Jon Rahm captured his second major championship at the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga., this past Sunday, outlasting Brooks Koepka by four shots. With this victory, Rahm became the first European to win both a U.S. Open and a Masters, a feat that even his hero Seve Ballesteros, to whom he dedicated his win, could not accomplish. Rahm has now won six of his last 12 stroke-play events, overtaking Scottie Scheffler as the number one player in the world.
Despite a four-putt double bogey on his first hole of the tournament, Rahm sat atop the leaderboard with Koepka and Viktor Hovland after the first round, each opening with a 7-under 65. The second round was characterized by rain and high winds, forcing a dramatic early suspension of play after multiple trees fell near spectators on the 17th tee. Koepka shot 67 and Rahm shot 69, while Hovland faded with a 73.
However, the most impressive performance of the first two rounds did not even come from a professional. Amateur Sam Bennett, a fifth-year senior at Texas A&M and the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, opened with back-to-back rounds of 68. He became the first amateur since 1956 to be in the top three after two rounds, and would go on to win low amateur honors after a top-16 finish — the best performance by an amateur in 18 years.
The third round was also cut short due to weather, with Rahm and Koepka’s group on just the seventh hole when play was suspended due to flooding on the greens. Koepka had a four-shot advantage over Rahm at this point, sitting at 12 under. The weather cleared up on Sunday, setting the stage for a 30-hole day for the two.
When play resumed at 8:30 a.m., Rahm immediately captured the momentum, birdieing the seventh and eighth holes and finishing the third round two back from Koepka. Rahm eventually overtook Koepka on the front nine of the final round, with birdies on the third and eighth. Koepka struggled off the tee and made bogies on the fourth, sixth and ninth to fall two shots behind Rahm.
After another bogey from Koepka at the par-three 12th, Rahm made back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th, bringing him five shots clear of Koepka. He made all pars coming in to clinch his first Masters victory.
Despite a poor 75 in the final round, Koepka’s top-three finish made it very clear that he is back with a vengeance; Koepka was the most dominant player in golf from 2017 to 2019, winning back-to-back U.S. Opens and PGA Championships. Such an impressive feat quickly vaulted his name into the conversation with the greatest golfers ever.
However, Koepka has struggled with injuries to both his knees. In 2022, he did not finish better than 55th in any of the four majors. With his health in jeopardy, Koepka decided to sign with LIV Golf, a Saudi Arabian-backed golf tour, for a contract reportedly worth $100 million last June. Yet by this February, there were already reports that Koepka was feeling “buyer’s remorse” over his choice to join the less-competitive LIV tour.
Alongside Koepka, fellow LIV golfer Phil Mickelson had a surprisingly strong showing at the Masters. After his controversial statements regarding the Saudi Investment Fund’s involvement in LIV Golf last year, Mickelson did not participate in the 2022 Masters and PGA Championship and missed the cut at the U.S. Open and the Open Championship in St. Andrews, Scotland.
Mickelson, who won green jackets in 2004, 2006 and 2010, shot his best career round at the Masters on Sunday — his closing 7-under 65 helped him skyrocket up the leaderboard to a tie for second with Koepka.
Strong showings from both Koepka and Mickelson bolster the LIV tour’s credibility, as many have criticized it for running exhibition tournaments and having much weaker fields than its rival, the PGA Tour.
The next major on the golf calendar is the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. Rahm (7-1) is certainly an early favorite along with Scheffler (9-1) and defending champion Justin Thomas (14-1). Rory McIlroy (10-1) had a very disappointing week at the Masters, missing the cut in the major he needed to complete the coveted career grand slam. He will look to bounce back at Oak Hill in an attempt to capture his third PGA Championship.
Leo Mangan is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. The 73rd Hole appears online and in print every three weeks.