Augusta, Ga. — History is said to be written by the victors. In golf, history can be said to be written by the winners.
Jon Rahm threw open the throne room doors on Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club, as Brooks Koepka stayed for 30 straight holes, rolled the third round and began the final round. Rahm over putt on the 7th hole at 8:30 am ET, trailing Koepka by four, the same number he would go to beat him nearly 11 hours later.
Rahm saved a 9-footer, Koepka missed his 11-foot putt, and split the overnight lead at halftime. Koepka never really recovered.
Rahm made only three bogeys on the day and played the last 30 holes in 3 under, while Koepka failed to shake the mat, playing Sunday in 5 over while kicking the 36- and 54-holes, the lead and the opportunity. Join the historically comical five-major club that has welcomed only 12 men since World War II.
Speaking of clubs, Rahm entered his own personal group of one on Sunday: He became the first European to win both the US Open and the Masters. Only 14 people worldwide have completed that last 80-year course; none of them were born across the pond. Not even the legendary Seve Ballesteros – the first Spaniard to win the Masters in 40 years and the man whose birthday fell on the Masters – is a member of that club.
“It was not easy to believe, at first,” Rahm was asked after the win. “We, if there is anything like that to do this, to make history. Out of all the skills and the many great players who came before me, to be the first to do something like this is a very humbling feeling.”
This is the story of how Jon Rahm has been one of the three best players in the world for eight years only to repeat himself a little less well known and popular than the greats. It is also told how major leagues – because of their depth and past stories – are now more important than ever.
Rahm should be a lot. Only Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy claim to be in their statistics for seven years. Since June 1, 2016 — the month Rahm turned it around for himself — those three golfers averaged over 2.0 strokes per round, according to Golf Data. They have a combined 49 victories in that entire span.
Rahm is there, though, even with McIlroy and Johnson. He leads the way since June 2016 in total wins (19), top 10s (84), top 10 percentage (54%) and total hits (2.2). He is also unique compared to two of the 25 best players in history.
However, in golf, winners do not always change from these. In golf, there are four major balls that — well enough or not — showcase to the general public (and largely the whole of golf) just how good a player you actually are. This was great for the careers of Martin Kaymer, Angel Cabrera and Koepka. It wasn’t so much for players like Davis Love III and Greg Norman.
Rahm’s talent and skill are not worthy of a man with just one major championship. But hell is not suitable for a man who has two or three. People raved about him because he could legally drink (in the United States of America). Phil Mickelson bet a friendly eleven with Colt Knost claiming that Rahm was a top ten player in the world. It numbered at that time No. 766;
Rahm is, if he didn’t sit this one out before this week, maybe he has one of all time now.
But this week was only partly about Rahm because once again golf’s winners are determined by history and contain all the majors.
After a year of bluffing and nonsense from every literate member of the golf world (myself included), it was heartbreaking to return to the one place where there is nothing more important than golf to the players who built this tournament.
He also reminds, for all the money that has been spent on players, sponsors and teams since the beginning of 2022, you cannot buy the past. And as for the four championships, nothing can be more precious.
“I wanted to win” [the Masters] ever since I thought about golf and what a champion was,” Rahm said.
If fans went into this week expecting a war with the bitter and petty punishing each other publicly, there was nothing like the Augusta Nationals either. It can’t be that the best players in the world gathered again was clearly a celebration, but it was close to condemnation.
This week was a huge reminder that for all the oxygen we’ve spent on the PGA Tour and its new rival over the last 12 months, the Masters is the true keeper of the game. Unknowingly or not, that scuttlebutt gave birth to this.
They have become greater and more important than they were before, because history has been determined by the conquerors. (This would have been true if Brooks Koepka or Phil Mickelson had won as well).
“I thought it was exciting for this tournament to have all the best players in the world here and lose everything,” said Mickelson, who miraculously shot a 65 on Sunday to finish T2 this week. “That was great.”
He continued: “This tournament is not about what you do. There are players from all over the world on many different tours, and you bring the best players to play against each other in the majors. And that’s it. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what the game of golf should be. It’s always going to be. and so there is always a place for historical events.
We were looking around all week, wondering what was going down. They’ve never done anything like The Masters — where Rahm and Koepka took center stage all day Sunday — is a place you should listen to again and again.
Listen to Mickelson’s words. and listen to Rahm’s footsteps. You hear them everywhere.
He chased down the fabled, cold, wet, foggy fairways at Augusta National.
Rahm always seems to be running down, even standing up straight, and when a man of his size starts running down a slope, there’s nothing to do but pray.
You couldn’t quite watch Rahm-Koepka tie the knot with your eyes closed, but you could close pretty close. Koepka’s grinning smile wanders in heels looking as colorful as Joe Namath. Rahm stomping, smoky and sweaty looking like Joe Thomas. They are similar to those who are thrown out of prisons for very different reasons.
He turned away their ears. Koepka’s villainous whoosh is like no other in sports. Rahm’s quick, efficient passing — in part the result of the clubs that turned him into the best hitter ever — is remarkable.
As the afternoon fell at Augusta National, smoke began billowing — as it always does — up and down the fairway on the 13th. It is the smell of cigars and sagas, power and noise. And it is supposed to smell like the smell of Sunday among the Masters.
Rahm maintained his three-way lead into the par-5 hole. Then he headed to the 14th tee with the ferocity of a man aiming for the trophy and leaving footprints all over this venerable course.
He pounded the earth with his feet like a boxer pummels a heavy bag, as if to remind him that he was really waging war against the earth, not the man on the road.
Listen to the hands. They tell the story of the Spanish made at Augusta National, but they tell of one man whose power he believes to be his touch. No brute this explosive if he can make a golf ball dance like that.
Hear Rahm wander and grunt and hit a suddenly broken Koepka, who broke 14 from the last shot. The Spaniard’s lead blossomed so great that Rahm brought out a temporary tree cut on No. 18 and said he never felt an ounce of anxiety. It’s like a square lead with one hole to go through.
Listen to a couple of them, but open your eyes at the end and watch the two-time masters champion José Maria Olazábal embrace Rahm, holding his head in the Spanish magic hands. They mourned the hero in Seve who turned 66 on Sunday, but also celebrated the history they all now own.
The two badass Spaniards were moved by the man and played a crazy game.
“It’s fantastic,” Olazábal told the Golf Channel. “It’s amazing. Four Spaniards wearing the green shirts already. It’s amazing for a small company like Spain to produce four masters winners. I think it’s amazing. And for the game of golf in Spain, I think it’s going to be fantastic.”
“‘Seve! Seve! Seve! Do this for Seve!’ “I heard the whole back nine,” Rahm recalled to the patrons as he glowed in victory after the round. That could be very difficult.”
You can’t buy the past. Thucydides decides the victors.
It’s a big deal for all three people.
Rahm’s patrons listened more closely when he hollered Seve’s name. He heard the story, which made him more interested.
That’s what’s special about major championships. They compound over time and grow more, the longer they last.