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Jon Rahm | The Masters

By Cameron Morfit –

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jon Rahm four-putted his first hole of the tournament, got the bad end of the draw, played through weather that required a tricky conjugation of the word squeegee, and had ample justification to look to the sky and scream (bilingually) at the golf gods.

But Rahm, who shot 69 to come from behind and win the 87th Masters Tournament by four over Brooks Koepka (75) and Phil Mickelson (65), had an inner-game ally, someone who simply wouldn’t let him go to the dark side. A better angel who was in Rahm’s ear come a spasm of hellish putting or the high water of unrelenting rain – all the way until he wiped away tears walking up the 18th green, saved par, and hugged his caddie, wife and two young children.

“If you’re going to make a double or four-putt or anything,” this ally said Thursday, after Rahm had collected himself to shoot 65, “it might as well be the first hole.”

When play was called Saturday with 11-plus holes remaining in Rahm’s third round, and he trailed Koepka by two, Professor Positive said: “A lot of holes. But feeling good, feeling strong, and keep it going.” And after Rahm finished his third round Sunday morning, still two back: “Feeling good, playing good, swinging well …”

This mental-game Svengali in Rahm’s corner was, of course, Rahm himself, which is to say that this Masters, like life, was in how you looked at it. Half of it was a discombobulated, disjointed mess, with rounds no longer ending when days did, making it hard to establish a narrative.

Rahm didn’t dwell on that half. He began the final round two strokes behind Koepka but played the first eight holes in 2 under (birdies at the par-4 third and par-5 eighth) while Koepka played them in 2 over (bogeys at the par-3 fourth and sixth) to seize control of the tournament.

It was Rahm’s sixth win in his last 12 starts on the PGA TOUR or DP World Tour, and with his 11th PGA TOUR title and second major victory – 2021 U.S. Open – he returns to world No. 1.

His patience, the knowledge that his stuff will win out over four rounds, has become his 15th club, so much so that he came from seven back (to Collin Morikawa) at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January, the high point of never-say-die-ism on his growing list of comebacks.

That four-shot deficit to Koepka as they resumed the third round Sunday? Please. Rahm rolled out of bed and rolled in his 9-foot birdie putt at the seventh hole while Koepka missed his par save from 11 feet, and the margin was two again. Each signed for a 73; still a two-shot deficit. Two shots? That’s nothing, especially not at Augusta National.

The final round wasn’t particularly close, Koepka failing to make a birdie until 13, when it was too little, too late. Rahm covered it with a birdie of his own and was three up with five to play.

Although he has become the very last person a leader wants to see in his rear-view mirror, there was a time when Rahm, 28, could be his own worst enemy. Part of that was immaturity.

“I mean, I went from being in college to being top 10 in the world in nine months from 2016 to 2017,” he said earlier this season. Indeed, he tied for third in his professional debut in June 2016 at the Quicken Loans National at Congressional, got his first win at the (January) 2017 Farmers Insurance Open, and finished T2 at the Charles Schwab Challenge in May of that year. Those results, plus a bunch of other top-10s, sent him from Arizona State Sun Devil to ninth in the world.

“My next year wasn’t as good; the period of adaptation was too quick,” he said. “You can’t prep anybody for that, being in college, when nobody knows you exist, to being a star.”

To watch him pull away from Koepka on the back nine, when Rahm birdied 13 and 14 to leave no doubt, was to marvel at how quickly he figured it out. Comfortable in his own skin, he has built a mental toughness to match his fearsome skillset.

Like Scottie Scheffler last year, Rahm came into this week at FedExCup No. 1 and with three wins on the season. In winning his fourth, he added his name to a list of Spanish Masters winners that includes Seve Ballesteros (1980, ’83), José María Olazábal (1994, ’99) and Sergio Garcia (2017). Ballesteros, who died in 2011, would have celebrated his 66th birthday Sunday.

Neither that bit of synergy nor anything else had a chance to distract Rahm.

Rain chased players off the course Friday (with 39 yet to complete the second round) and Saturday (all 54 who made the cut were unable to finish Round 3). Trees fell. Temperatures plunged from the 80s to the 40s. World No. 2 Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas missed the cut, while Tiger Woods looked to have missed, got a reprieve, then withdrew with more plantar fasciitis.

The cold, wet weather made for a long, unforgiving course, sending the premium ball-strikers, especially those who could power their way through the elements, to the front of the line.

“Most of the battle out there is just trying to keep yourself in some kind of head space that you can function,” long-hitting Cameron Young said after enduring a third-round 75.

By the time the final round arrived the sun shone, and temperatures climbed all the way to the low 60s. None of the scores reached that exalted number – 65 was the best anyone could do – and though no data is available, Rahm’s blood pressure was somewhere in the range of cool over calculated.

He’s got the long game, short game, and now the mental game. For anyone with designs on winning one of the big ones in the foreseeable future, Jon Rahm is the full nightmare.

Check out “Watts” in Jon Rahm’s bag below.

Driver: Callaway Paradym Triple Diamond (10.5 degrees @11.5) – Shaft: Aldila Tour Green ATX 75 2.8 TX (45.25 inches, tipped 1.5 inch)

3-wood: Callaway Paradym Triple Diamond T (High Launch, 16 degrees @15.1) – Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 8 X

5-wood: Callaway Paradym Triple Diamond T (18 degrees) Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 8 X

Irons: Callaway Apex TCB (4-PW) – Shafts: Project X 125 6.5

Wedges: Callaway Jaws Raw (52-10, 56-12 @55.25, and 60-10 degrees) – Shafts: Project X 125 6.5

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG Rossie S (37 inches)

Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X

Three up with five to play. Jon Rahm increases his lead. #themasters

— The Masters (@TheMasters) April 9, 2023

A Green Jacket for Jon Rahm. #themasters

— The Masters (@TheMasters) April 10, 2023