(CNN) — Jon Rahm won the 2023 Masters on Sunday, clinching his first green jacket and second career major with an unflappable showing at Augusta National.
The Spaniard put on a clinic in consistency to ease to a four shot victory ahead of LIV Golf Series duo Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson.
After two days of miserable weather had seen multiple suspensions of play at the 87th edition of the historic major, it was fitting that blue skies and sunshine set the backdrop for the crowning of Rahm, whose victory sees him leapfrog reigning Masters champion Scottie Scheffler as world No. 1.
Having begun his tournament with a four-putt double bogey, Rahm recovered immediately and never looked back, carding a final round three-under 69 to finish 12-under.
On the birthday of late Spanish golf icon Seve Ballesteros — champion in 1980 and 1983 — Rahm became the fourth Spaniard to win the green jacket and the first European golfer to win both The Masters and the US Open, following victory at Torrey Pines in 2021.
Ballesteros, José María Olazábal, and Sergio Garcia were the only three of Rahm’s compatriots to have donned the green jacket previously, and Olazábal was one of the first to embrace the tearful new champion at the 18th green.
“History of the game is a big part of why I play and one of the reasons why I play, Seve being one of them,” Rahm said.
“If it wasn’t for that Ryder Cup in ’97, my dad and I talk about it all the time, we don’t know where I would be or where as a family we would be.
“For me to get it done on the 40th anniversary of his win, his birthday, on Easter Sunday, it’s incredibly meaningful … I know he was pulling for me today.”
Rahm made short work of the two shot lead taken into the final round by Koepka, who slid to a frustrating three-over 75 finish. The American had held at least a share of the lead from the end of the first round, but saw his dreams of a first green jacket and fifth career major fade quickly amid Rahm’s relentless afternoon charge.
Mickelson rolled back the years with a final round-best 65 to become the oldest golfer ever to finish inside the top-five at the major. A three-time green jacket winner, the 52-year-old was all smiles as he eased round Augusta with eight birdies.
It marks the lowest round ever posted by a player aged 50 or above, coming a day after Fred Couples became the oldest player to ever make the cut at the major.
Jordan Spieth shot nine birdies in a blistering closing 66 to finish on seven-under. The 2015 champion finished level with Russell Henley and Patrick Reed, who made it three LIV Golf players inside the top four.
A defense of the title looked unlikely from the moment Scheffler endured a frustrating second round 75, the American finishing eight shots adrift of Rahm, tied for 10th.
Leading amateur Sam Bennett won hearts and plaudits after a superb week at Augusta. The 23-year-old Texan — who has a tattoo of his late father’s final piece of advice inscribed on his wrist — shot 76 to finish tied for 16th on his Masters debut.
After two days of miserable conditions and stop-start action, clear blue skies finally broke above Augusta National on Sunday, prompting the green light for the race to escape a first Monday finish at the major since 1983.
A battle to beat the clock had already ensued Saturday after bad weather Friday — featuring winds strong enough to fell three large pine trees — had suspended play overnight and left several players needing to finish their second rounds.
That group included Rahm, who cut Koepka’s lead to two before the duo paired with Bennett to trudge through six holes of a rain-soaked third round Saturday. By the time the horn sounded to suspend play, Koepka’s four stroke cushion had been restored — the American weathering the storm expertly while his Spanish rival lost ground with back-to-back bogeys.
Sunday’s bright weather brought a more familiar feel to the picturesque terrain of Augusta National, but there was no familiar sight of Tiger Woods’ classic Sunday red. Despite visibly struggling with movement throughout the weekend, the 15-time major champion had battled to a record-equaling 23rd cut, only to announce his withdrawal due to injury hours before play resumed on Sunday.
Having admitted to being in “constant” pain after his opening round, pictures of the 47-year-old — rooted to the bottom of the leaderboard — hobbling towards his golf bag during his final holes of the weekend will only intensify questions of whether the five-time Masters champion will ever play the major again.
Rahm had once again moved to within two strokes of Koepka as the pair approached the first tee for the final time, after the duo both carded one-over 72’s in the third round hours earlier.
Koepka’s opening drive found the fairway: the ninth fairway. Yet the American recovered superbly from his wild opening hook, planting his follow-up onto the green before saving par.
His relief didn’t last long. After Rahm sunk his first birdie of the day at the third, Koepka made bogeys at four and six. For the first time since the second hole on Friday, there was a new outright leader at the summit.
Smelling blood, a steely-eyed Rahm accelerated, tapping home for birdie after knocking a brilliant approach to within a few feet at the eighth to move two clear. Koepka, meanwhile, was fading, dropping two more shots by the 12th hole.
To make matters worse for the LIV Golf star, those behind had gathered momentum. Though Mickelson and Spieth ultimately left their charges too late to snatch victory, Koepka’s slide jumped Mickelson — already back in the clubhouse — up into solo second.
It was fitting encapsulation of the day that when a frustrated Koepka finally converted his first birdie of the afternoon at the 13th — snapping a 22 hole streak without one — Rahm matched his effort mere seconds later.
Any hopes of Koepka’s boost sparking a dramatic comeback were crushed at the following hole, as he bogeyed once again before Rahm coolly rolled home for birdie.
What had looked set to be an enthralling two-horse race had turned into a canter. Up ahead, American duo Reed and Henley were running out of time to challenge, and even back-to-back birdies for Koepka at the 15th and 16th only cut the gap to three.
Carrying a four shot lead into the final hole, there was a momentary scare for Rahm — perhaps his first genuine fright of the day — as his tee drive went sailing towards the trees.
It made for scenes reminiscent of a year ago, when runaway leader Scheffler made a wobbly finish, four-putting to close. Yet, once again, the outcome was the same — Rahm hit a provisional only to later find his original ball had bounced back onto the fairway.
A phenomenal approach onto the green allowed Rahm to fully bask in a champion’s ovation from the Augusta patrons. The ball had barely hit the bottom of the cup before Rahm had dropped his putter, raising his arms and head to the sky to toast a dominant triumph.