On Sunday, Jon Rahm won the 2023 Masters, his first green jacket and second career major.
The Spaniard put on a consistency masterclass, winning by four shots against LIV Golf Series combo Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson.
After two days of inclement weather forced repeated suspensions of play at the 87th edition of the historic major, it was appropriate that beautiful sky and sunlight provided the background for Rahm’s triumph, which sees him overtake reigning Masters champion Scottie Scheffler to the top of the global rankings.
After starting his event with a four-putt double bogey, Rahm rebounded quickly and never looked back, finishing 12-under with a final-round three-under 69.
Rahm became the fourth Spaniard to wear the green jacket and the first European golfer to win both The Masters and the US Open when he won at Torrey Pines in 2021, on the birthday of late Spanish golf hero Seve Ballesteros, winner in 1980 and 1983.
Only Ballesteros, José Mara Olazábal, and Sergio Garcia had previously worn the green jacket, and Olazábal was one among the first to greet the emotional new winner on the 18th green.
“History of the game is a big part of why I play and one of the reasons why I play,” Rahm added.
“If it hadn’t been for the Ryder Cup in ’97, which my dad and I speak about all the time, we don’t know where I would be or where we would be as a family.” “It’s tremendously special for me to have it done on the 40th anniversary of his triumph, his birthday, on Easter Sunday… “I’m sure he was rooting for me today.”
Rahm squandered Koepka’s two-shot lead into the final round, finishing with a disappointing three-over 75. The American had maintained at least a share of the lead after the opening round, but his hopes of a maiden green jacket and sixth career major were dashed by Rahm’s afternoon surge.
Mickelson turned back the clock with a final-round 65, becoming the oldest player to finish in the top five in a major. The three-time green jacket champion was all smiles as he breezed around Augusta National with eight birdies.
It is the lowest round ever recorded by a player over the age of 50, and it comes only a day after Fred Couples became the oldest player to ever make the major cut.
Jordan Spieth finished on seven-under par with a finishing 66 that included nine birdies. The 2015 winner tied for fourth place with Russell Henley and Patrick Reed, giving LIV Golf three players in the top four.
A championship defence appeared doubtful from the time Scheffler fired a dismal second round 75, ending eight shots behind Rahm, who was tied for tenth.
After a spectacular week at Augusta, leading amateur Sam Bennett earned hearts and praises. On his Masters debut, the 23-year-old Texan shot 76 and finished tied for 16th.
After two days of horrible weather and stop-start action, brilliant blue skies burst over Augusta National on Sunday, giving the race the green light to avoid the major’s first Monday finish since 1983.
A race against the time had already begun on Saturday, after terrible weather on Friday, which included gusts strong enough to bring down three enormous pine trees, had delayed play overnight and left some players having to complete their second rounds.
This group includes Rahm, who trimmed Koepka’s lead to two before teaming up with Bennett to play six holes of a rain-soaked third round on Saturday.
The sunny sunshine on Sunday gave Augusta National a more familiar feel, but there was no glimpse of Tiger Woods’ iconic Sunday red. Despite clearly labouring with mobility all weekend, the 15-time major winner fought to a record-tying 23rd cut, only to withdraw due to injury hours before play started on Sunday.
After admitting to being in “constant” pain after his opening round, images of the 47-year-old hobbling towards his golf bag during his final holes of the weekend will only heighten speculation about whether the five-time Masters champion will ever play the major again.
Koepka’s first drive reached the ninth fairway. Despite his wayward initial hook, the American rebounded well, placing his follow-up onto the green and saving par.
His relief was fleeting. Following Rahm’s birdie at the third, Koepka had bogeys at four and six. The summit saw a new outright leader for the first time since the second hole on Friday.
A steely-eyed Rahm surged, tapping in for birdie after hitting a great approach to within a few feet at the eighth to go two ahead. Meanwhile, Koepka was faltering, having lost two more strokes by the 12th hole.
To make things worse for the LIV Golf star, others in the rear were gaining ground. Though Mickelson and Spieth’s bids were too late to win, Koepka’s collapse pushed Mickelson, who was already in the clubhouse, up to solitary second.
When a disappointed Koepka eventually completed his first birdie of the day at the 13th, halting a 22-hole stretch without one, Rahm equaled him seconds later.
Any dreams of Koepka’s boost starting a remarkable comeback were dashed on the next hole, when he bogeyed again before Rahm rolled in for birdie.
What seemed to be an exciting two-horse race had devolved into a canter. Up ahead, American pair Reed and Henley were running out of time to mount a threat, and even Koepka’s back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16th only narrowed the margin to three.