Venue: Augusta National, Georgia, USA
Date: November 12-15, 2020
Course stats: Par 72; 7,475 yards
What a treat golf lovers have in store for the next four days, as this year’s third and final major gets underway. A tradition unlike any other holds an entirely different meaning this year, as the PGA tour finally arrives at Augusta, Georgia for the Masters Tournament.
The prolonged 2020 Masters begins on Thursday 12 November (12 p.m. GMT) with champion Tiger Woods returning to defend his green jacket. The sporting world considered Woods had finished with golf after his back surgery in 2017, but he found his form and frankly shocked the world as he produced the most unthinkable victory to win by a stroke and claim his fifth Masters win.
Woods returns to Augusta nineteen months later ready to host the annual Champions dinner, yet in different form to which he won in April 2019. He is now in search for his sixth jacket but as a tournament longshot of 35-1. Pre-tournament favourite and recent US Open winner Bryson DeChambeau leads the field of players at 7-1, with world number one Dustin Johnson second favourite at 8/1.
Since the restart of golf in 2020, Bryson DeChambeau has been prolific. His addition in weight, muscle and distance from the tee has grabbed the attention of many viewers and comes into Augusta a favourite. DeChambeau proved his style of play can lead to success, winning his first major of his career by six strokes at Winged Foot in September.
DeChambeau has typically struggled at Augusta, finishing outside the top 25 in his last two starts but seeks to extend his form. Can the beast be contained?
DeChambeau’s driving ability has been recently glamourised in the golfing world but how this will play out in Augusta, is frankly a different kettle of fish. A slightly softer course this year is inventible, which will play into hands of the longer hitters like DeChambeau, with the course naturally being wider and longer than anything he’ll play all year.
Pundits and viewers are however sceptical as to whether his strength will play into his hands or perhaps Augusta requires are more delicate touch. DeChambeau isn’t recognised for his approach play, so his accuracy from the tee must exceed expectations for him claim his second major of the year.
Another aspect to consider this year will be the lack of fans, or patrons, as they are affectionately known at Augusta National. The Masters made the official decision back in August to not allow any spectators at Masters in November. The PGA Tour is yet to allow fans to attend any tournament since it returned to action in June, following a break due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Fred Riley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, is hopeful to welcome back its patrons in April 2021 but ultimately recognises the health risks are too significant to overcome:
“The guests who come to Augusta each spring from around the world are a key component to making the tournament so special.”
Rotchy’s Masters 2020 predictions:
Outright winner: Dustin Johnson – 8/1
DJ tied for second place behind Tiger Woods in last year’s Masters but the world No. 1 is hopeful of claiming his first green jacket. His form at the Masters is impressive, with four consecutive top 10 finishes. He finished second place in Houston last week, so should arrive full of confidence. Looks a solid price for me.
Johnson, who tied for second at Augusta last year, says he is feeling confident as he looks to secure a second major win to join his victory at the 2016 US Open:
“I feel like I am playing really well, it’s probably the best I have played in my career,” he said. “It’s more consistent.”
Outsider: Cameron Smith – 66/1
Having won the Sony in Hawaii earlier in the year, Smith had a drop in form but has found something these past few weeks. He finished 11th at the CJ Cup, then 4th at the Zozo last time out. If you are dubious whether ‘power’ will be advantageous at Augusta, Smith looks a smart outside option, with his solid iron play.
But he will need to putt well if he wants to have a shot at joining the favourites at the top of the leader board. Angel Cabrera was the last outsider to win the Masters after winning a three-way playoff in 2009. Given the unpredictable nature of 2020 so far, an upset could be on the cards.
Image: Halldawg via Flickr