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Masters 2024: The four-putt that Jon Rahm can't forget

March 19, 2024
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Christian Petersen

We can’t choose what we remember. That’s why memories are so illustrative of who we are; it tells our story, even though its authorship is out of our control.

Tuesday was a time of reminiscence for Jon Rahm. He spoke during a Masters media conference as the tournament’s defending champ, the sport gearing up for the annual Augusta celebration, just three weeks out. These reigning winner gatherings are usually light and laudatory, a final victory lap of sorts before the achievements of last spring are moved into the past, and that essence was true of Rahm’s engagement. He smiled often, he poked fun at himself, he described his Champions Dinner menu in such reverent and frenetic tones that you’re forgiven for thinking he’s a Michelin chef.

Yet, these winner gatherings are powered on the undercurrent of sentimentality, with a pinch of nostalgia sprinkled in. Donning the green jacket is this sport’s pinnacle, and though this tournament has produced a handful of repeat champions, its past is proof that the present is no guarantee of the future. Rahm is part of Masters history, now and forever, but—as he acknowledged Tuesday—this could be his last title defense. That’s why this rendezvous was called; we want to know what Rahm remembers so the rest of us don’t forget.

Rahm, a connoisseur of golf history, said he hasn’t watched the full 2023 broadcast yet, so he had his memory put to the test Tuesday, and what he remembers may be shocking, while saying so much.

“The four-putt,” Rahm said laughing. “That's always going to bring a smile to my face. It's fun to think about it now, that four-putt. That's definitely going to make me think about that. That's what a lot of people might remember. Out of all the great things that week, a lot of people remember the four-putt and the tee shot on 18, which wasn't as bad as people think.”

Rahm later added he watched the one-hour documentary the tournament produces, and was taken aback by how many shots he missed. We’ll get to that second part momentarily, but first, the four-putt. Not just a four-putt, a four-putt on the opening hole. Entering as the tournament favorite off of three winter wins, the Spaniard doubled the 445-yard Tea Olive. It was a moment that was genuinely unbelievable, and seemingly ended the run of Rahm’s early-season heater.

Perhaps Rahm’s admission Tuesday showed some of the self-deprecating personality Rahm has but rarely displays. Conversely, Rahm likely remembers that four-putt not for what happened, but how he responded.

A double at the first seemingly submarined his Masters chances before they left harbor. For any other player, it would’ve. Instead Rahm answered with the type of gumption we want out of our athletes but rarely witness, Rahm carding seven birdies plus an eagle, turning a potential quick exit into a seven-under 65. There are a number of golfers who pound their chest about being bad men yet few prove it, and you better believe this bounceback certified Rahm’s reputation as one of this generation’s certified alphas. The four-putt is not a gaffe; it’s a badge of honor.

Back to Rahm’s admission that he missed a lot of shots. The quote, in total:

“I couldn't help to think, man, I missed a lot more shots than I thought I did, which I guess is a good lesson to have in mind, right, not only that I could play better in theory but the fact that there's a mental lesson there,” Rahm explained. “It's just mainly that you're going to miss shots out there and you just have to figure out how to minimize the damage … I think there's a lot of lessons to learn when you're going back. Like many other sports, game film is important. I can learn from not only what I do but from what other people do, as well.”

Again, maybe this was Rahm’s attempt at being humble. We suppose it could come off as gauche if he picked one of his miraculous shots—such as his approach at the 14th on Sunday, where he navigated around an overhanging pine with a savage cut that used the slope to the left of the pin to funnel his ball to four feet that put the tournament on ice. But that the misses and the four-putt continue to dance on the forefront of Rahm’s mind speaks to the perfectionist in elite golfers. That one mountain is never enough, there will always be more summits to reach. Even those with green jackets; they are chasing something they know they’ll never catch. These men are sick and there is no cure.

It’s worth restating what Rahm did. He became the first European to capture both this tournament and the U.S. Open by overcoming a four-shot deficit heading into a marathon 30-hole final day with the type of tour de force performance that fulfilled the lofty ambitions his talents promised, and instilled wonders of where he might ultimately go. Those wonders remain, albeit now in the shadows after a surprise defection to a tour he said he would never join. His LIV Golf affiliation was brought up multiple times, and though Rahm seems happy where he is, he also conceded he’s not quite made peace with what he left behind. The most poignant memory on Tuesday had nothing to do with the Masters.

“I'm not going to lie; for everybody who said this would be easy, some things have been, but not being able to defend some titles that mean a lot to me hasn't,” Rahm said. “I love Palm Springs. I've been able to win twice there. Riviera is about as charismatic of a golf course as we have. It's definitely a week that it's fantastic for a lot of us, and it's a fan and player favorite. Not being there was difficult. I still watched the broadcast. I still watch golf because I love watching it. But it's hard.”

Out of context, that may seem like Rahm complaining over his Faustian bargain, or unwilling to take the consequences for his actions. In truth, the man was speaking his truth. The press conference ended shortly after.

That’s why memories can be painful. We don’t recognize when they’re happening, and can’t revive them when they’re gone.