Six big Masters talking points – part three: Can Rahm mount a successful defence?

Mark McGowan

Jon Rahm celebrates his Masters victory (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Before the PGA Championship moved to May, the wait between ‘Glory’s Last Shot’ and the ‘Tradition unlike any other’ seemed protracted, but with the additional month between the Open Championship and the Masters, it now seems interminable.

If a week is a long time in politics, nine months is a lifetime in golf, but after the sport has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons, it’s time to focus on what really matters. That golfing temple in Augusta, Georgia, the history, the drama, the best players in the world coming together and locking horns in the quest for that iconic green jacket, and with it, sporting immortality. As the week-to-week offerings of professional golf continue to underwhelm, certain events transcend to whole new levels. This is it. This is sport. This is the hallowed turf. This is what we’ve all been waiting for. This is the Masters. Amen to that!

Six big Masters talking points

Every year, the Masters throws up more talking points than we’ve pages in this issue to cover. But we’ve narrowed it down to the six biggest as the storied Georgian venue will once again be the green battleground on which dreams are made, on which heroes are crowned, and on which hearts are broken.

Q3 – Can Rahm mount a successful defence?

Winning the Masters is a tough task, defending the Masters is even tougher. Since it was first held in 1934, only Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods have ever won back-to-back titles, so if Jon Rahm were to do so, he’d be in pretty lofty company.

Driving down Magnolia Lane on the eve of last year’s tournament, Rahm had already won three times on the PGA Tour in the three months previous and had a further two DP World Tour wins in the three months before that.

This year, having opted to join LIV in December, he’s something of an unknown quantity, and has played just five 54-hole events in the run in to the Masters. But he’s yet to miss a cut at Augusta National and has a win and four top-10 finishes in his seven previous Masters appearances, so the only question hanging over him is whether or not the LIV format and reported $600 million windfall change has to have blunted his competitive edge.

He’s also been the most consistent performer on the LIV circuit, and though he’s yet to win – and he’s made no secret of his frustrations on that front, even going as far as to suggest that celebrating team victory in his first event when he’d just thrown his individual chances away was going to be tough – he’s yet to place outside the top-10 when the 54 holes were done. And 72 holes favours the best players.

This year he’s got the Champions Dinner to look forward to, a speech to make and a new locker room to familiarise himself with – all of which are first world problems – but all of which require energy and focus and this is a week where the mentality is tested to the extremes.

He’s a man with a tendency to run hot under the collar and the music and relative rowdiness of LIV galleries have not been to his taste, but the patrons at Augusta National are a different breed and he’ll be back in his favoured environment.

It’s hard not to see him playing well, but can he complete the fourball with Nicklaus, Woods and Faldo? Time will tell….

The above feature appeared in the 2024-3 edition or Irish Golfer. To view the full edition click below

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