AUGUSTA, Ga. — Jon Rahm has been a perennial Masters favorite since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2017. He’s finished among the top-10 in the last three Masters Tournaments but this year will be different.
He’s playing for the first time as a father.
Rahm’s wife Kelley gave birth to their son, Kepa Cahill Rahm, early on Saturday and he hung out at their Scottsdale, Ariz., home until Wednesday, when he arrived at Augusta National to get in whatever work he could manage in one day.
The vital stats: 7 pounds, 2 ounces.
“We were kind of hoping the late arrival just plays in our favor somehow,” Rahm said after arriving at the course and meeting with the media — before he registered or hit a single practice shot.
Rahm said last week that if his wife went into labor at any point during Masters week, he’d leave — even if he was in contention on Sunday.
Kepa, a common name in the Basque region of Spain where Rahm is from (Cahill is his wife’s maiden name), didn’t force that decision, and Rahm may never again complain about a few aches and pains after a tough practice session.
“It’s been really good … it’s certainly a very unique experience,” said the five-time PGA Tour winner. “Like I told Kelley, I definitely gained a whole new respect for women everywhere because what their body goes through, it’s something I like never want to experience because the amount of pain I saw is — it’s a lot.”
Rahm said he’s already done some diaper duty and took care of his wife, until he had to leave for Augusta.
“My job was taking care of Kelley, make sure she’s eating, make sure she’s drinking, make sure she’s trying to rest at the right times,” he said.
Rahm said he’s not worried about his lack of practice time before Thursday’s first round.
“I’m not concerned … I went through a major life experience,” he said. “If anything, I’m just happier.”
Elder ready to start the week
In 1975, Lee Elder hit one of the most important tee shots in golf history when he became the first African-American to play in the Masters.
Elder will return to the first tee at Augusta National at 7:45 a.m. on Thursday for the first time since the last of his six Masters starts in 1981 to join six-time winner Jack Nicklaus and three-time winner Gary Player to hit the ceremonial tee shots that mark the beginning of the tournament.
Elder was invited last year by Augusta National to participate as an honorary starter.
“Tomorrow morning, we also reflect on the moment at Augusta National in 1975 when Lee Elder bravely broke barriers as his name was announced on the first tee,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said on Wednesday during his news conference. “And I cannot wait to have the honor of introducing Lee and celebrating his inspiring legacy with our patrons and viewers worldwide.”
Since Elder played in the Masters, only five more African-Americans have qualified for admission. Tiger Woods has won five times.
Cameron Champ is the only player with African-American roots in the field this week. His grandfather is Black and he said he’s developed a relationship with Elder.
“For us, that’s the people who I look up to,” Champ said of Elder. “I know who my grandfather did. So, it definitely means a lot, again, to kind of learn from him and kind of take — kind of pick things out and just kind of pick his brain.”
ANWA format unlikely to change
Augusta National hosted its second Women’s Amateur last week and while Ridley said he wouldn’t mind more opportunities for women to play at the course, the amateur event, a week before the Masters, seems to be the best option going forward.
“We would certainly like to be able to provide more opportunities for [women] to become familiar with the golf course,” he said. “The only time that it’s practical to have a championship of that magnitude is right up against the Masters.”
Ridley said scheduling is the biggest issue in expanding the availability of playing at Augusta to the women’s professional ranks. The week before the Masters is usually the date for the LPGA’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration.
“We’ve been asked in the past about an LPGA event; that’s a great idea but it would be very difficult to do that,” he said. “So we felt that having an amateur championship just preceding the Masters was our best opportunity … to do something for women’s golf.”
Craft beer a big success
There are a limited number of patrons at the Masters this week but a lot of them are waking around the course holding a bright green cup labeled “Crow’s Nest.”
It’s the name for the newest craft beer being sold at concession stands, which replaced Blue Moon. The beer is named for the living area in the cupola atop the Augusta National clubhouse where traditionally the amateurs in the field stay, dorm-style, during the week.
Patrons seem to like the souvenir cup as much, if not more than the beer and are hoarding the Emerald-green cups. The beer is $5 and it’s hard to tell if they think the bonus for the price is the beer or the cup.
“I’m not a huge fan of beer, but when I saw the cup I had to get one,” patron Jimmy Burton told the Augusta Chronicle.
Blue Moon was first served at the Masters in 2016 and Crow’s Nest is a wheat beer with a similar taste. But the club is forgoing the orange slices.
Also new in the concession stands is the breakfast sandwich, which includes bacon, sausage, egg and cheese and a chicken salad sandwich. Both are $3, keeping in the Augusta tradition of inexpensive concessions.
The Augusta Chronicle contributed to this report.
Event: Masters Tournament, Thursday-Sunday, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga.
At stake: $11.5 million purse ($2,070,000 and 600 FedEx Cup points to the winner).
Defending champion: Dustin Johnson.
TV: ESPN (Thursday-Friday, 3-7:30 p.m.); CBS (Saturday, 3-7 p.m.; Sunday, 2-7 p.m.).
Area players entered: Harris English, Lanto Griffin, Brian Harman, Billy Horschel, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Vijay Singh, Cameron Smith, Hudson Swafford, Michael Thompson.
Notable: Johnson set the scoring record at 20-under-par 268 in November, with the tournament moving to the fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic. … Johnson also became the first player in Masters history to record two 65s. … Smith was the first in Masters history to have four scores in the 60s but he finished five shots behind Johnson and in a tie for second with Sungjae Im. … Tiger Woods, the last player to win in April, is recupterating from injuries he suffered in a car accident. … Jordan Spieth, the 2015 champion, won for the first time in nearly four years at last week’s Valero Texas Open. … The Tour moves to Hilton Head Island, S.C., next week for the RBC Heritage.
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