Jon Rahm ready to become the next first-time Masters winner

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

AUGUSTA - In a non-Tiger-Woods-related development at this Masters – one or two may manage to fight their way to the surface this week: Jon Rahm is ready to win.

So, when looking at who are due to carve out a little space for themselves in the crowded Augusta National champions locker room, one can’t help but be drawn to the former world’s No. 1 who is built so particularly wide and sturdy. An all-terrain vehicle of a golfer, with a swing as short and powerful as a thunderclap.

Rahm’s been ready to win for years now, almost from the time he played his first Masters in 2017 as a 22-year-old finishing a reputable 27th. In the four tournaments since, he has done no worse than ninth.

Rahm comes to Augusta this year unconcerned over the fact he just lost the top ranking he held since winning the U.S. Open last June. “When somebody wins 3 out of 5 events, it’s pretty deserving. You can’t take anything away from Scottie (Scheffler). I’m happy for him,” the now-No. 2 conceded.

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“This is the beauty of the game we live in now. Anyone can be No. 1 at any point. I was able to be it for quite a bit and hoping I can get it back.”

He arrives in a much more refreshed mental state than last year as he was sweating out the birth of his first child. Son Kepa beat his due date just in time – born on the Sunday before Masters week – to allow pops time to get to Augusta for his launch window the following Thursday, short on practice and sleep. Even derailed from his routine, Rahm managed to finish T-5 in 2021, thanks to a last-round 66.

Since then, he’s adopted the attitude of a walking Hallmark card, spouting the virtues of fatherhood and all the positive affects it can have on someone who previously had only known the selfish pursuit of breaking par. Rahm has been notably prone to smoldering bouts of temper on the course when something goes sideways. A little perspective can be a very good thing for such a temperament.

“He’s given me a lot more than I’ve given him,” Rahm said of his son. “The sense of presence and love I feel when I’m with him is so unique, right? It’s easy to switch from golf to off golf, right? When I get home, I’m dad. That’s all he cares about, and that’s all he should care about, and that’s what we do. He helps me in a lot of ways get away from the game.”

Yet to win again since the U.S. Open triumph – he did take second at the Tour Championship – Rahm nonetheless is the betting favorite here this week. He doesn’t seem overly concerned about his place among the punters.

“I couldn’t care any less what the odds say. I mean, I’m not looking at it. I like to think I’m the favorite myself in my mind, right?” Rahm said.

Hideki Matsuyama won just a bit more than $2 million along with a green jacket last year. They all say it’s not about the money. When Rahm says it – “I’ve always been more interested in history and legacy; trying to put your name in the history of the game and knowing that it’s going to be there forever” – he’s even borderline believable.

Given the state of the game now, the possibilities of another first-time Masters champion are rich. Rahm’s among four top-10-ranked players who have won at least one major title not called the Masters. Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy can all claim that they are ready, too. And new winners are popping practically every week on the PGA Tour, like weeds in an untended garden. An ambush winner here is quite thinkable.

In his case, Rahm has heritage on his side. For some reason, this tournament has always been a bit of an Hispanophile, glorying in the Spanish champion. No one won more dashingly than the late Seve Ballesteros (in 1980 and ‘83). Jose Maria Olazabal picked up the thread the next decade with a pair of victories (1994 and ‘99). Sergio Garcia claimed his elusive one and only major title at the 2017 Masters. More than one paella has been served at the Masters champions dinner.

“There’s a lot of good Spanish history here that I would love to add on to,” Rahm declared.

Jon Rahm Rodriguez certainly sounds ready.