Jon Rahm back as solid contender in second Masters
After the third round of last year’s Masters Tournament, Jon Rahm knew his chances of slipping on a green jacket in his first appearance were gone.
The 1-over-par 73 dropped him six shots off the lead.
Then just 22 but with a PGA Tour win already under his belt, Rahm had been hoping to become the fourth player to win the Masters in his first appearance.
When it didn’t happen, he understood why.
“The way I like to think about it, Tiger (Woods) played two Masters before he won in his third,” Rahm said. “A lot of other players, Phil (Mickelson) played in 12 before he ended up winning. There's exceptions like Jordan Spieth, that he played one, he almost won it and then the next one he won. That happened.”
It would hardly be a surprise if Rahm, whose ranking has jumped from 26th leading into the Masters last year to as high as second in February, joined Spieth in the small group of players to win at Augusta on their second try.
Rahm tied for 27th in his Masters debut, in part because of his mindset going into the final round when he knew there was much ground to make up.
“I have nothing to lose, so probably go a little bit more aggressive and see if it happens,” he said after the third round.
It didn’t – the result was his highest round of the week, a 75. He opened with 73-70.
The Spaniard admits he falls into the aggressive school of course management that was a hallmark of his countryman and idol, Seve Ballesteros, a two-time Masters champion.
“I believe it's a Spanish mindset,” Rahm said. “I feel like we are all pretty aggressive, right? I feel like we've all been pretty aggressive, I think that's the mindset probably thanks to Seve, right?"
Fellow Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal also won the Masters twice, but there was never a year when Spain ruled two years in a row. That could happen this year if Rahm follows Sergio Garcia as the champion or Garcia repeats.
Like the Spanish Masters champions, Rahm likes to use his imagination when it comes to hitting different shots at Augusta National, especially around the greens, which have shaved fringes and devilish breaks.
“It certainly suits my eye,” Rahm said. “I usually like putting on places like this where you know that you have a lot of break and it just makes it a lot more fun and gets the creative side out of me.
“It's a course that it's proven that it fits any kind of player,” Rahm said. “You've had right handers, left handers, drawers, faders, short hitters win.”
In his short time as a pro – he officially went professional in October 2016 – Rahm has made quite a mark. He has two wins on both the PGA and European tours.
“All I can say is I would have never foreseen the way I played, maybe the way I played but not what I've accomplished. I would have never foreseen it,” Rahm said. “So it's just been two years, but I've accomplished a lot more than I set my mind to.”
Earlier this season, he had a chance to move to No. 1 in the world if he had won that week, which he didn’t.
“Well, if it was something easy, I would be a lot more relaxed than what I have been,” he said about overtaking Dustin Johnson at the top spot. “I'm looking forward to it, if it ever happens. But at the end of the day it's a consequence of the good play on the golf course.”