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Posted April 03, 2019 12:04 pm
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Jon Rahm enjoyed being in the hunt at last year's Masters Tournament

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    Jon Rahm waves to the crowd after putting in on No. 17 as playing partner Sergio Garcia gets ready to putt at The Players Championship in March. Rahm's shot in the water on No. 15 in last year's Masters led to his fourth place finish. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]

Of all of Jon Rahm’s accomplishments at age 24 - including five worldwide victories - he’s only been in contention for a major championship title twice in 10 starts. That first time happened at last year’s Masters.

The Spaniard rode a third round 7-under-par 65 into the fringes of the championship picture. He trailed leader Patrick Reed by six shots, but moved into contention by playing the first 14 holes of the final round 4-under.

“It was unique,” Rahm said of the feeling early on the mid-portion of the back nine with a major title in the balance. “I still, deep inside, hope that ball on 15 was going to carry that water.”

Rahm was referring to his second shot on the par-5 hole. When it didn’t clear the water that guards the front of the green, it led to a bogey and dashed his hopes of becoming the fourth Spaniard to win a Masters title.

He parred his final three holes and finished with 69 for a solo fourth-place finish.

“I didn’t panic, which is the one thing I really wanted to learn about myself,” Rahm said of his first taste of major championship pressure. “It’s one thing to win a PGA Tour event but a major is very different.

“I felt really comfortable,” he said. “I loved the situation, I loved that hunt. Hopefully, next time I go into the back nine on a major I’m the one in the lead and get to experience that.”

Rahm’s talent is so immense that there was talk that he could win the Masters as a rookie when he debuted in 2017. That’s only been accomplished three times. Adding to the difficulty was the fact it was also his first major championship appearance.

“That was a stretch,” said Rahm, who tied for 27th that year, with a closing 75 dropping him down the final standings. “It was my first Masters and I know I had been playing good but it’s hard to win a major in your first try. It’s extremely difficult.”

Rahm believes he is ready to win it this year.

“Yeah, I believe so,” he said.

That confidence stems from the eight tournament rounds under his belt at the Masters.

“It’s a golf course, the more you play, and the more information you get about it, it’s going to be easier, especially on the greens,” he said. “A lot of times what you see and what happens is very different.”

He already has the par-5s under control; he has eagled three of the four par-5s (missing No. 15).

Three Spaniards have won the Masters, combining for five titles. Seve Ballesteros (1980, 1983), Jose Maria Olazabal (1994, 1999) and Sergio Garcia in 2017.

“Do I feel pressure? Not at all,” Rahm said. “I don’t have to do what they’ve done. It’s impressive to have five editions of the Masters in Spain. It’s really exciting. I just hope I’m the next one.”

Rahm won three times worldwide in 2018 (counting the unofficial Hero World Challenge), but the highlight, he said, was beating Tiger Woods 2 and 1 in the Ryder Cup singles in September as his European team rolled to victory.

“A lot went into that match; a lot of mental work just to get ready,” Rahm said. “So much going through my mind. I can’t explain it, but the No. 1 thing that I thought is that this happened for a reason. You know, I’m playing against arguably the scariest player in history, the best player in history on a course that suits him pretty well because he doesn’t have to hit many drivers and he putts pretty well. It’s not like the odds are in my favor; I like to hit driver. I had to play my best golf and I did.”

After he won, Rahm let out a loud shout before shaking hands with Woods.

“That was for Seve,” Rahm said of the Spanish Ryder Cup hero. “That was for him, not for me. That was for him.”

Masters Record - Jon Rahm

Year Place Score 1 2 3 4 Earnings
2018 4 -11 75 68 65 69 $528,000
2017 T27 +3 73 70 73 75 $78,100