Like the three ghosts of Charles Dickens’ Christmas, those of the Augusta Masters converged on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. on the tee of the 10th hole of the tournament that begins today to play a particular match. The first, who represents the past, is José María Olazábal gluing woods from all corners of Augusta National, impossible for the double champion. For the veteran Basque player, passing the cut seems like a heroic act.
The second is Sergio García, who lives between the honey of the past and the indecision of the present. There was a time when the Castellón was Mr. Scrooge of the Masters: that if the mud on the ball, that if the greens … Everything bothered him until 2017 arrived and the story had a happy ending and he dressed in green. Today, dislocated from world golf, Sergio is closer than ever, it is as if he needed that affection he always had, although his sports performance is unknown. “You’re always looking forward to the Masters, it’s a special, different and iconic week,” said the Borriol player.
The third player of the match, Jon Rahm, represents the ghost of the future, and surely in his dreams, he has had a thousand appearances with the green jacket. The Masters has not been thanked in its six participations. “I’ve never arrived with real chances of victory to the last nine holes on Sunday,” recalled the Barrika champion in his last meeting with the press. In 2018 he was fourth.
In this 2023, Jon Rahm has signed a brilliant start, with three almost consecutive victories, although in recent weeks he has not been so comfortable with his swing. World number three confesses that he is a “player from week to week”, and now his game seems to be in a good moment. Rahm likes to define himself as a golf junkie, he knows almost by heart many of the historical videos broadcast on Youtube, such as the 1980 Masters of Severiano Ballesteros, or 1983. The edition that begins today serves to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the second victory of the Cantabrian.
What Rahm didn’t know is that next Sunday, April 9, when the Masters crowns his champion, is the day Seve celebrated his birthday. The last time the end of the tournament coincided with the day of the birth of the genius of Pedreña, Sergio García won his only major. When Rahm is mentioned this coincidence, he is thoughtful and says, “Don’t put any more pressure on me.” Tiger Woods also had words of remembrance for Seve as he recalled how much he learned in his first practice laps alongside Severiano and Olazabal.
All the winners of the tournament gather at the Champions Dinner, turned this year by Scottie Scheffler into the cholesterol party. Among the 33 confirmed green jackets, there are six LIV Gol players. “I’ll sit down with Olazabal,” Sergio Garcia hastened to say, hoping the atmosphere will be “cordial.” It was Garcia himself who denied that there is any pact between the players of the LIV in case of victory of any of them to organize a media show, as it seems that Greg Norman would have suggested. The truth is that this golf war is increasingly uneven against Saudi funds.
The latest blow is a court ruling backing the European Tour, so the DP World Tour could sanction LIV players who participated in its events. Sergio García, who could be one of the victims of this measure, receives the news from the press. “I had not received that sentence, I am not involved in all those things, I do not care. I’m doing the ones I like, where I like,” he replied.
To decrease the tense news of the Masters, the match of the Spaniards was, unintentionally, complicit in a request for a hand. When Olazabal, Sergio and Rahm were leaving the 11th green and on their way to the 12th tee, an American boy kneeled on the grass and took a ring out of his pocket. She nodded immediately in tears and they kissed passionately to the cheering of the crowd. Olazabal and Rahm ran to congratulate the couple and Sergio joined the celebration. A photo immortalized the moment. “He told us we were his three favorite players and he wanted to seize the moment of being all three together. We congratulated him,” Garcia recalled.