Jon Rahm on the 18th green at the Masters on Sunday.
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — After four-putting the first hole of the 2023 Masters, Jon Rahm couldn’t help but think of Seve Ballesteros.
“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 gave it a classic Seve description. “I miss, I miss, I miss, I make.“
“I just kept thinking to myself, ‘Well, I miss, I miss, I miss, I make,’” Rahm said after Thursday’s round. It was the perfect response and a sign of maturity in real time; he rebounded with an incredible seven birdies and an eagle to share the overnight lead after a seven-under 65.
There were signs of Seve everywhere. Because Rahm was the 49th player to register, his caddie Adam Hayes got bib No. 49. Sunday’s final round came on April 9th, 4/9, Seve’s birthday. Sunday also marked decades to the day since Seve’s second Masters title. That meant a good day for Rahm to win his first.
“It still hasn’t really sunk in yet,” he said in his winner’s press conference. “I’m looking at the scores and I still think I have a couple more holes left to win. Can’t really say anything else. This one was for Seve. He was up there helping, and help he did.”
Even if he’d wanted to ignore the echoes of time and country, Rahm wouldn’t have stood a chance: Cries of Do it for Seve! followed him around Augusta National. And when he finished off his win with a wild 18th hole that included a drive that bounced out of the woods, a slicing 4-iron layup and a lengthy up-and-down, Rahm had a phrase at the ready.
“That was a Seve par,” he said.
WHEN RAHM ARRIVED at Harbour Town, site of this week’s RBC Heritage, he received a fitting welcome. Everyone — from fans to pros to caddies to tournament staff — came up offering congratulations. He got an enthusiastic greeting from Scott Piercy. A dap-up from Taylor Montgomery. An eager hug from an eager Tommy Fleetwood. Hayes fielded congratulations of his own; he’s been a well-respected pro looper for two decades, including six-plus years with Rahm. The Masters was the first event he ever attended when he scored tickets as an eighth-grader. He’s made new memories there now.
Nobody would have blamed Rahm for skipping this week’s competition. Surely the let-down after winning the green jacket would supersede any prior commitment? But he didn’t win the Masters by accident. The climb to World No. 1 wasn’t a fluke. He looked to be in his comfort zone as he moved to a hole on the practice green and set up a short putting drill. Rahm must have been exhausted, but he practically floated around property Tuesday, gliding from the putting green to the driving range, where he hit a series of characteristic baby fades into the afternoon sun. He looked happy. How could he not?
How do you celebrate a Masters title? Rahm spent Monday with his family — just being a dad, he said — and caught up with friends over the phone.
“I had some really cool messages from people. A lot of great pictures, too,” he said.
One in particular stood out: someone had sent Rahm a picture, originally posted by Golf Digest, of Rahm shaking hands with Seve on the 18th green. It was a Photoshop job, but the meaning behind it was enough. Rahm had held it together during the win and throughout a joyous celebration with Team Rahm — “Once I made the putt and saw Adam, I think we were both holding it back,” he said — but later, in a quiet moment, that photo hit home.
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“They sent it to me, Kelley saw me. I looked at her, I looked down at the phone and the next time she looked I just had tears on my face, instant bawling, crying. I don’t even know where I got it from, but yeah. That picture of Seve really got to me.”
Rahm’s week began with a Spanish Masters champion when he transcended golf’s PGA Tour-LIV divide and played a practice round with 2017 champion Sergio Garcia. He finished the week with another Spanish Masters champion when he fell into the arms of Jose Maria Olazabal behind the 18th green.
But Rahm is a golf historian. He’s a man of passion. And he’s eager to find meaning in the world. Which meant that he thought of Seve often throughout the week. And that meant Seve was with him the entire time.
Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/GOLF.com. The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.
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