When Jon Rahm came through the 13th and 14th holes early Sunday evening at Augusta National, playing them superbly, the clock had just passed midnight in his Spanish hometown of Barrika, a village of 1,500 in Basque country. That time zone reality was fitting, because Rahm had just effectively put the 87th Masters Tournament to bed.
On the newly lengthened par-5 13th, Rahm powered a draw around the corner with his compact swing, a quick one-two of force, leaving him only 198 yards to the green. From there he made a stress-free birdie to maintain a three-stroke lead. On No. 14, from 140 yards in the second cut right of the fairway, Rahm’s 8-iron approach landed left of the flagstick but grabbed, the ball rolling just where he wanted it, as if he were using a remote control. Cozy to the cup.
Another birdie. A four-stroke lead with four holes to play. One strong arm in one silky sleeve of the Green Jacket.
It was all formalized a short while later, a lengthy day featuring some twists ultimately concluding with an unsurprising ending: Rahm winning his first Masters in his seventh attempt. A final-round 69 did the trick as Rahm became the fourth golfer from Spain to slip into a Green Jacket, joining Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, both two-time champions, and Sergio Garcia.
The latest Spanish superstar finished at 12-under 276, four strokes ahead of Brooks Koepka, whom he dueled with for the final 36 holes, and three-time champion Phil Mickelson, who soared up the leader board at age 52 with a closing 65, his lowest final round in 30 Masters appearances.
Rahm’s second major title came 40 years after Ballesteros won at Augusta National for the second time and on what would have been the iconic golfer’s 66th birthday. Rahm knew of the timing, and so did some in the gallery who called out “Seve!” as emotional encouragement to Rahm.
When Rahm debuted at the Masters in 2017, he said, “Seve is my ultimate reference.” At age 28, Rahm, who returns to No. 1 in the world with his win, already has taken up plenty of space himself on golf’s shelf of memorable players. He will leave down Magnolia Lane with four victories so far this season, duplicating what 2022 champion Scottie Scheffler achieved last year.
“This one was for Seve,” Rahm said of the Spanish legend, who died of cancer in 2011. “I know he was out there helping, and help he did.”
Rahm did something at Augusta National that only Sam Snead had done, back in 1952: make a double bogey on the first hole of the Tournament and go on to victory 71 holes later.
Players in their 20s have won the last seven men’s major championships. Golf is young and powerful, and Rahm is a bullish poster boy for the style du jour. Rahm started the streak in June of 2021, when he birdied the final two holes at Torrey Pines, sinking sizable putts on each, to become the first Spaniard to win the U.S. Open.
Rahm rallied from three strokes behind to triumph that day in San Diego, and he won Sunday with another comeback to become the first European golfer to win both the Masters and the U.S. Open.
“I find that hard to believe,” Rahm said, when informed of that distinction. “If there is anything better than accomplishing something like this, it’s making history. To be the first to do something like that is a very humbling feeling. I can’t help but be anything but thankful.”
Rahm trailed Koepka by four strokes when the weather-delayed third round resumed at 8:30 a.m. with Koepka facing an 11-footer for par and Rahm a 9-foot birdie attempt. Koepka missed. Rahm made. Game on.
Rahm’s deficit remained two at the end of 54 holes, Koepka and Rahm each finishing with 73s. Norway’s Viktor Hovland was their closest pursuer. Eight of the last nine champions had come from the final group, and the way Koepka and Rahm had been playing this week – shooting first-round 65s, along with Hovland, for starters – the trend seemed likely to continue. Sure enough it did, but not before Mickelson did what he could to shake up the plot.
Mickelson was 10 behind after 54 holes. He didn’t make up much ground on the first nine, but the second nine was a different story as he bolted into contention after not having played in 2022, delivering the kind of play he had hinted he was close to putting together. Finishing a couple of hours before the Rahm-Koepka pairing, Mickelson closed with birdies at the last two holes, nearly holing his approach on the 17th to come home in 31. Paired with Lefty, Jordan Spieth offered his own fireworks, a 66 to tie for fourth with Patrick Reed and Russell Henley.
But the main event was the two sturdy men in the final pairing. Rahm clawed into the deficit quickly. When he went birdie-par at the third and fourth holes to Koepka’s par-bogey performance, he was tied. Koepka’s bogey on the par-3 sixth gave Rahm the solo lead, and he never relinquished it.
“It’s super disappointing,” Koepka said. “I didn’t play good enough to win. Didn’t feel I did too much wrong, but that’s how golf goes. I tried. I gave it my all. I can go to sleep at night.”
Koepka made three birdies on the second nine, but they were nullified by three bogeys as his game lacked the consistency it had before the third round was paused by bad weather Saturday afternoon.
Rahm was resolute, steadying himself with three consecutive pars after making making a bogey on the ninth when his approach rolled back off the front of the green. Then his excellent play on the 13th and 14th holes set up a more comfortable closing stretch.
“I might have looked calm, but I was definitely nervous out there,” Rahm said. “I had a plan for my game and I executed. I was calm. I never got frustrated. I never felt I was out of control.”
When Rahm saved par on No. 18 after a badly hooked drive bounced into the second cut short of the fairway, he saved par for the same winning margin Ballesteros had in 1983. Among those to greet Rahm greenside at the home hole was Olazabal, who also won his first Green Jacket at age 28, in 1994, the year Rahm was born.
Rahm might not have become a golfer if his father, Edorta, hadn’t taken up the game after watching the 1997 Ryder Cup, where Ballesteros captained the Europeans to victory at Valderrama. Jon was 12 years old when he met Ballesteros at a golf banquet that Olazabal also attended.
“I knew who Olazabal was,” Rahm once explained. “I had no idea who Seve was, and I shook Olazabal’s hand and I almost missed Seve.
“And my Dad almost had a heart attack because I had the chance to shake Seve’s hand and I almost didn’t. I have that memory.”
He has another memory now, a big one, likely with more to come.