AUGUSTA, Ga. — Jon Rahm is a student of golf history. He’s also a golfer of tremendous passion. On Thursday afternoon he was both of those, one after the other. And it worked quite well.
After finding the first fairway and then hitting the middle of the green, Rahm’s Masters beginning took a nightmarish turn when he four-putted the first green for a double bogey 6. Think of the work that goes into preparing for Augusta National’s first hole. And think of the damage an opening double does to your chances. But as he walked off the green, Rahm tapped into a comforting memory from his childhood hero.
“I remembered Seve’s quote, I think it was here at the Masters, right, when he four-putted,” Rahm said.
He’s right — Seve Ballesteros had a famous four-putt at Augusta National in 1990. And, the legend goes, he described it as only Seve could. “I miss, I miss, I miss, I make.” Well said. Back to Rahm.
“I just kept thinking to myself, ‘Well, I miss, I miss, I miss, I make,'” he said. That’s Rahm the historian. Rahm the historian collaborated with Rahm the fiery competitor on his next act: a torpedoed tee shot down the hill at No. 2.
“I carried a little bit of that negative energy into the tee shot on 2, hit it about ten yards further than I usually do and moved on with my day,” he said.
Moved on with my day doesn’t quite do it justice. Rahm made quick work of the par-5 second, barely missing his eagle putt en route to birdie 4. He nearly drove the par-4 third and made a nifty up and down for birdie. The rest of the round followed accordingly. Rahm looked like the best player on the course. The fairways looked wide; he hit every one. The club looked light in his hands. The putts cooperated, one after the next. Birdie at 7. A spectacular eagle at 8. No-nonsense birdies at 13 and 15. Two more at 16 and 18, just for good measure. It all added up to a seven-under 65 and a share of the first-round lead.
Rahm appreciated the finishing birdie in particular.
“The one on 18 was just perfect drive, great second shot at two feet and tap-in for birdie,” he said. You don’t usually get a walk-off birdie over here, and those two swings were about as good as they could feel.”
The strokes on the first hole count the same as the strokes on the 18th. But, to Rahm’s point, you’d prefer this order to the reverse.
“If you’re going to make a double or four-putt or anything, it might as well be the first hole,” he said. “Seventy-one holes to make it up.”
Plenty of great athletes look to little slights for motivation. You can count Rahm among them. When one reporter cited him as the pre-tournament favorite, he offered a fact-check.
“I’m the favorite? God, I was third on the odds yesterday,” Rahm said. He was right; he entered the week at 10-1 in most sportsbooks, behind Scottie Scheffler (7-1) and Rory McIlroy (8-1). “Well, thank you for that,” he added. “But obviously I’ve played really well this year, right? Maybe not the last few tournaments, but I’m feeling confident, obviously.”
With good reason. Rahm is among golf’s fairest appraisers, particularly when it comes to his own game. He wasn’t afraid to give himself a high mark for this one.
“It was a very, very good round of golf,” he said. “It has to be top three in my major career.”
Rahm, 28, is making his seventh Masters appearance. He’s likely never come in this hot; he’s already won three times on Tour in 2023. He’s played well here in the past, too, finishing inside the top 10 in four consecutive starts before a T27 last year. Now he’s a quarter of the way to something special. He knows it.
“In the past, I haven’t had my best start, and you’re having to already, you know, swim against the current a little bit and try to make up shots throughout the week,” he said.
“So to be in this position where I’m already starting ahead in a sense is very, very nice. But again, still three days to play, right? There’s a lot of golf to be played.”