DUBAI, April 4 — Defending Masters champion Jon Rahm hopes that his early return to the scene of his triumph at Augusta National will reduce the emotion of next week’s tournament.

The Spaniard, who is playing this weekend in LIV Golf’s Miami event at Doral, overturned a four-stroke deficit on the final day last year to defeat Americans Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson by four shots.

Last week he travelled to Augusta and, as well as playing the course, took some time to take in the scene of his second major triumph.

“I wanted to go back at least once before Masters Week. I didn’t want the first time back at Augusta National to be the tournament week, I wanted to get a lot of the emotions out of the way, and also see the course and see if they’ve done any changes,” he added.


“I was trying to see the golf course, and learn a few new things, and learn what they’ve changed,” said Rahm.

“But mainly, in my mind, it was just kind of getting to experience those emotions, and being back, going to the champions locker-room, seeing my name up there,” he said.

In December, Rahm joined Koepka and Mickelson on the Saudi-backed LIV circuit, a move which was a major blow to the PGA Tour.


The 29-year-old also finds himself in the rare position of playing in a tournament the week before the Masters but said he was glad the schedule has thrown up that opportunity.

“At the end of the day, it’s how you take advantage of the situation and how you prepare leading into this week. I actually was glad to have a tournament this week because going into Augusta defending, it is really the first major championship I’m defending (at the same) venue.

“Being at home this week could have been a little more challenging trying to control those thoughts. But having competition, you’re here to do your job and it’s great practise towards next week. I think in every way, it’s going to help,” he said.

Rahm has yet to win on the LIV tour but said he will head to Augusta in good shape.

“I feel like I’m playing really good golf, but I haven’t really got over the hump of winning yet, so I feel confident. I’m equally confident in my game, pretty much any given day of the year,” he said.

“I think that’s how any competitor should be, but it’s just that difference of how I’ve been playing the last few months.

“I’m comfortable, a little fresher, if anything, going into this next few weeks, so looking forward to it,” he said.

One thing he isn’t yet comfortable with is the speech he must give at the Champions Dinner on Tuesday.

Rahm has chosen his Basque-themed menu for the assembled former winners but says the speech will be a challenge.

“To be part of that select group of people that won that tournament and wear that green jacket with pride and be in charge of the menu is quite incredible,” he said.

“It’s definitely one of the highlights of the week but for some reason definitely something I’m nervous about. I have no idea why. But it does seem a little daunting having to stand up in front of that group and give a speech even though I know every single one of them has been in my position, some of them more than once,” he said.

“I don’t know, just seems — you’re going to be in that room with the legends of the game, still active and nonactive, and that’s something really cool to be able to say and be able to share,” he added. — AFP