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It’s been a while since Jon Rahm entered a tournament as a defending champion. 

For a player who was becoming a serial winner before his move to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League, that’s unusual.

But at Augusta National next month, Rahm will aim to become just the fourth player in history to win back-to-back Green Jackets after Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods.

It’s a prospect the Spaniard is relishing.

In a whirlwind 11 months since winning his second major, Rahm has been banned indefinitely from the PGA Tour after accepting LIV’s overtures.

• The Masters: Every LIV golfer in the field this year

• Jack Nicklaus weighs in on state of PGA Tour

And after joining Greg Norman’s breakaway series, Rahm relinquished the chance to defend his titles at The Sentry, The American Express and the Genesis Invitational. He last teed it up as a defending champion at the Mexico Open in May.

That, he concedes, has been the hardest part.

“I’m not going to lie; for everybody who said this would be easy, some things have been, but not being able to defend some titles that mean a lot to me hasn’t,” said Rahm. I love Palm Springs. I’ve been able to win twice there.

“Riviera is about as charismatic of a golf course as we have. It’s definitely a week that it’s fantastic for a lot of us, and it’s a fan and player favourite. Not being there was difficult.”

Reflecting on his LIV switch, Rahm added: “It’s a decision I made, and I’m comfortable with it. But I’m hoping I can come back, and hopefully I can actually defend (The Masters) as well. That would be a dream come true. Not many back-to-back champions, and that would be very unique to be able to put my name to that list.”

• McIlroy hits out at LIV Golf and Greg Norman (again)

• “He’s full of it!” – Jimmy Walker sounds off on Jay Monahan

Rahm will play against his PGA Tour rivals at Augusta for the first time since switching domains in December.

“I’m definitely looking forward to joining with the rest of the best golfers in the world and teeing it up in the Masters with them,” he said.

“I am looking forward to hopefully having a great week and a great Sunday back-nine showdown with some of those great players, because at the end of the day it’s what golf and spectators deserve.”

With golf’s talent pool still fractured in events outside of the four majors, Rahm has also reiterated his hope for a future where PGA Tour and LIV players can “coexist.”

“I just want to see again the best in the world being able to compete against the best in the world,” he stressed. I think there’s a way of coexisting and if there’s some type of union – I don’t know what that looks like.

“If there is some type of peace achieved, I think it can actually push the game forward.”

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Ben Parsons joined bunkered as a Content Producer in 2023 and is the man to come to for all of the latest news, across both the professional and amateur games. Formerly of The Mirror and Press Association, he is a member at Halifax Golf Club and is a long-suffering fan of both Manchester United and the Wales rugby team.

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