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Stephen Gallacher: Masters champion Jon Rahm showed he is an unbeatable force when he is on his game

The Spaniard was in imperious form as he cruised to victory at Augusta.

Jon Rahm holds up the trophy after winning the Masters on Sunday. Image: PA
Jon Rahm holds up the trophy after winning the Masters on Sunday. Image: PA

Jon Rahm showed once again when he is on form, he is the best golfer on the planet as he cruised towards Masters glory on Sunday.

It was remarkable how seamless the win was in the end for the Spaniard, who managed to give his rivals a great start by four-putting the first hole for a double bogey on the opening day of the tournament.

That slip was a rarity as Rahm quickly clicked into gear in impressive fashion, and, looking at his four rounds overall, he showed how great a player he truly is.

I’ve said often in this column when he is at his best he is unbeatable. I don’t know if he was at his best, but if he wasn’t he wasn’t far from it, that’s for sure.

Augusta is a test and the turn has been a graveyard for many a golfer in the past.

But not for Rahm.

He cruised through nine, 10 and 11 as if it was nothing and at no point did he ever look like faltering.

It was as close to flawless, faultless golf you could hope to play.

Rahm was so good he overshadowed everyone else in the final round.

Brooks Koepka played well, while Phil Mickelson was incredible – his closing 65 was as good as I’ve seen, but it all went under the radar thanks to the imperious play from Rahm.

McIlroy is great player – but will he ever be able to handle pressure to triumph at Augusta?

Rory McIlroy missed the cut at Augusta. Image: PA

It looked as if the weight of expectation got to Rory McIlroy at Augusta.

We know this is the one missing from his career grand slam, but he never got close to mounting a challenge.

He knows only a small band of men have won all four majors and the chase for the elusive green jacket has become a dominant element of his otherwise brilliant career.

Rory is also a great player, but the mental challenge of ticking off the Masters box is an all-consuming one for him. He has made no secret of how much he wants to win there but he failed to make the cut last week.

That’s nine chances to complete the grand slam which have come and gone, and the pressure is building with each passing year.

He is clearly disappointed and I’m not surprised to hear he has withdrawn from the RBC Heritage in South Carolina this week.

He’ll be feeling raw and looking to take stock and regroup before playing again.

Rahm has no such worries, however, after becoming the first European to win the US Open and the Masters.

His biggest hurdle in his career has been himself, but he seems to be controlling his temperament better.

It is easy to forget Rahm is still only 28, and I’m convinced his best golf is still ahead of him – that’s a terrifying prospect for his rivals to ponder in the years ahead.

Time may be running out to see Tiger Woods

I don’t think I can recall a sorrier sight than Tiger Woods struggling round Augusta last week.

The rain was lashing down and he was struggling badly. He looked utterly miserable.

Tiger Woods waits to play on the 18th hole during the weather delayed second round of the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on Saturday, April 8, 2023, in Augusta, Georgia. Image: AP

Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas – who are two close friends – said Tiger was hitting the ball brilliantly in practice. The only question was whether he was physically ready for four rounds of major golf.

The mental and physical challenge of playing more than 18 holes in a day provided us with the answer and it was no surprise to hear Tiger pull out with plantar fasciitis midway through the tournament.

Tiger did well to make the cut, but given the conditions and his struggles, there was little chance of him contending for the title.

We all hope for another fairytale for him at some point, but there’s a part of me which is becoming increasingly worried about how much longer we’ll see him.

Tiger is not a guy happy to be in the field for a tournament, and does anyone believe, if he thinks he cannot genuinely compete, he is going to take part for the sake of it?

I certainly don’t.

Zalatoris injury is a blow for the game

Tiger’s injury was not the only one from Augusta, of course, with Will Zalatoris also forced to withdraw due to injury.

Zalatoris’ back had been troubling him and the situation was so severe he has since undergone surgery and will miss the rest of the season.

He was a guy quite a few of my friends were tipping last week and it’s not hard to see why.

He hits the ball so hard and so long – but unfortunately it has taken its toll physically.

Zalatoris is the world number eight and a big name on the PGA Tour who has stayed loyal to them.

I know he had the Scottish Open pencilled in his diary and he would have been in the US team for the Ryder Cup match in September, too.

Losing him for the rest of the season is a blow to the game.

Asian Tour is coming to Scotland

There have been strong opinions about the prospect of an Asian Tour event being held at St Andrews later this year, but I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

The event and venue is no longer on the DP World Tour schedule and, considering the Hong Kong connections to the owners, the St Andrews Bay Championship at the Torrance course at Fairmont St Andrews seems a logical fit for the Asian Tour.

The Asian Tour has played at Slaley Hall and the Centurion Club recently, so it was inevitable Scotland would feature at some point.

It’s a great course and an attractive proposition.

The infrastructure is there and given how far our tour has travelled, should we be surprised to see Asia follow suit? I don’t think so.