LIV Golf’s Brooks Koepka set the pace at the 2023 Masters – but in the end it was Jon Rahm who cantered to victory to claim a second major and first green jacket.
On what would have been the 66th birthday of the late, great Seve Ballesteros, Rahm stayed patient and kept his nerves at this Masters.
The 28-year-old carded a 3-under par 69 on Sunday to finish atop the leaderboard on 12-under to win by four strokes ahead of Koepka and 52-year-old Phil Mickelson, who posted a stunning 7-under 65.
His week began in nightmarish fashion, the Spaniard four-putting his first hole for a double-bogey.
Rahm fights back in round one, carding seven birdies and an eagle to remind his competitors why he is up there with the very best.
After that opening round of 65, he followed that with a 3-under 69. Both Rahm and Koepka battled the elements and completed their third rounds early on Sunday morning, carding rounds of 73.
When Rahm arrived on the property on Sunday morning, Koepka held a four-stroke advantage.
They had 29 holes to play and this was billed as a straight-up shootout between a PGA Tour loyalist and a LIV Golf pro who earlier in the week appeared to show some signs of the buyer’s remorse.
Koepka admitted that had he been fully healthy his decision to bolt from the PGA Tour would have been harder.
How it all unfolded
Koepka started out cautiously, but his problems began when he sent his tee shot into the front bunker on No. 4 and failed to get up-and-down at the nightmarishly long par-3.
The American, 32, dropped more shots at No. 6 and 9 meanwhile Rahm picked up strokes at 3 and 8, turning in 1-under after carding a bogey at No. 9 when his approach at the par-4 landed too short and rolled off the putting surface.
Koepka toiled but he dropped another shot at the par-3 12th, a hole famous for player capitulations.
Rahm played safe, hitting the center of the green as Tiger Woods did on his way to his 2019 comeback win.
He cultivated a fabulous two-putt par then made back-to-back birdies.
What had looked like a tense duel had turned into a clinic for Rahm, who also returned to World No. 1 with his victory.
Koepka answered with a birdie of his own on No. 13 but fell further behind with a dropped shot at 14 following a loose tee shot.
The four-time major champion did make a birdie at 15 and rolled in an incredible putt on 16 but Rahm’s lead was too big.
Rahm could even afford a loose tee shot of his own on the 72nd hole. He sent his tee shot sailing into the trees but his golf ball clattered off a pine and went backwards.
It appeared to only go about 150 yards down the fairway and Rahm was forced to lay-up before pitching close and making an unorthodox par.
When Rahm won, he let out a huge roar and was joined on the green by his wife Kelley Cahill and their two sons.
— The Masters (@TheMasters) April 9, 2023
History made for Rahm
Rahm became the fourth Spanish player to win and his victory came on what would have been the 66th birthday of Seve Ballesteros, who won the green jacket in 1980 and 1983.
The Spaniard is also the first European player to win the US Open and the Masters in their career.
He was the second player after Sam Snead in 1952 to win the Masters having started with a double bogey.
Rahm is also the sixth of all time to win the US Open and the Masters before the age of 29.
What they said
“You know, I just kind of played average, and I didn’t get any good breaks, either. For that ball to stay there on 9, it could have been — it would have been a tap-in pretty much.
“The par-3s, on the front I hit good shots, they just ended up in some tough spots. That’s how it goes sometimes.
“But I didn’t feel like I played too badly, and then obviously just tried to give it a run there at the end, but it just wasn’t good enough. Congrats to Jon.”
“I wasn’t sure how it was all going to come to me up until I hit my third shot on the green on 18.
“History of the game is a big part of why I play and one of the reasons why I play, and Seve being one of them.
“If it wasn’t for that Ryder Cup in ’97, my dad and I talk about it all the time, we don’t know where I would be or where as a family we would be.
“For me to get it done on the 40th anniversary of his win, his birthday, on Easter Sunday, it’s incredibly meaningful.
“To finish it off the way I did — an unusual par, very much a Seve par, it was in a non-purposeful way, a testament to him, and I know he was pulling for me today, and it was a great Sundays.”
What else happened?
Jordan Spieth (66) also delivered another memorable Augusta performance. He charged up the leaderboard on Sunday but endured a nightmare final hole when he double-crossed his tee shot.
Spieth eventually finished T-4 on 7-under with LIV Golf pro and former Masters champion Patrick Reed and Russell Henley.
Further back was defending champion Scottie Scheffler at 4-under, along with England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick.
Viktor Hovland, Sahith Theegala and Cameron Young also finished in the top-10.
Rory McIlroy, the tournament favourite, missed the cut. Woods withdrew through injury before the resumption of play in the third round.
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