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Jon Rahm rallies to win Masters as Spanish stars align

Jon Rahm turned the longest day into his sweetest victory, starting with a four-shot deficit in the chilly Sunday morning and finishing in fading sunshine to become the fourth Spaniard to become the Masters champion.

Rahm closed with a 3-under 69 to edge out error-prone Brooks Koepka. He won by four shots over Koepka and 52-year-old Phil Mickelson, who shot a tournament-best 65. He is the oldest runner-up in Masters history.

Masters Golf

Scotty Scheffler hands John Rahm of Spain the green jacket after winning the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday.

David J. Philip/AP

It was Mickelson who declared Rahm would be among golf’s biggest stars before the Spaniard turned pro in 2016. Rahm has a green jacket with the US Open title he won at Torrey Pines in 2021.

Rahm took two shots off Koepka in the final 12 holes of a rain-delayed third round and started the final round two shots behind. He caught Koepka falling and then went so far that Mickelson’s amazing closing round – the best ever final round at Augusta National for the three-time Masters champion – was never going to be enough.

There was nothing more satisfying than hitting the uphill 18th green to claim the green jacket on a day where the Spanish stars lined up. Sunday is the birthday of his idol, the late Seve Ballesteros, and it’s 40 years since Ballesteros won his second Masters title.

Rahm hugged his wife and two children, and as he walked toward the scoring room, two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal in his green jacket was in for the strongest hug of all.

Rahm won for the fourth time this year — just as Scotty Scheffler did a year ago when he won the Masters — and reclaimed the world No. 1 ranking from Scheffler.

This Masters had little else — hot and humid to begin with, a cold front with wind that uprooted three trees on Friday, a rain-soaked surface on Saturday and Rahm and Koepka completing a marathon Sunday through 30 holes.

Masters Golf

Phil Mickelson, 52, was the oldest runner-up in Masters history.

David J. Philip/AP

Koepka helped pave the way with back-to-back misses, losing the lead for the first time since Thursday afternoon when he holed out 20 feet from the back of the par-3 sixth to make his second bogey. More to come.

Even worse, Koepka went 22 straight holes Sunday without a birdie — from the par-5 eighth hole in the morning of the third round to the par-5 13th of the final round. By then, he was three shots behind and Rahm sealed it with his next shot.

He hit a low cut around a tree from the right side of the 14th fairway and it caught just a slope of the 14th green and was fed 3 feet down for a birdie. When Koepka three-putted for bogey, it was all but over.

Rahm hit his tee shot into a tree on the last hole and didn’t reach the fairway. No matter. He played to the fairway, hit the wedge to 3 feet and tapped in to win.

The leaderboard was filled with major champions and an aura of Saudi-funded LIV Golf. Mickelson and Koepka are both part of the rivalry circuit. Former Masters champion Patrick Reed, another player who dropped out at LIV, closed with a 68 and tied for fourth with Jordan Spieth (66) and Russell Henley.

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