By - Reuters
By Steve Keating
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) -Rock-steady Jon Rahm, channeling Spanish great Seve Ballesteros on his late hero's birthday, survived a marathon day and scored an emotional Masters win at Augusta National on Sunday, denying LIV Golf a watershed victory.
Rahm, who started the day four off the lead, rallied behind a final round three-under 69 for a winning total of 12-under 276 and a decisive four-shot victory over LIV standard bearers Brooks Koepka and evergreen Phil Mickelson.
The win was Rahm's fourth this season, earning him a second career major to go along with his 2021 U.S. Open title.
He also reclaims the number one world ranking from defending champion Scottie Scheffler.
Koepka, who sat atop the leaderboard for three rounds, simply could not get in gear at the end, labouring to a three-over 75, while 52-year-old Mickelson, winner of three Green Jackets, turned back the clock and carded the round of the day - a sensational seven-under 65 - and finished tied for second.
Coming on what would have been Ballesteros's 66th birthday and the 40th anniversary of the Spanish talisman's second of two Green Jacket wins, Rahm soaked up a rousing ovation as he walked up the 18th fairway with a four-stroke cushion.
Fighting to keep his composure, the 28-year-old sealed victory with a 4-foot par putt, capping a marathon day of golf that started at sunrise and finished in the Georgia twilight.
"History of the game is a big part of why I play and one of the reasons why I play, and Seve being one of them," Rahm said. "For me to get it done on the 40th anniversary of his win, his birthday, on Easter Sunday, it's incredibly meaningful.
"To finish it off the way I did - a Seve par, it was in a testament to him, and I know he was pulling for me today, and it was a great Sunday."
After two days of play interrupted by lashing rain and ferocious winds that toppled trees, the field of 53 returned to the water-logged course on Sunday to complete the third round.
Koepka, who led Rahm by four shots overnight, was ahead by two at the end of the round.
LIV Tour tournaments are contested over 54 holes and if the action in Augusta had ended after the conclusion of the third round, Koepka would have been slipping into a Green Jacket.
Unfortunately for Koepka, the majors require 72 holes to find a winner.
By the time the two men reached the turn of the fourth round, the Spaniard in front by two had taken charge.
With Koepka going 22 holes without a birdie, Rahm delivered the knockout blow with back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14 to go five up with four to play.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Augusta, Editing by Ed Osmond, Christian Radnedge, Pritha Sarkar, Kim Coghill and Gerry Doyle)