April 11, 2023

A Master showing his brilliance!

Jon Rahm winning this year's Masters was not a surprise, because he is just too good not to. It was just a matter of when. The battle to hold the Augusta National clubhouse trophy this year tested every facet of a golfer's game and character to emerge victorious. Only three players this year could have won in the fashion that Jon Rahm did on Sunday. All others come up short in what it takes to extract greatness when needed. It was a brilliant show of patience, shotmaking, and resolve. The brilliance might be lost in seeing Rahm's power and might, but this was a painter creating a piece of art through adversity.

Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, and Jon Rahm are in a class by themselves this year in comparison to their fellow professionals. Each has gone back and forth as the number one player in the world. Each has shown they are able to distinctively distance themselves from their contemporaries. If Jon Rahm had not played this tournament, there would have been a winner, but the story line would've been different. That victor would've had the lowest score, but what Jon Rahm did was force his will on this tournament and made it his! Winning by four shots in a major is a statement of dominance.

There is always a degree of luck in any tournament. For the first two rounds the field is split in half with one group playing early one day and late the second. The other group does the opposite. This year the players that played early and then late had a distinct disadvantage because of weather. Rain, wind and cold hampered play on Friday and most afternoon players had to come out in very chilly weather early on Saturday to complete their second round. Brooks Koepka played in ideal weather both days and shot great scores of 65 and 67. When Saturday play started, he was fully rested and holding a two shot lead over Rahm and a six shot lead over third. Jon had to battle fierce winds and cold that drove a player like Justin Thomas to shoot 6 over par on the last eight holes and miss the cut by one shot. Just that battle can wear you out mentally and physically and then an hour or so later you have to face the same elements again in the third round against an energized four time major winner who is firing on all cylinders.

I am glad that Brooks Koepka is back to full health and playing at a level that he expects. Seeing his stellar play the first two day, he appeared to be in 2017 to 2019 form, where in major tournaments he just took over the event and dominated. For anyone to beat that type of play would require something more than special. I expected Brooks to continue that level of excellence and he did through the seven holes he and Jon completed on Saturday and finishing up early on Sunday to maintain his two shot margin with 18 holes to play. Viktor Hovland was another two shot back, but in reality, the final 18 holes was Koepka verses Rahm for the Green Jacket.

Maybe Brooks isn't completely back from his surgeries or fully recovered from his failure against Phil Mickelson in the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, but he struggled the last round. Rahm was the alpha dog in this fight and when he got the advantage, he didn't give it up. Number one players in the world have this quality and Rahm is that type of player. This is major win number two for Jon, but don't be surprised if there is another this year and starts a string of major victories that could continue for at least the next five years.

The LIV Tour had 18 representatives with 12 making the cut. Brooks and Phil finished second with Patrick Reed tying for fourth. No other player finished in the top 15, but it was an outstanding showing for their group. When interviewed Brooks and Phil were happy that all the best players in the world were able to complete in this major championship. On the course the players got along admirably and all players were treated with respect by the patrons. In that regard it was the best that you could've hoped for. Golf was the focus and differences were put aside. Phil's play was outstanding. He has not had a good tournament result since winning the PGA two years ago. In the previous three LIV events, he has finished well down the list and there were little expectations for a good result at Augusta. A three time champion knows the golf course and Phil conjured up a Jack Nicklaus moment and returned to his past glory and put on a show that concluded with a stellar 31 on the incoming nine. If anyone other than Jon Rahm were leading, his surge up the leaderboard could've rattled a less experienced player. Still it was a great moment with a superstar showing he still has a little more gas in the tank for another push at greatness.

Jon Rahm was dealt the toughest hand and he handled it was ease. Double bogie on his first hole; battled wind, cold, and rain most of the tournament; had to restart in chilly cold condition in early morning twice; and face a four time major winner who was on his game. The result, a four shot victory and a most deserved entry into one of golf most prestigious societies, a Masters Champion! Well done indeed!


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