A classic duel at Augusta

Roddy Carr

Masters champ Jon Rahm - Masters media

What a fascinating event to be at and to follow through the weekend. It was so full of drama, excitement, unpredictability, undercurrents, flashbacks, reverence, blasts from the past, sad pictures of Tiger’s looming demise but most of all a two man duel between the best players from the two opposing factions in the fractured game of golf at this time. The script had it all and it was compelling to watch.

The majestic golf course in impeccable condition like no other in the world finally succumbed to the only element it cannot control, mother nature. The relentless rain on Saturday finally won against the sub-air drainage system and unlimited man power on green 7 when the siren stopped play for the day. That set up a marathon Sunday showdown for the two dominating gladiators at the top of the leader board.

The odds were equal on the two players with Koepka having the edge having won three of his four Majors from the front and still leading when play was suspended. The two had separated themselves sufficiently from the field that the chasing pack knew that maybe one of the two may falter, but not the two of them. They would of course chase but deep down with only faint hope in their hearts.


It was now pure ‘mano de mano’, hand to hand combat as Seve loved to say. Pure match play where what you do has a direct phycological effect on your opponent’s mind and what he does. My father, like Seve, was a master match player having won 40 championships including three British Amateurs which were match play. Many times I saw him simply break the heart, mind and soul of his opponents playing impossible shots from deep rough or gorse and holing long puts before his opponent’s unbelieving eyes!.

Seve was the same; when he won at Augusta for the first time, in his mind he had 87 players to slay. He was the Matador and the field was the bull. Only one of you comes out of the bullring alive. Win or die! Every birdie he made he saw the blood of those slain on the greens. When he eagled a hole the green was awash with blood. That’s how he saw it as the Matador he was. He had them all dead with nine holes to go that year and cruised to his first victory.

Rahm is more sophisticated than Seve was having had a different upbringing and going through the college system in the states, Americanising him more. But what isn’t different is the fire in his Spanish Basque belly and burning passionate desire in those eyes that is ever present on the course when he’s competing. It was almost tangible how alive it is was at Augusta on Sunday.

Koepka on the other hand is a totally different kettle of fish, more complicated and complex and distanced from the traditions of the game and its history. His confidence was back coming off a win the previous week and he was fully fit again which meant he could finish the job as he had done in this four previous Major wins. He could just let his natural talents flow and that should be enough to get the job done, as before.

What he hadn’t factored in was that this was now mano de mano with Rahmbo, who was relishing the encounter. He was brought up with the European D&A of match play experience as an amateur and Ryder Cups matches as a pro. Rahm struck immediately play resumed on Sunday morning on holes 7 & 8 birdies to make his intentions clear and that ‘cruising on’ for Koepka was not going to be good enough this time around. Every time the door opened, Rahm took advantage and slowly but surely eroded the confidence of Koepka until he had finally broken him and he faded away. It was a clinical, patient and perfectly executed strategic breaking of his opponent’s spirit and confidence. There was also the undercurrent of Rahm representing his faction and not wanting to let his side down in this encounter.

The side show on the day was also most entertaining with a gaunt looking but fit Phil dressed in black, which made him look dark, shooting 10 shots better that Koepka on the day. Spieth and Reed along with Phil showing that its horses for courses at Augusta.

It was also notable that the players respected the core values of the Masters and Bobby Jones by giving little or no oxygen to LIV GOLF in a week when there was plenty to talk about with two legal rulings going against them. Also, having the young amateur Sam Bennett in contention for so long must have brought a smile to Jones who was no doubt keeping an eye on his legacy event from above the rain clouds.

Most of what struck me in the very end was the pure joy shown by Olazabal greeting Rahm on the back of the 18th green and the humility of the Champion in victory through his speeches and demeanour and the way he referenced Seve, who he obviously felt has helped him along the way.

Pure magic!

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