Reflections on Jon Rahm’s win at the Masters

Jon Rahm, Masters champion

Jon Rahm, Masters champion

Although it lacked some drama coming down the stretch on Sunday, the Masters still was compelling to watch. Jon Rahm was impressive as he caught front-runner Brooks Koepka in the final round, eventually taking the lead which he never relinquished.

And to think Rahm’s Masters began with a four-putt double bogey on the first hole. Yet as a player once known for his temper, he took it in stride.

“If you’re going to make a double or four-putt or anything, it might as well be the first hole, 71 holes to make it up,” he said after his round on Thursday when he shot 65. 

He also said he remembered his hero, Seve Ballesteros, once making a four-putt at the Masters. Rahm even recalled Seve’s timeless explanation: “I missed, I missed, I missed, I make.”

Along with a steely mindset and disciplined course management, Rahm’s all-around game was spot-on at Augusta National. Consider these cumulative stats:

In the all-important Greens in Regulation (GIR) Rahm was T-3 with 52 out of 72 greens hit. (Scottie Scheffler led the field with 55 GIRs.)

In Driving Accuracy, he was T-4 hitting 48 out of 56 fairways. (Russell Henley and Shane Lowery were T-1 with 50 fairways hit.)

In total putts, Rahm was T-17 with 115 putts for the week. Surprisingly, he incurred 5 three-putts or worse which must be a high mark for a Masters champion. In fact, only one other player who made the cut, Thomas Pieters, had more three-putts (six) than Rahm. (Patrick Reed led in putting with 109 putts.)

But in total birdies, Rahm was T-3 with 20 “par breakers.” (Mickelson and Spieth were T-1 with 21.)

Rahm’s Masters win was his sixth in his last 12 starts on the PGA TOUR or DP World Tour, and his 11th PGA TOUR title. This is his second major victory – 2021 U.S. Open – and with it, he becomes the no. 1 player in the world. Again.

The native Spaniard relished knowing that his fellow countrymen—Seve, Jose-Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia—have accounted for 10 major championships. On top of that, Rahm became the first European to win a Masters and a U.S. Open. 

“Out of all the accomplishments and the many great players that have come before me, to be the first to do something like that, it’s a very humbling feeling,” said Rahm.

On Saturday night, many doubted Rahm could overtake Koepka known for closing out tournaments like back-to-back PGAs and U.S Opens. Koepka was playing dominant golf with long and accurate driving and solid putting. After two rounds, he was 12-under par. 

But it came undone in the final round. He missed four fairways and six greens and his once hot putter cooled. Koepka shot 75.

Considering the trials of coming back from a severe right knee injury, his runner-up finish was an unforeseen surprise. On Thursday after opening with a 65, Koepka talked about his knee:

“It’s probably the closest I can be to Tiger without his leg. I’m not saying it’s anywhere near his, but I understand how painful it is and how just mentally grueling it is.”  He said his knee didn’t feel right until last December. And the week before the Masters, he won a LIV event in Florida. As they say, he was trending.

One of the more revealing comments made last week was Koepka’s reply to a question if he had been as healthy as he is right now would his LIV decision been more challenging:

“Honestly, yeah, probably, if I’m being completely honest. I think it would have been. But I’m happy with the decision I made.”

Gotta hand this to Koepka: he’s a straight shooter who doesn’t pull punches.

But in the final round, Rahm proved to be a straighter shooter through the fairways of Augusta National. He also proved a trusted golf axiom:

It’s not how you start that counts but rather how you finish.

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There were several notable feats and records set last week.

Fred Couples became the oldest player at 63 years plus to make the cut at the Masters, surpassing Bernhard Langer.

Tiger Woods tied the record for consecutive cuts made at 23. On Sunday, morning, Woods withdrew due not to his ailing right leg but due to plantar fasciitis, a painful heel inflammation.

Runner-up Phil Mickelson was the oldest player at age 52 to have a top-5 finish at the Masters. After his exciting round on Sunday where he shot 65, Mickelson was asked about his long-time friendship with Rahm:

“My brother, Tim, was his college coach for four years at Arizona State. First time I played with him we played Whisper Rock, and he shot 62. And I thought I played pretty good, and he gave me a pretty good beat-down,” said Mickelson who’ll be competing in next month’s PGA Championship.

“To see him on this stage is not surprising for anybody. It’s hard not to pull for Jon, too. He’s such a good guy. He has such a great heart and treats people so well.”

And the lengthened par-five 13th accomplished what the Masters officials were seeking: it restored an element of risk-reward in going for the green in two. For the week, the 13th had a higher stroke average than the other par-fives.

Finally, love this candid quote from Koepka about the pace of play for the final round:

“Yeah, the group in front of us [ Patrick Cantlay & Victor Hovland ] was brutally slow. Jon went to the bathroom like seven times during the round, and we were still waiting.”


Image courtesy of Callaway Golf

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