Defending champion Jon Rahm frustrated on Master day three

Phil Casey, PA Golf Correspondent, Augusta

Defending champion Jon Rahm remained a frustrated also-ran on day three of the 88th Masters at Augusta National.

Rahm had insisted his competitive edge had not been dulled by his move to LIV Golf ahead of his attempt to become just the fourth player to win back-to-back Masters titles.

The Spaniard’s shock move to the Saudi-backed breakaway came after he had previously pledged his loyalty to the PGA Tour and criticised LIV’s 54-hole format, with no cut and a shotgun start as “not a golf tournament”.

Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm reacts after his second round of the 88th Masters (Ashley Landis/AP) Photo by Ashley Landis

The two-time major winner has failed to win any of the five LIV events he has played to date, but travelled to Augusta on the back of finishing fourth in Miami on Sunday and winning the team event at Doral.

However, the Ryder Cup star was never a factor in the year’s first major and added a third round of 72 on Saturday to remain five over par after previous scores of 73 and 76.

That 76 had been compiled in fiendishly difficult conditions on Friday, with winds gusting up to 40mph sending scores soaring and leaving Rahm querying whether play should have been suspended.

“A couple of times I was questioning myself why we were out there, especially when I got to 18 and saw the whole front of the green just full of sand,” Rahm said after his round.

“I can imagine they were very close to calling it a few times, especially when we were on 11 green and we were getting those massive gusts every couple of minutes or so. It was extremely difficult.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy and his caddy shield themselves from sand blown from bunkers on the 11th hole during the second round (Charlie Riedel/AP) Photo by Charlie Riedel

“Not only that, how long did it take us to play? Over six hours to play just because they had to blow the greens in between groups.”

Rahm’s successor as Masters champion will earn $3.6 million on Sunday, up by $360,000 from last year, after tournament officials announced the overall prize fund had been increased from $18 million to $20 million.

Rory McIlroy will not be presented with a green jacket by his Ryder Cup team-mate after failing to play his way back into contention on Saturday, the world number two quickly giving himself more work to do with a bogey on the first.

A birdie on the par-five second repaired the damage before McIlroy three-putted the sixth and missed from five feet for birdie on the next, although he did convert from the same distance on the par-five eighth.

Tiger Woods had also refused to give up hope of an unlikely sixth Masters title after making a record 24th consecutive halfway cut to lie seven shots off the lead.

However, after a superb birdie on the difficult fifth, Woods three-putted the next and ran up a double bogey on the seventh to slide further down the leaderboard.