PRETORIA -- On Friday morning, the first day of the Ryder Cup between Europe and the United States in Paris, rookie Jon Rahm started the now famous 'thunder clap' on the first tee before going off in the fourballs with Justin Rose.
Rahm fulfilled a live-long dream only two years after turning professional and shooting all the way up to No. 8 in the world golf rankings. The long-hitting Spanish sensation with the short backswing had followed in the footsteps of his idol, Sergio Garcia, and other legendary compatriots such as the great Severiano Ballesteros and José María Olazábal.
Like his heroes, Rahm plays the game with a lot of emotion and fire. He was perfectly sculpted for the Ryder Cup and matchplay golf.
But his emotions ended up getting the better of him on the first day, because he was just too pumped. You wouldn't have blamed Europe captain Thomas Bjorn if he had benched the fiery Spaniard until the singles. But Rahm was sent out again with veteran Ian Poulter on Saturday, the pair Europe's only losers of the Day 2 fourballs.
Rahm seemed to learn a lot during the first two days of competition against the Americans at the emotionally charged Le Golf National. He must have got some lessons from Poulter, the most expressive European player of them all, of how to channel emotions positively and to keep it under control in the heat of battle.
On Sunday, Rahm looked a lot calmer during his singles match against Tiger Woods, which was close throughout.
At 2 up, and with a couple of holes to play, Rahm missed a short putt on the 15th that would have taken him dormie 3 up with three holes to play. Woods then made a birdie at the par 3 16th to get back to 2 down.
It looked like Rahm was on the verge of imploding with two holes to play. However, the 23-year-old struck a 360-yard drive on the 17th straight down the fairway, before hitting a sand wedge to about four feet. Woods was in the rough and Rahm had a putt to win his match. The Spaniard obliged, sparking an outpouring of emotions on the green. He had learned to control it on the first two days, before using that energy to blast the tee shot of his life down the tight 17th.
Rahm, though, wouldn't have managed to pull off a victory over Woods had he not had a taste of the action on Friday and Saturday. The experience made him wiser, and a better competitor. He could call on those experiences when the going got tough.
Springboks scrumhalf Embrose Papier could maybe have done with the same sort of experiences in the Rugby Championship this year. Despite being on the bench for four of the Springboks' five matches thus far, the 21-year-old has played only six minutes in the Boks' opener against Argentina -- on the wing.
First-choice scrumhalf Faf de Klerk has played every minute of the Boks' campaign, despite coach Rassie Erasmus saying at the start of his tenure that scrumhalf was a position in which he had to build capacity.
Erasmus and the Boks have maintained that Paapier, the former South Africa Under-20 scrumhalf, is gaining a lot of experience by being in the Boks environment, training with the team and getting used to the culture. They think that it's better for the player to warm the bench for 80 minutes than get game time in the Currie Cup as well.
However, actual minutes under the belt in his own position against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand would have been a lot more beneficial than having to carry tackle bags. In fact, it would have been priceless.
Nothing prepares a player for the rigours and pressure of Test rugby, but the more you get exposed to it the better you are bound to be in terms of decision-making and handling pressure moments.
New Zealand do it best -- it's obviously easier if you win all the time -- as they blood youngsters throughout the season. Before you know it, these players have amassed more than 25 caps and are looking like seasoned veterans.
Papier is a talented scrumhalf, and a young player who could be the match-winner at No. 9 for whom the Boks have been searching since Fourie du Preez hung up his boots. He is skillful, fast and a dangerous player around the fringes.
Yes, he needs to work on various aspects of his game, such as his kicking, and he is surely doing that in the Boks set-up. But imagine if he had ended the campaign with about 60 minutes under his belt off the bench. He would have already been a lot wiser, wouldn't he?
You also have to ask yourself how is sitting on the bench for 80 minutes, as a scrumhalf in modern-day rugby, affects his confidence. Erasmus will have explained the process to Papier, but deep down the player might just imagine that his coach doesn't have a lot of faith in his ability.
Not giving Papier, or any other scrumhalf for that matter, proper time off the bench in the Rugby Championship was a mistake, especially as De Klerk is unlikely to be involved in the Boks' end-of-year tour to Europe. Now, Erasmus will likely go into those matches with a new man at No. 9.
Rahm made mistakes in his first two Ryder Cup matches, but he learned from the experience he gained to contribute big for Bjorn's European team on Sunday. Imagine if Papier must take the field against the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday because of an injury or a red card to de Klerk? What experiences will he have to fall back on?
It's time for Erasmus to take a Papier out of Bjorn's playbook.