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Home » ‘This One Was for Seve:’ Jon Rahm Joins List of Legendary Spaniards to Win the Masters

‘This One Was for Seve:’ Jon Rahm Joins List of Legendary Spaniards to Win the Masters

by Leighton Pearce
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It was time for another Spaniard to win the Masters.

After Jon Rahm pulled away to win the 87th Masters on Easter Sunday, he said it is something of a birthright for the best Spanish golfers of their generation to win at Augusta National Golf Club.

“There’s got to be something here about having a Spanish passport, I don’t know, there’s something about the grounds that transmits into all of us,” Rahm said.

Rahm, who opened the tournament with a double bogey, finished at 12-under 276 to win by four shots over LIV Golf tour members Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson.

Rahm, 28, is the fourth Spaniard to win the Masters. Once a fellow countryman won, though, it was never long before it happened again in the Masters.

Seve Ballesteros started it in 1980. Three years later, he won again. After Jose Maria Olazabal won in 1994, he did it again five years later. The latest break was six years, from Sergio Garcia in 2017 until Rahm this year.

“I think the main thing, something that gave me a lot of hope, and that kind of started when Sergio won in ’17, is that pretty much every great-name Spanish player has won here,” Rahm said.

In six previous Masters starts, Rahm had excelled almost every time. He was fourth in 2018, tied for ninth in 2019, tied for seventh in 2020 and tied for fifth in 2021. His worst finish was a tie for 27th.

“I played good every year. I can’t pinpoint exactly the first time, but it really became clear to me that year (in 2017, that Rahm could win),” he said.

For all his success at Augusta National, Rahm had never been in the mix to win over the final few holes on Sunday.

“To come somewhere where I’ve been comfortable and how great I’ve done here in the past but never gave myself a chance to win … all I asked for was a chance, and I got it.”

Olazabal and Garcia both missed the cut in this year’s Masters. Ballesteros died in 2011 at age 54 when Rahm was 16 years old.

“This one was for Seve,” Rahm said. “He was up there helping, and help he did.”

It was Ballesteros who put Spanish golf on the map, winning the first of his five majors at the British Open in 1979. He won 50 European Tour events and nine PGA Tour titles.

Sunday’s final round fell on the birthday of Ballesteros, who would have been 66 years old.

“Even with that bogey on 9, the support was pretty incredible all throughout, and I kept hearing, “Seve! Seve! Seve! Do it for Seve!” I heard that the entire back nine,” Rahm said. “That might have been the hardest thing to control today, is the emotion of knowing what it could be if I were to win.”

Ballesteros, never the best driver, was famous for his scrambling style golf. Fittingly, Rahm closed out the victory with what he called a “Seve par” on the 72nd. Off the tee on the par-4 18, Rahm hit his drive into the grove of magnolias. It bounced backward, into the fairway, leaving him 236 yards to the hole. He layed up to 68 yards, hit a wedge to 4 feet and made the par putt.

Then came that famous walk up the hill to the 18th green. Rahm, in the final group of the day, led by four shots so the jacket was his.

“Obviously we all dream of things like this as players, and you try to visualize what it’s going to be like and what it’s going to feel like,” Rahm said. “And when I hit that third shot on the green, and I could tell it was close by the crowd’s reaction, just the wave of emotion of so many things just overtook me. Never thought I was going to cry by winning a golf tournament, but I got very close on that 18th hole. And a lot of it because of what it means to me, and to Spanish golf, right.”

Rahm was so overcome he was almost in a daze during the winner’s news conference. An electronic scoreboard to his left in the media center showed the final leaderboard, hole by hole.

“Still really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Rahm said. “I’m looking at the scores, and I still think I have a couple more holes left to win.”

Rahm, who opened with 65-69, started Sunday’s play by completing his final 12 holes of the weather-delayed third round. Down by four shots to Koepka at the time, he cut the lead to two by making a 7-foot birdie putt after Koepka made bogey on the first hole of their re-start, the seventh hole. At the end of the round, a 73 for Rahm, Koepka still led by two. Rahm’s 69 eased him past Koepka, who had 75.

“To play the way I did on Sunday, only one bogey in difficult conditions … it’s hard to explain. A lot of pride, and I am really proud of myself and what I did,” Rahm said.

“The way Jon played today was pretty impressive,” said Koepka, who was Rahm’s final-round playing partner.

Mickelson posted 65, which would turn out to be the day’s low round, just as Rahm was making his bogey on No. 9. Rahm shot 1-under 35 on the front nine and 2-under 34 on the back.

“I was two behind and Jon played an amazing back nine,” Mickelson said. “I mean, a lot can happen on that back nine, a lot of good can happen and a lot of bad, and he played some incredible golf all week long, and is a very worthy champion. Easy to see why he’s regarded as the best player in the world, and he validated that today.”

It didn’t surprise Mickelson, who has been a mentor to Rahm. Mickelson’s brother (and now caddie) Tim was Rahm’s golf coach at Arizona State.

“The first time I played with him we played Whisper Rock, and he shot 62,” Phil Mickelson said. “And I thought I played pretty good, and he gave me a pretty good beat-down. So I am not surprised at his success. I mean, it was obvious to me at a very young age that he was one of the best players in the world even while he was in college. 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. I think the world of him as a person. And as a player, that’s obvious, how good he is.”

Early in the week, Rahm was reminded that the final round would fall on Ballesteros’ birthday. After a torrid start to this season (seven top-10 finishes and three victories), he also knew a victory would move him from No. 3 in the world ranking to No. 1.

“I was told a lot of things about why this could be the year, and I just didn’t want to buy into it too much,” Rahm said.

Rahm, a student of golf history, didn’t know he could become the first European to win the Masters and the U.S. Open. Rahm’s U.S. Open win came at Torrey Pines in 2021.

“I find it hard to believe,” Rahm said. “If there’s anything better than accomplishing something like this, it’s making history. So the fact that you tell me that, to be the first-ever — first European ever to do that, hard to explain. 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.”

Overall, Rahm now has 11 PGA Tour victories to go with nine on the European Tour.

“I’m just witnessing what he’s capable of, what he wants,” said Rahm’s caddie Adam Hayes. “He’s not done. He’s going to win a lot of tournaments.”

Source : The Augusta Chronicle

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