- By Jonathan Jurejko
- BBC Sports
Final ranking of the Masters 2023
-12 J Rahm (Spa); -8 P Mickelson (USA), B Koepka (USA); -7 P Reed (USA), J Spieth (USA), R Henley (USA)
Others selected: -6 V Hovland (Nor); -4 S Scheffler (USA), M Fitzpatrick (Eng); -2 J Rose (Eng), S Lowry (Ireland), S Bennett (USA)*; +4 T Fleetwood (English), T Hatton (English)
Spaniard Jon Rahm kept his composure and patience to win a first Masters, swinging a thrilling final day in his favor against American Brooks Koepka.
Rahm, 28, posted a three-under 69 to finish on 12-under and win by four strokes as Koepka, who led by two going into the final round, signed for a 75.
Koepka finished second with the veteran Phil Mickelson, who shot a stunning seven under 65 to finish eight under.
Past champions Jordan Spieth And Patrick Roseau were a swipe further back.
reigning champion Scottie Scheffler finished in a four-under group, with England’s US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, who was the best finisher in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Rahm became the fourth Spanish player to win the Masters and his victory came in poignant fashion on what would have been the 66th birthday of legendary two-time champion Seve Ballesteros, winner in 1980 and 1983.
“I didn’t know how [the emotion] was going to come until I hit the third shot on the 18th,” said Rahm, whose first major win came at the 2021 US Open.
“The story of the game is a big reason why I play and Seve is a big part of that story.
“For me to do it on the 40th anniversary of his second Masters win and his birthday was incredibly meaningful.”
How Rahm took control to win Green Jacket
Rahm was one of the pre-tournament favorites – alongside Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who missed the halfway point, and world number one Scheffler – after an impressive year ahead of the first men’s major of the season.
With three PGA Tour wins this year, plus four top-10 finishes in six previous Masters starts, Rahm had the form and previous pedigree to win at Augusta – and he duly delivered.
Remarkably, he started his bid on Thursday with a double bogey after a four-putt on the first hole. After that, he barely made a misstep.
Rahm showed every facet of his exceptional all-around game – especially his huge, relentless drive and nerveless putting – to record a first-round 65 and then post scores of 69, 73 and 69.
Not only did Rahm win the iconic green jacket for the first time, but he also returned to the world rankings.
Leading by four shots with four holes to play, he maintained that advantage on the 18th hole and could even afford to hit his last shot in the trees.
The ball ended up bouncing inbounds and landing 150 yards from the tee, but he retained his composure to lay down and hit a sublime chip a few yards out for an unorthodox par.
“It was a very unusual par, really a par from Seve – in an unintentional way. I know he was shooting for me and it was a great Sunday,” added the 28-year-old.
After sinking his final putt, Rahm shook his clenched fists while looking skyward.
His family – his wife Kelley, as well as his two sons Kepa and Eneko – soon joined him on the 18th green before he was congratulated by friends and family.
Among them was fellow countryman Jose Maria Olazabal, another two-time Masters champion and one of Rahm’s mentors.
Koepka fades as LIV denied victory
What looked like a close duel between Rahm and Koepka turned out to be a controlled and clinical victory for the Spaniard.
Along with Rahm’s brilliance, a poor final round by Koepka was a big factor.
Koepka was aiming for a fifth major title – and a first since 2019 – despite barely playing 72-hole events in recent months after deciding to switch to the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour.
The LIV tournaments are held over 54 holes, although Koepka arrived at the Masters in good shape after winning last week’s event in Miami where his $4m (£3.2m) prize pool topped the record $3.24 million Rahm will take home for winning the first major of the year.
But his riding became temperamental at the start of the final round and once that allowed the momentum to shift towards Rahm, Koepka could not recover.
Asked by Sky Sports how he felt after not being able to maintain his lead, Koepka said: “A bit ho-hum. I didn’t play very well. I landed some good shots and got myself found himself in terrible places. Then at the end of trying to make birdies when he’s in front – it’s hard.
“The second one isn’t much fun, so that’s motivation in itself.”
Mickelson and Spieth go back the years
Ahead of the final pair, a dramatic battle began to build as a host of former great champions jostled for position and threatened to take advantage of any slippage.
Mickelson, 52, a three-time Masters winner, emerged as the main challenger after a torrid run of five birdies in the last seven holes.
Mickelson skipped last year’s tournament due to a voluntary break from the sport, after making controversial comments about the Saudi-backed Project LIV he eventually joined.
But he looked like his old self as he was cheered on by Augusta patrons after the latest birdie propelled him into the clubhouse lead.
It also propelled him into second place alongside compatriot LIV Koepka, staying there to become the oldest player in Masters history to finish in the top five.
“It’s as fun as it gets to play golf,” he said.
“The final round of the Masters and playing like I did and finishing with a few birdies, regardless of the outcome, it was a fun day.
“I’m grateful to be here and to compete, to be part of this great championship and to play the way I did was very special.”
Mickelson finished a shot ahead of playing partner Spieth, with the 2015 champion also moving up the leaderboard after starting with two birdies and adding three on the rebound around the turn.
Reed, the 2018 champion and another to move to LIV, had a double bogey seven on the second hole but answered with eight birdies on his way to a 68 as he joined Spieth on seven under, in a fourth-place split. , with another American Russell Henley.
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