Jon Rahm was nearly in tears after winning an emotional triumph at the Masters on Sunday, what would have been the 66th birthday of his idol Seve Ballesteros.
Rahm overcame a four-stroke deficit at the start of a marathon 40-hole final day at Augusta National to defeat Americans Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson by four shots for his second major title, a victory that returns him to world number one.
“This one was for Seve. He was up there helping, and help he did,” Rahm said. The 28-year-old Spaniard said he felt bolstered by the spirit of the late Ballesteros, who won his second Masters title 40 years ago. Rahm achieved what he called a “true honor” in becoming the fourth Spaniard to grab the green jacket after Sergio Garcia, Jose Maria Olazabal and Ballesteros, who died of brain cancer in 2011 at age 54. Rahm won the green jacket and took a record top prize of $3.24 million from a record $18 million purse.
Rahm held firm with a final-round three-under par 69 to finish on 12-under par 276 with four-time major winner Koepka and six-time major winner Mickelson sharing second on 280 and fellow Americans Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Russell Henley on 281. Rahm, who also won the 2021 US Open, became the first European golfer to own that title and a Masters. He overtook 2022 Masters champion Scottie Scheffler atop the rankings after the American shared 10th on 284.
Koepka, whose lead was trimmed from four shots to two just after the third-round restart Sunday morning, fired a closing 75. He surrendered the lead to Rahm with a bogey at the sixth — part of a 6-over 19-hole stretch — and never recovered. “Some days you have it, some days you don’t, and today wasn’t one of those,” Koepka said.
Three-time Masters champion Mickelson birdied five of the last seven holes to shoot 65, the lowest Masters round ever for a player over 50. “Unfortunately it wasn’t enough, but it was really a lot of fun for me to play at this level again,” said Mickelson. “It’s encouraging for me going forward the rest of the year.” He had a chance to match the greatest last-round comeback in major history — Paul Lawrie’s 1999 British Open rally from 10 adrift. But the US left-hander settled for being the oldest player to finish in the top-five at a Masters.
SOURCE: AFP NEWS