Jon Rahm cement his quick rise to stardom?

Obvious favorites Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy are expected contend, but there are plenty of others who pose a threat.

A tradition unlike any other is set to take place this week as golf's brightest stars return to Augusta National's hallowed grounds.

Every year, the term "dark horse" is on pundits' lips, trying to uncover a sleeper to slip on the green jacket at week's end. Obvious favorites Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy are expected to contend this week, but there are a number of players trying to win a major championship for the first time.

Jon Rahm haswasted no time introducing himself to the golfing worldas a PGA Tour rookie this season. The 22-year-old Spaniard looks like a future superstar.

After enjoying a nearlyunrivaled college career at Arizona State — coached by Phil Mickelson's brother — Rahm has made quick work of golf's most competitive tour. It won't be long before he's challenging for a No. 1 ranking.

Current form

Rahm has eight top-15 finishes in 10 starts this season, including a win and three other top-5 finishes. In short, he already has wrapped up rookie of the year honors.

Despite playing in his first World Golf Championship events this year, Rahm proved he belonged among the game's best by finishing T-3 at theWGC Mexico Championship, where he almost came from behind to beat world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Less than a month later, Rahm went toe-to-toe with Johnson again,finishing runner-up at theWGC Dell Match Play.

Masters history

This is Rahm's first Masters start. Only three players have won their first trip around Augusta National.

Style of play

Like many Spanish golf stars, Rahm features an impressive short game that allows him to get out of trouble when necessary. He also is an exceptional ball-striker. He ranks second in shots gainedtee-to-greenand fourth in shots gainedtotal.

Rahm has a shortened, compact swing that allows him to work the ball either way. He usually hits it lower than most, but he does struggle to find the fairway (130th in driving accuracy).

That shouldn't be a huge problemthis week. Augusta Nationalhas always been famous for having almost no rough, and Rahm ranks 17th on Tour in scrambling.

Verdict

Contender — Yes, it's his first time and Masters rookies usually struggle. But Rahm has been bucking trends all season, and that won't end this week.

MORE: Masters 2017 tee times, pairings feature Rory McIlroy-Jon Rahm group

Not only is Rahm ready to contend at Augusta this week, but it also wouldn't be surprising to see him become the youngest winner since JordanSpieth slipped on the green jacket at the tender age of 21 two years ago.


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