We are in a week unlike any other in the entire year. When the gates of Augusta National Golf Club open in April, the entire golfing world goes into a trance for seven days, triggered by the uniqueness and simple beauty of this tournament. In Augusta, everything simply fits and the entire scenery seems perfectly coordinated, as if in a choreography that has been rehearsed for years. For this very reason – and because Augusta is Augusta – the US Masters is considered the most prestigious and important tournament of the year, even among players.
That’s how Jon Rahm sees it, too. Although the Spaniard lost his first place in the world rankings to Scottie Scheffler a few weeks ago, the bookmakers still consider the 27-year-old to be the biggest contender for the title at the 2022 US Masters, and for good reason. For one thing, Rahm has always finished in the top 10 in his last four appearances at Augusta, and for another, this golf course has a very special Spanish aura about it. Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia have already won the Green Jacket, and now the next great Spaniard is to follow. But Jon Rahm is aware of the difficulty of this task, as he revealed at the press conference on Tuesday.
US Masters 2022: No major like any other
The Masters is unique. Not only because of its history, but also because it is the only major tournament that is played on the same course every year. Admittedly, the Augusta National Golf Club has made some minor changes to the course again this year, but anyone who has ever played the Masters can gauge exactly what to expect. Jon Rahm knows that, too: “It makes preparation a little easier. You can simulate the situations for different shots a little easier in practice than you can at the other three majors, when you play a new course every year,” says the world number two.
Based on this fact, but also on his strong results in recent years, the Spaniard considers himself well prepared for the coming week: “I know I can play well here and hopefully on Sunday I can be a little closer on the last nine holes than in recent years.”
In addition to the beautiful golf course built by Perry Maxwell in 1937, it’s also the crowds of fans that make the tournament what it is today. For Rahm, the 2022 US Masters is unlike any other event. After limited crowds during the pandemic, they are returning to full capacity this year. And as if the anticipation wasn’t already high enough, Tiger Woods is also announcing his comeback for the same week. “We were on the 7 on Monday and Tiger was just playing the 2,” Rahm reports of his first impressions. “I’ve never seen such a big crowd on those two holes, even on a Sunday. There’s a lot more excitement in the air.”
Jon Rahm: “Justin Thomas is the only one who gets real tips from Tiger.”
If you want to hold your own at Augusta National Golf Club, you need a good mix of experience and your best golf game. Forty-two years ago, Seve Ballesteros became the first Spaniard to win the U.S. Masters, ushering in a small Spanish tradition that last continued in 2017 when Sergio Garcia won the Green Jacket. Jon Rahm knows about that tradition and would only be too happy to do his part:
“Since I’m the only Spanish player who is a Major champion but not a Masters champion, that would be something special. Hopefully I can be fourth on that list. There have been a lot of good Spanish stories here that I would like to add to.”
If Rahm can show his best game this week, he will undoubtedly be considered the top favorite. But the Masters wouldn’t be the Masters if even the best players in the world didn’t break a sweat in this setting. Experience is the be-all and end-all at Augusta. When Tiger Woods was about to play his first US Masters, then as an amateur, he got helpful tips from Seve Ballesteros about the condition of the greens and how best to master the difficult shots at Augusta. When asked if Rahm himself had ever asked Tiger for such tips, the Spaniard responded with a nice anecdote:
“Justin Thomas is the only one who gets real tips from Tiger. I asked him for tips once before, back in East Lake. He just turned around and said ‘it’s all about the feeling and just keep going’ and I stood there thinking ‘cool, thanks for that’. Then when I turned around he was standing next to JT telling him a whole dissertation.”
Even if Rahm can’t hope for any tips from Tiger, it should also be enough if he fully trusts his game; after all, it made him the best golfer in the world last year. And there’s one more thing to be hopeful about. Rahm has his biggest fan with him again this week for the 2022 US Masters. “My son Kepa was a lucky charm at the U.S. Open. He wasn’t there at the British Open, so I hope he makes it lucky again this time.”