AUGUSTA, GA. — started to lose at the Masters — the first hole of the first round — but on Thursday morning, John Rahm’s internal speedometer seemingly disappeared. As Rahm got used to timing his putts, Rahm stopped his momentum, his ball slid long and escaped to the right, posting a double bogey.
“Well,” thought Rahm, “I miss, I miss, I miss, I make” as he walks to the next tee at Augusta National Golf Club, the greatest Spanish golfer of all time, Chev Ballesteros, and himself a victim of a Masters adventure. . Rahm considered something else: unlike Ballesteros, he had 71 holes to recover.
He certainly did.
Rahm, the towering Spaniard who has dominated the PGA Tour in the first months of 2023, won the Masters on Sunday in humidity, plummeting temperatures, green rain and tree-toppling winds, as well as the No. 1 on that Jupiter punished chaos and confusion. , to capture his second career major championship. His win, under an eggshell blue sky, saw him start Brooks Koepka in the final round, a four-time major winner, missing the Masters cut by two strokes last April.
Rahm eventually won by four strokes, 12 par for the tournament.
“I look at the scores and I think we still have a couple of holes to win,” Rahm said. “There’s really not much else to say. It was for Chev. He helped out there, and he helped out.
Rahm’s victory has been the primary ambition of LIV Golf, the second annual league run by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, for at least this month. Koepka has been one of the leaders on the Rebel circuit and won last week’s LIV event in Florida. A win at Augusta National to follow would mark the first time a golfer has won a major title as a LIV player. The league’s next opportunity comes in mid-May at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club near Rochester, NY.
But Rahm formally shut down the league’s 2023 bid, which included 18 LIV golfers in the 88-player field. Although Ligue played strongly behind Koepka and Phil Mickelson, his sensational outing at seven under on Sunday ultimately left him in a tie for second with Koepka, leaving the tournament with Rahm, the PGA Tour champion, ready to pick the menu for next year. Masters Dinner of Champions.
Michelson, a three-time Masters winner, will likely be there as well. Koepka, after finishing the first three rounds with at least a lead, would not show a consistency – until it disappeared – which was all the more remarkable given the weather and scheduling turbulence.
“I led three rounds and didn’t make it on the last day,” Koepka said. “That’s it, plain and simple.”
When Koepka bogeyed the sixth hole Sunday, he too surrendered the lead after a chip over the green, a chip past the pin and a par putt that scooted past the hole.
The par-5 eighth hole was where a man could land: both made eagle there during the tournament. Koepka’s Sunday afternoon tee shot came to rest on pine straw, forcing a punch-out on the fairway. Rahm led his third shot onto the green.
But among the pines at the top of the leaderboard were accusations of playing elsewhere. When Koepka and Rahm both made bogey at No. 9, the crowd of eager contenders went even closer than they had an hour earlier. Rahm is 10 under, and Koepka is eight under, tied with Jordan Spieth, who started the round at one under. Another five players – Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Russell Henley, Cameron Young and Patrick Cantlay – are six or seven under.
The gap between Rahm and Koepka was on two sides until the 12th hole, the magnificent botanical landmark at the heart of Amen Corner. The 155-yard par-3 hole is the shortest test at Augusta National. Koepka lofted his tee shot, and though he later avoided the bunker, it bounced toward the turf behind the green. His second shot missed the green, and his third went right and beyond the pin. He putt for bogey.
That left the 52-year-old Mickelson already in second place, having already finished his round.
Koepka pulled even with Mickelson on the 13th hole, but Rahm protected his three-stroke advantage with a birdie, which was no. First time after 8.
That didn’t last — because Rahm’s lead swelled to five feet on the next hole. Rahm’s second shot, from near the tree line, bounced onto the green and then rolled in something of a semicircle until it stopped short of the cup and set up a putt for birdie. Koepka’s second shot also reached the green, but it rolled well off the pin. A long effort missed for birdie, and one too short left the lip, sticking Koepka with a bogey in his fifth round.
He came close to making a putt for eagle on the 15th before settling for birdie there.
Rahm led by four strokes with three holes to play. Koepka made his tee shot no. After splashing water on 16, he cut it to three with a classy birdie, but his comeback chances continued to dwindle quickly. It didn’t help that his ball, on his second shot on the 17th hole, went from the shadowy sheet of East Georgia mud to where some spectators were sitting. He made bogey on the hole at the end of the third round; He carded another as the match ended.
A solo major victory at the 2021 US Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego, Rahm is almost assured of a green jacket and, a few months later, a Masters trophy engraved with the signatures of every man he has beaten.
As he finished his match on the 18th green surrounded by a thick, roaring gallery, he jubilantly raised his arms to the sky, clenched his fists, then briefly covered his face with his hands. He plucked his ball from the cup and showed the hat.
“I never thought I’d cry winning a golf tournament, but I got so close on that 18th hole,” he said.
Even by the standards of a star who topped the Official World Golf Ranking in 2020, Rahm has played well in recent months. In November, DB won the World Tour Championship by two strokes. In January, he won two PGA Tour events, both with 27-par scores, and in February he captured the Genesis Invitational.
He faltered in March, with a tie for 39th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational; withdrew from the Players Championship with a stomach ailment; And a mundane scene in a World Golf Championship match play tournament. But he insists he’s a “week-to-week guy”, content to play from one event to the next.
“Every match I go to, my plan is to win and I’ll never waver from that,” he said last week.
Until Sunday evening, he had never finished better than fourth at Augusta National. But for this year’s tournament, his seventh Masters appearance, he came with a storehouse of knowledge of the course that he suggested was challenging to fully utilize.
“I feel like it’s very difficult to implement everything you learn from each round at Augusta National,” he said.
He added: “Obviously, I’d say the more you play, the more you get comfortable with a bit of a delay here. Understanding certain distances and certain speeds on putts can be very frustrating. You know, a little bit of learning and things like that, but at the end of the day, it’s a golf course and you’ve got to come out here and play good golf, right? It’s plain and simple. There is no trick to it. The best player will win, that’s all you have to do.
He did it on Ballesteros’ 66th birthday.