Jon Rahm was 11 strokes off the lead when he teed off Sunday at the Masters, where, with a deficit that large, the afternoon was more about simply trying to shoot the lowest score he could, enjoying the walk around Augusta National and perhaps picking up some crystal.
Then he birdied the first, eagled the par-5 second (crystal achieved), made birdie at the eighth and added one more on the 12th, where he performed a sign of the cross after his tee shot barely cleared the slope behind Rae’s Creek and settled five feet from the hole.
Suddenly, the 26-year-old Spaniard was just five back of leader Hideki Matsuyama, who had just bogeyed the first. Bigger miracles have happened.
“You’re thinking maybe birdie 13 and 15 and you add one more there; eight under, he’s at 10, he doesn’t have the best front nine, all of a sudden I’m in the mix,” Rahm said. “That’s kind of what I was thinking.”
Three years ago, Jordan Spieth began the final round nine shots back of Patrick Reed and made five birdies over his first nine holes to move into contention. Then he charged, making birdie at the 12th, another on the 13th after narrowly missing an eagle putt, another on the 15th and made a 30-footer for birdie on 16 to pull even with Reed. But Spieth’s hopes died with a bogey on the 18th, and he went on to finish in third two back of eventual winner Reed.
Rahm never got that close.
After driving into the pine straw right on 13, he was forced to lay up and wasn’t able to get up and down, instead settling for par. On 14, he tugged his approach shot to the left side of the green, where he had little hope of making birdie from across the putting surface. On 15, his second tracked toward the flag but hopped over the green, leaving him an up-and-down for birdie and what would be his final one of the day.
Still, a six-under 66—the best score of the day—was nothing to be disappointed about. After three straight days of 72, Sunday’s finale marked the 15th consecutive round of par or better for Rahm at Augusta National, which is one shy of Tiger Woods’ tournament record of 16 straight between 2007 and 2011. Over the last four years, Rahm is also a combined 37 under in the Masters, best of any player during that span.
Rahm also wasn’t sure what to expect after not arriving at the tournament until Wednesday morning and playing just nine holes following the birth of his first child on April 3.
“It’s almost like a shoulda-coulda-woulda, right?” he said. “First three days I just couldn’t get anything going. Today was the complete opposite.”
The finish also ensured Rahm the sixth top-10 in a major of his career, including his fourth straight at the Masters, where he finished T-7, T-9 and fourth in the last three years.