How Jon Rahm won the 2023 Masters

How Jon Rahm won the 2023 Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. — On the day Seve Ballesteros would have celebrated his 66th birthday — and in the week of the 40th anniversary of his second Masters victory — a fourth Spanish champion was crowned at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday.

Jon Rahm, who started the day 4 strokes behind Brooks Koepka on the leaderboard, outdueled the LIV Golf League star over 30 holes Sunday to win a green jacket with a 72-hole total of 12-under in the 87th edition of the Masters. He beat Koepka and three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson by 4 shots.

Rahm, 28, is the first player from a European country to win both the Masters and the U.S. Open. He captured the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Rahm moves back to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with his victory at Augusta National.

Rahm joins Ballesteros (1980 and 1983), Jose Maria Olazabal (1994 and 1999) and Sergio Garcia (2017) as Masters champions from Spain.

Here’s how Rahm won the second major championship of his career at the Masters:

With his latest victory, Rahm also delivered a blow for the PGA Tour, after he defeated one of the LIV Golf League’s captains in what was largely a duel between the former world No. 1 players for nine hours Sunday.

After the third round was suspended Saturday because of heavy rainfall, Koepka and Rahm returned to the course at 8:30 a.m. ET on Sunday. Immediately, Rahm took the upper hand. He made a 9-foot birdie putt on the seventh hole, while Koepka missed an 11-foot par attempt. Just like that, Koepka’s lead was cut from four strokes to two.

After both players carded a 1-over 73 in the third round, Koepka had a 2-stroke lead heading into the final 18 holes. They returned to the course more than two hours later, playing each other in the final group.

Both players posted pars on the first two holes, then Rahm struck first with a birdie on the par-4 third, which reduced Koepka’s lead to only one stroke. Koepka carded a bogey on the next hole and they were tied. Rahm took his first lead of the day after Koepka posted another bogey on the par-3 sixth. Rahm never relinquished the lead and it grew to as many as five when he was standing on the 15th tee.

Rahm was one of the most complete players in the field all week. He hit 80.4% of fairways, 62.5% of greens and averaged 1.68 putts per hole.

What’s most remarkable about Rahm’s victory at Augusta National is how badly the tournament started for him. On Thursday, he four-putted the first hole for a double bogey. While walking to the second tee, Rahm said he thought of Ballesteros’ famous quote after he four-putted at Augusta, “I miss, I miss, I miss, I make.”

Ballesteros, who died from a brain tumor in May 2011, was Rahm’s golf idol while he was growing up in Barrika, Spain.

“If you’re going to make a double or four-putt, it might as well be the first hole — 71 holes to make it up,” Rahm said.

Rahm was 9 under over the final 17 holes and grabbed a share of the first-round lead with Koepka and Norway’s Viktor Hovland. Rahm shot 3-under 69 in the second round and 1-over 73 in the third, which was played in a downpour and suspended until Sunday morning after water was pooling on the greens.

Playing in a final pairing in the final round of a major for the first time in his career, Rahm largely avoided the big mistakes that plagued Koepka throughout Sunday’s round. Rahm once again showed that he can come from behind on the sport’s biggest stage. At the 2021 U.S. Open, he trailed three co-leaders by 3 shots after 54 holes and came back to win.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rahm is only the fourth player to overcome a multi-shot deficit after 54 holes and win both the Masters and the U.S. Open. The others were Jack Nicklaus (1962 U.S. Open, 1986 Masters), Byron Nelson (1937, 1939 U.S. Open) and Gene Sarazen (1922 U.S. Open, 1935 Masters).

While much of the attention coming into this week focused on Rory McIlroy‘s quest to complete the career grand slam (he missed the cut), Tiger Woods‘ return to Augusta National (he withdrew before play resumed on Sunday) and Scottie Scheffler‘s attempt to win a green jacket in back-to-back years (he tied for 10th), Rahm was largely overlooked.

While Rahm’s play had cooled off over the past month, he had long been playing like the best player in the world. Since the 2022 Tour Championship, Rahm has now won six times and finished in the top 10 a whopping 11 times in 14 starts.

While McIlroy, Rahm and Scheffler had battled for the No. 1 ranking during the first four months of the season, there was little debate as to who’s the best now after Rahm slipped on a green jacket in Butler Cabin.

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