Jon Rahm’s stunning first round comeback has him leading the Masters

Apr 6, 2023; Augusta, Georgia, USA; Jon Rahm tees off on the fifth hole during the first round of The Masters golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Network
Apr 6, 2023; Augusta, Georgia, USA; Jon Rahm tees off on the fifth hole during the first round of The Masters golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Network /

Jon Rahm nearly shot himself out of a chance to win the Masters after one hole. Then he showed why he was one of the pre-tournament favorites.

The old saying is that a major championship can’t be won on Thursday, but it certainly can be lost. And for Jon Rahm, his Masters Tournament got off to the worst start he could’ve possibly imagined.

Rahm hit the fairway on the first hole but quickly discovered what Augusta National can do to even the game’s best players. His approach shot missed the upper shelf by only a few feet, instead funneling toward the front of the green.

He missed his lengthy birdie putt. Then his par putt. Then another.

He finally made his fourth putt for double bogey and the world’s No. 3 ranked player, one of the “Big Three” favorites coming into the tournament along with Rory McIlroy and defending champion Scottie Scheffler, had to see a big red six appear next to his name on one of Augusta’s famous scoreboards.

Rahm could’ve been stunned by that start and let it affect him the rest of the afternoon. But he thought about something a legendary fellow Spaniard who won two Green Jackets famously said. “I remember one of Seve’s best quotes, which is how can you four-putt being that good. ‘Well, I miss, I miss, I miss, I make, and I move on,” Rahm told CBS inside Butler Cabin following his round.

He got back those shots with birdies on his next two holes. He got under-par with a birdie on the 7th. On the par-five eighth hole, Rahm hit his second shot from 249 yards out to four feet for an eagle to get to three-under for the tournament. Suddenly his journey to his first Masters title, which had such a tragic beginning, was back on track.

Rahm got up and down from a greenside bunker on the par-five 13th for another birdie. After a birdie on the 15th, his tee shot on the par-three 16th caught the slope of the green and finished 11 feet from the hole. Rahm made the putt to get to six-under and was just a shot out of the lead. On the closing hole, his second shot from the fairway spun back and ended up within four feet again for a birdie and a round of seven-under 65, tying Viktor Hovland and Brooks Koepka for the first-round lead.

Has Jon Rahm ever won The Masters? August plays into his game on Thursday

Of course, Rahm has never won at Augusta National. But it’s still a tournament he’s played well.

Rahm’s score tied the lowest of his Masters career over his 25 rounds at Augusta National. Of the 554 previous Masters rounds that began with a double-bogey, Rahm’s 65 is the best of any of them, according to ESPN Stats & Info. It tied the lowest ever by a player with a double-bogey anywhere on their scorecard. It was a fabulous display of ball striking, imagination, and, most importantly, self-focus.

Rahm didn’t miss a fairway on Thursday. He missed only one green. He gained more than eight shots tee to green, nearly four more than anyone else who’s completed their round. Rahm has finished in the top 10 at The Masters in four of the last five years, but joining Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal, and Sergio Garcia as Spaniards to win the Green Jacket has eluded him. He’ll have the chance this year.

“This is a golf course that I think really complements my game. I’m someone who’s very much a visual player. I see the ball flights, I see the shots. And with those undulating greens it’s something I’m more comfortable on than some of the flatter greens we play all year,” he said. “So, I would say yes, it should play into my strengths. I’ve had a pretty good record around this golf course. The only thing I have to do is be in contention on Sunday and get that win.”

The final round is scheduled for April 9, Easter Sunday. It will also be Ballesteros’ birthday. And, with Seve’s famous words ringing in his ears, Rahm went out and put on a performance that would’ve made him proud.

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