Jon Rahm (73 putts) saved the 12 holes with no more damage than the suspensions they had joined the Sunday at Augusta National on the day of the great name of Spanish golf: the birth of Seve, who would have turned 66. Alongside Brooks Koepka, the leader, they kept their distance, two strokes away, before the final 18 holes, which from 20:33 (Spanish peninsular time) will determine a new winner of the Augusta Masters. A little further back, one behind Barrika, came Viktor Hovland (70). Norwegian sport is in fashion.
The rain passed, the cold remained, seven degrees. And a little wind, enough to be annoying. It rained until late at night, but Nacional de Augusta and its legion of workers, the tubes that heat the field from the inside and the latest generation machines prepared, once again, a colossal stage.
Jon’s skill in tense situations is amazing. All the stops that occurred in this Masters caught him in delicate shots. Par on the four-metre 7th hole on the first Friday. And when he came back, he fixed it. A long way from day 10 of the definitive interruption. And on Saturday, at dawn, he launched one that almost went in. The opportunity of the 2.5 meters had been left for Sunday and did not fail. Again in double figures, while Koepka lost par. The distance was back to the start of the third round: two shots.
The tournament was already a two-way fight, a pulse of contrasts. The American who went to Europe to implement his game outside the standard American fields that are all like gardens -Koepka’s first professional victory was the Challenge de Catalunya 2012- against the European who chose, barely speaking English, the path of American universities, to Arizona, to be a star. The Arabs’ LIV Golf pattern vs. one of the ambassadors of the PGA Tour. The draw effect, strokes that describe curves from right to left, in front of the fade, of opposite curvature. They agree with the temperature of your blood. Able to burst a test tube.
Any hole was war. The par 5s, where both built their proposal in this edition with 8 (JR) and 9 (BK) under par, respectively; the par 4s, like 9 and 10, where they sharpened their clubs in their defense after visiting the trees in mismatch. And the short ones, the par 3s like the one on the 12, the basement of Augusta National -how humid- and the scariest 140 meters of golf in the world, where the wind blows in a swirl and the caddies and players go crazy choosing between Iron 7 or 8 because the wind that blows in the face on the tee is sometimes the opposite that blows on the pin. It was studied at the University of Western Ontario. Neither Jon nor Brooks caught that green one. Koepka’s bogey – value for Rahm’s approach with a ball full of mud – reduced the distance to a minimum when the first ray of sunlight appeared.
The Spaniard missed the 13th hole, the par 5 which this year extended by 30 meters and that on cold days, when the ball has less penetration of the atmosphere, it is inadvisable to attack with the second shot with Rae’s Creek protecting the green. The putt to save the pair hit the hole and was a warning to understand that not everything was going to be a highway. Norwegian Viktor Hovland approached behind, two behind Jon, unleashed with five consecutive birdies between 11 and 15, after two bogeys. The magic of golf.
Jon went into a putting crisis, alarming when it comes to Augusta. The error of 13 was joined by bad shots on the green for birdie, those of 14 and 15, in addition to the 16, which was another bogey. He didn’t kick with such determination anymore. Koepka stumbled at 17 and it was a relief to declare a no-fight in the third round. Although an unexpected guest did enter: Hovland.