It seemed somewhat unlikely going into the day Sunday, but Jon Rahm ended up running away with the 2023 Masters Tournament, giving him his first Green Jacket at Augusta National.
With the 12-under finish in the tournament, he won his second major championship (the 2021 U.S. Open being the other), and he becomes the fourth Spaniard to win the Green Jacket. Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka finished tied for second, four shots back at 8-under par.
Rahm shot a 69 in the final round, to go 3-under, and matching up with his 65-69-73 first three rounds.
Rahm did make things mildly interesting on the 18th, pushing his drive way left, onto the next hole. But his ball was in the clear, and he rescued himself nicely.
Other than that, Rahm played a mostly steady final round Sunday, putting himself into position to take advantage of a surprising tumble from Koepka, who had dominated the tournament up until the final round. That’s when the wheels came off.
What was possibly even more surprising was Phil Mickelson’s miraculous surge in the final round. Playing some uninspired golf lately on the LIV Tour, the 52-year-old became the oldest player ever to finish in the top five of The Masters. His final-round 65 skyrocketed him near the top, just as Koepka started falling.
Koepka, one of the strongest stories coming out of the LIV Tour, couldn’t keep things together in the final round. At one point he had a 4-stroke lead over the field, but it disappeared quickly, and he stumbled all over the course. He finished with a 75 in the final round.
Jordan Spieth also had a wild final round, finishing with NINE birdies and a round of 66 that sent him quickly up the leaderboard.
The drama unfolded pretty much from the first moments of the tournament.
Thursday found Augusta National unseasonably warm, and a stark contrast from what was to come. And with the warm temperatures came low scores.
Viktor Hovland commanded the early part of the round, but by the end of the day, he found himself tied with Koepka and Jon at 7-under at the top of the leaderboard.
Friday morning brought a nervousness to the grounds, as bad weather was coming later in the day. Tee times were moved 30 minutes earlier to help avoid some of it. A brief afternoon lightning delay seemed to be the only real issue, until winds changed everything.
Large amounts of rain in recent weeks in Augusta made the ground soft and vulnerable. Coupled with the high winds, and suddenly a disastrous scenario nearly unfolded. Three trees fell near the tee on hole 17, and fortunately nobody was hurt. But play was stopped for the day.
The tree situation overshadowed what had played out on the course, which included a stunning first two rounds from amateur Sam Bennett, who was 8-under and near the top of the leaderboard. Bennett didn’t have the spark in the final round, but impressed with his poise.
Nearly half of the field had not finished their second rounds, and Koepka went into the night with a 3-shot lead.
Saturday morning opened early, with the completion of the second round in miserable wet, cold conditions. Generally, golfers who hadn’t finished their second rounds on Friday were at a significant disadvantage.
With the cut line shifting slightly, suddenly Tiger Woods became the story, as his shot at a record-tying 23rd straight cut made at the Masters was in jeopardy. But a late bogey from his friend Justin Thomas gave him the chance to play for the weekend. Part of it anyway.
Everyone powered through and started their third rounds near lunchtime on Saturday. But conditions weren’t getting any better.
Play was finally stopped around 3:15 p.m., with Koepka holding a 4-shot lead through six holes of his third round.
Sunday morning started with big news, as Tiger was forced to withdraw from the tournament with injury. He was in last place, and clearly struggling to get around with his injuries.
On the course, not much changed up top, but things did get closer, opening the door for the heavyweight fight to the finish.