Nadal is known to love to hit the links whenever possible and Rahm, who's become a pal of the 20-time grand slam winner, calls him "a great idol and someone to learn from".

The 2021 U.S. Open champion, who will be competing in the Open de Espana at Madrid's Campo Villa Country Club this week, will also be looking to equal another of his heroes, the late Spanish great Seve Ballesteros, by matching his tally of three titles.

"I hadn't been in Spain since December 2019, and that's what's most exciting. Being able to play in front of a Spanish crowd is important, as is the challenge of equalling Seve," Rahm said on Tuesday.

The seven-time European Tour winner said he has some mixed feelings about his year despite capturing his first major title and returning to the top spot in the rankings.

RIGHT: Rahm is aiming for a hat-trick of Open de Espana wins this week in Madrid, which would match the win tally of Seve Ballesteros. PHOTO: Luke Walker/Getty Images.

"Missing the Olympic Games (due to a positive COVID-19 test) was a really tough blow," he said.

"We've had a year with a little of everything. The Ryder Cup wasn't what we'd hoped for, and as a team it was a bit tough to have a result like that (the U.S. defeated Europe 19-9).

"I've had a year with a lot of experiences, but I think the good has been better than the bad."

A native of the northern Spanish town of Barrika, the 26-year-old said he always believed he was capable of reaching the top of the world rankings.

"Before starting my professional career, I knew what I was capable of," he said.

"I hope I can transcend golf and be a point of reference, like Rafa Nadal, who's a great idol and someone to learn from. I don't know if I'll reach the level in golf (that he has reached) in tennis."

Rahm also said he would like to play a pro-am golf event with Nadal, a strong amateur player who frequently arrives at tennis tournaments with his golf clubs and plays if the opportunity arises.

"I would've loved to have played with Rafa (in the past). There have been some opportunities to play with athletes from other disciplines in other tournaments abroad, and I see it as positive, as long as a spot isn't being taken away from someone who deserves it.

"It would be a great honour."

Looking back on his career to this point, Rahm said he would be happy even if he had not reached No.1 "because when you give your all there's nothing to reproach yourself with".

"When I think about those moments, I think about the last 12 years, in the hours I've put in to reach the top ... and I know I've gotten here through pure hard work.

"I'm proud and staying humble because I know what I've done, but also what lies ahead to maintain that position."