Rahm says late arrival helped as Augusta bares its fangs

Augusta (United States) (AFP) –


New father Jon Rahm says he benefitted from his late arrival at the Masters, given how firm and fast Augusta National played in Thursday's opening round.

The third-ranked Spaniard, who was with his wife Kelley and new baby son Kepa until Wednesday, missed a short par putt at 18 to finish with a bogey and on level par 72.

"There's not one shot out there I could say you could just be relaxed," Rahm said. "All of them were pretty tense."

Rahm, chasing his first major title, didn't see the course between last November's rain-softened edition and Wednesday, when he saw the lighting-fast layout at full speed.

"Nobody has ever seen it like this," he said. "So I feel like almost coming in late was to my advantage because I didn't really overthink things."

Rahm said it was a "battle" all day without one moment he felt relaxed.

"It's tough. There's some putts you're used to seeing pretty slow, but because the greens are a little more firm, a little more dry, they're rolling out a little bit more, so you've got to be careful," Rahm said.

"I was a little over cautious and left myself a couple long putts to get to the hole."

Asked what shots were the most difficult, Rahm replied, "Pretty much all of them."

"It's not easy. Even wedges into par-5s, you have to be cautious. If you land it one step too far or too short, you can end up in a bad spot really quickly.

"If it's a tough course to get distance control right in a normal year, this year it's even more so. Even par is a great round."

Asked where Augusta National rated on a 1-10 scale of difficulty, Rahm said only higher and more swirling wind kept him from putting it at double digits.

"I would say for it to be a 10, it would have to be a lot windier than this," Rahm said. "So I would say 8 1/2 or 9.

"I was able to salvage a lot of pars out there. That's probably why I'm giving it that, but it was closer to a 9."

Rahm became a dad on Saturday morning and said he came to Augusta with little sleep but a relaxed mind, enjoying fatherhood duties such as diaper changing, holding his infant child and caring for his wife's needs.

Rahm said he would have withdrawn from the Masters to be with his wife for the birth. Her due date had been the weekend of the final rounds.