“I still consider myself a Barrica kid,” said John Ram after handing an eight-under par, 63-stroke card on the first day of the Spanish Open at Villa de Madrid Country Club, two behind England leader Ross McGowan. A swarm of cameras and microphones surrounds the Basque Country, as before a large number of fans have followed him in his every move in the field, and he is in action on Thursday morning. “So many people have come,” World Number One snores, “and I don’t know if they predicted how many people could come on Friday afternoon (the second round starts at 2:00 pm), Saturday and Sunday, especially if you I will win, and if there is enough capacity for all those who want to come and see me.”
The Spanish Open is the John Ram Open. This is how it is narrated throughout the city in the many posters on marquees, advertisements and even a giant billboard on a building Ram surprising himself when he leaves the hotel for a short stroll through the capital. “I find it strange to see myself like this. In the States, at tournaments, a picture of me might be advertised, but here…when I see my mask on buses and on posters, I realize the impact I have. Little by little, I’m used to it.” It is a new phenomenon experienced by the Basque golfer, who is also growing in Spanish sport, accustomed to references in other disciplines, traditionally elusive with the glorification of the golfer. Neither Severiano Ballesteros nor José Maria Olazbal nor the other great heroes Sergio Garcia had the patriotic fervor that Ram began to feel in their bodies. Before Spain, Seif was a legend in England, and an idol in the United States. He had never felt so loved in his own land. “I feel that in Spain I am not valued, I feel more recognized abroad,” Sergio Garcia told this newspaper three years ago in Valderrama.
The story changes with Ram, who does not lose on the first day of this tournament the impact of the thousands of fans who saturate the country club. Everyone wants to see the champion up close, the world number one, winner of the last US Open. Ram says: “And this motivates me, I am not nervous or pressured, but I feel unparalleled support. They never follow me like here, the Spanish public supports me like everyone else. Sometimes there are a lot of fans, at home, with So much energy, that it’s hard for me to stay calm to play.”
It’s not the same Ram who won the 2018 Spanish Open at the National Golf Center with a 20-under-average score, nor the one who repeated his victory the following year at the Country Club with a record -22. Today more then he is a planetary figure. It is in another dimension. You just have to see the five bodyguards protecting him at every step, it is impossible to approach him without pushing or threatening, while on previous courses he would stop for hours to sign autographs and take photos. A star off the field, a star on the inside. The first day eight below par could fire him to break his record in two seasons. In Thursday’s opening holes (six under par in the top eight), he just flew. In almost all of them he had Hit NS bird and for EagleAnd along the way two scratched birds and Eagle Five in the three pairs. “I played the top nine almost perfectly,” Ram said. Blow after blow, the top seed seeks to equal Severiano Ballesteros’ three national titles (1981, 1985 and 1995). The Cantabrian genius had trouble winning over the home crowd. Baby Barika carries it in his pocket.
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