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  • Jon Rahm'S LIV Golf Leap Casts Shadow Over Masters Defense A Year In Review

Jon Rahm's LIV Golf leap casts shadow over Masters defense - A year in review

What a difference a year makes.

Twelve months ago Jon Rahm headed to Augusta National as the winner of three of his first eight tournaments of the year, started with a four-putt double bogey and still went on to win the Masters.

One year on, Rahm will make the drive down Magnolia Lane as a member of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League and with just five of their 54-hole events under his belt before defending his title.

The change is all the more startling given Rahm’s previous publicly stated opinions on LIV’s format and his claim that he played golf to win titles, not money, claims reinforced by his comments immediately after slipping on the green jacket.

Rahm dedicated his triumph to Seve Ballesteros after claiming his second major title on the 40th anniversary of his late idol’s second win at Augusta National, a win which also came on what would have been Ballesteros’ 66th birthday.

“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,” said Rahm, whose father took up golf after watching Ballesteros captain Europe to victory in the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama.

“If it wasn’t for that Ryder Cup in ’97, my dad and I talk about it all the time, we don’t know where I would be or where as a family we would be.

“For me to get it done on the 40th anniversary of his win, his birthday, on Easter Sunday, it’s incredibly meaningful.”

Rahm was also well aware that his win took him halfway to completing a career grand slam and joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to have won all four majors.

Joining LIV does not immediately impact on Rahm’s ability to achieve that goal, his Masters win earning him a lifetime exemption for Augusta and five-year exemptions for the US PGA and Open Championship.

The 29-year-old was already eligible to compete in the US Open through 2031 thanks to his victory at Torrey Pines, but the question of whether his game will be affected by the switch to LIV remains to be answered.

In Rahm’s absence, the mantle of most dominant player on the PGA Tour has undoubtedly switched to his predecessor as Masters champion, world number one Scottie Scheffler.

Scheffler’s worst finish this season is a tie for 17th and he followed his five-shot win in the Arnold Palmer Invitational by becoming the first player to successfully defend the Players Championship at Sawgrass.

On his next start a fortnight later, Scheffler missed from six feet for birdie on the 18th to force a play-off in the Houston Open, a tournament which saw his run of 28 consecutive rounds under par broken by a careless three-putt from six feet on the same hole in round two.

Scheffler’s form – aided by taking up Rory McIlroy’s suggestion of a change in putter – means he is as short as 7/2 with some bookmakers to win a second Masters title, the kind of odds not seen since Tiger Woods was making them look like good value.

McIlroy is second favourite despite an underwhelming run of form since winning in Dubai in January, while Woods himself can be backed at 150/1 following his withdrawal from the Genesis Invitational, his sole start in 2024.

Making a record 24th consecutive cut in the Masters would be an achievement for the 48-year-old, but the likes of Rahm, Scheffler and McIlroy will have their sights set considerably higher.

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