Starting the final round on Sunday, Rahm was two strokes behind Brooks Koepka. However, as Koepka struggled, Rahm made a strong comeback and secured his second major tournament win. The Masters Tournament began with a disappointment for Rahm as his putting speed was off on the first hole of the first round. This caused his ball to go too far and veer to the right, resulting in a double bogey.
As Rahm made his way to the next tee at Augusta National Golf Club, he couldn’t help but think of Seve Ballesteros, the renowned Spanish golfer who famously said, “I miss, I miss, I miss, I make,” referring to his own putting struggles at the Masters. Rahm also realized that unlike Ballesteros, he still had 71 holes left to make up for any mistakes.
Without a doubt, he did.
Rahm, the tall golfer from Spain who was the star of the PGA Tour during the early months of 2023, emerged victorious at the Masters tournament on Sunday, despite facing intense humidity, sudden drops in temperature, heavy rain that flooded the greens, and strong winds that even caused trees to fall. In addition, he had to overcome a rough start on Thursday at the first hole. This win marked his second major championship in his career, and he achieved it under a beautiful blue sky. He started the final round two strokes behind Brooks Koepka, a seasoned golfer with four major wins, who failed to make the cut at the Masters in April of the previous year.
Rahm emerged victorious with a four-stroke lead, finishing 12 under par for the tournament. Despite his success, he still believed there were a few more holes to conquer. He gave credit to Seve Ballesteros, who he felt was assisting him from above.
Rahm’s triumph has delayed, at least for now, the main goal of LIV Golf, a league in its second year that received funding from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and caused a division in men’s professional golf. Koepka has been one of the leading figures of the rebel circuit and emerged victorious in a LIV event in Florida recently. If he had won at Augusta National, it would have made him the first golfer to secure a major title as a LIV player. The league’s next opportunity to achieve this will be at the P.G.A. Championship in mid-May, hosted at Oak Hill Country Club near Rochester, N.Y.
Rahm’s win has put a pause on the ambitions of LIV Golf, a golf league that is backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and has caused a division in professional men’s golf. One of the league’s prominent members, Koepka, successfully participated in a LIV event in Florida and could have made history as the first golfer to win a major title as a LIV player had he also won at Augusta National. However, the league will have another chance to make an impact at the P.G.A. Championship, which will take place in mid-May at Oak Hill Country Club near Rochester, NY.
Mickelson, who has won the Masters three times, is expected to participate. However, Koepka, despite consistently sharing the lead for the first three rounds, will not be present due to his performance on the final day. Despite the challenging weather and scheduling issues, his consistent performance until the end made his lack of success all the more surprising. Koepka stated simply, “I led for three rounds, and just didn’t perform on the last day.”
Koepka lost his lead on the sixth hole on Sunday after a drive that went past the green, a chip that exceeded the pin, and a par putt that barely missed. The eighth hole offered a chance for either player to gain ground as both had made an eagle there previously in the tournament. However, Koepka’s tee shot landed on a patch of pine straw, requiring him to punch-out onto the fairway. In contrast, Rahm’s third shot landed on the green, placing him in a prime position for a tap-in birdie that increased his lead to two strokes.
However, there were accusations of top-ranked competitors playing in other areas among the trees. As Koepka and Rahm both received a bogey at the ninth hole, a group of prospective challengers were much closer than they had been earlier. Rahm held a score of 10 under, while Koepka was at eight under, tied with Jordan Spieth who began the round at one under. In addition, five other players, including Mickelson, Reed, Henley, Young, and Cantlay, had scores of six under or seven under.
The distance between Rahm and Koepka remained two strokes until they reached the 12th hole, which is a stunning botanical feature situated in the middle of Amen Corner. This hole has a par of 3 and spans 155 yards, making it the shortest challenge at Augusta National. Koepka launched his tee shot up high, but it dropped down towards the ground just behind the green, but luckily he managed to avoid the bunker. His second shot couldn’t quite make it to the green, and his third shot went to the right and past the pin. He eventually managed to sink the ball for a bogey.
After completing his round, Mickelson found himself in second place all by himself. Although Koepka birdied the 13th hole to tie with Mickelson, Rahm secured his three-stroke lead with a birdie on the eighth hole. This was Rahm’s first birdie since the eighth hole.
The situation didn’t last long as Rahm quickly gained a five-stroke lead on the following hole. Rahm’s second shot, which was taken near the trees, landed on the green and then rolled in a semi-circular pattern until it stopped close to the hole, giving him a chance for a birdie. Koepka’s second shot also reached the green, but it was further away from the pin. He missed a long attempt for a birdie and his much shorter attempt for a par hit the lip and bounced out, resulting in Koepka getting a bogey, his fifth one of the round.
He almost sunk a putt for an eagle on the 15th hole but ended up with a birdie instead.
Heading into the final stretch of the tournament, Rahm was leading by four strokes with only three holes left to play. Despite Koepka’s impressive birdie on the 16th hole, which cleared the water, his chances of making a comeback were quickly dwindling. To make matters worse, his second shot on the 17th hole landed in a patch of mud and ended up near some spectators, resulting in a bogey. This was not the first time Koepka had struggled on this hole; he also made a bogey during the third round. As the tournament neared its conclusion, Koepka’s second bogey pushed Rahm’s lead back up to four strokes.
Rahm, who only had one major win at the 2021 U.S. Open in San Diego, was almost guaranteed to win the Masters and have a trophy with the names of all the competitors he defeated engraved on it in a few months.
After sinking a par putt on the 18th hole in front of a loud and excited crowd, he raised his arms in celebration, made fists, and briefly covered his face with his hands. He removed his ball from the hole and tipped his hat to the audience. “I never thought winning a golf tournament would make me emotional enough to cry, but I came very close on that 18th hole,” he stated.
Rahm’s performance in the past few months has been exceptional, even for a top-ranked golfer like him. He secured victory at the DP World Tour Championship in November, winning by a margin of two strokes. Then, in January, he triumphed at two PGA Tour events, scoring an impressive 27 under par in both. He continued his success by winning the Genesis Invitational title in February.
In March, he had some setbacks in his golf performance, including a tie for 39th place in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, withdrawing from Players Championship due to a stomach illness, and an average performance in a World Golf Championships match play tournament. However, he claimed that he was not affected by these ups and downs and preferred to focus on one event at a time without getting mentally bogged down. He emphasized that his goal was always to win every tournament he played in, and his mindset did not change despite these setbacks. Last week, he stated that he remained committed to this approach.
Before Sunday evening, he had never achieved a higher ranking than fourth place at Augusta National. However, for this year’s competition, which marked his seventh participation in the Masters, he possessed an extensive understanding of the course that he believed would be difficult to fully utilize.
He expressed that it’s a challenging task to implement all the knowledge gained from each round at Augusta National. He further stated that the more you play, the more acquainted you get with the putting experience. The course can be quite deceptive, especially when it comes to understanding the breaks and speed of the putts. However, learning and experience can help. Ultimately, it’s a golf course that demands good gameplay, and there’s no shortcut to winning. The best player will always emerge victorious.
He accomplished it on the day that would have marked Ballesteros’s 66th birthday.