The year that couldn’t get any weirder wouldn’t be complete without the Augusta National pines sprouting fall foliage. This year’s tournament was like everything else in the sporting world – postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, here we are, two weeks away from stuffing our faces full of turkey and it isn’t the mediocre Dallas Cowboys we will be suffering through this weekend. Instead, we will be pleasantly distracted by Tiger Wood’s defending his fifth green jacket.
So prepare to replace Augusta’s blooming azaleas with autumn’s beautiful oranges and yellows. Trade in those famous pimento cheese sandwiches for a seasonal pumpkin spice and strap in as we try to answer some of the week’s burning questions. Will Bryson be able to overpower Augusta? Can Tiger defend for an unprecedented sixth jacket? Who’s most likely to don the once in a lifetime Fall jacket? I’ve got you covered for the 2020 Masters preview, fall edition. Let’s go!
Will Bryson DeChambeau’s quest for distance work at Augusta?
The simple answer is…sure. Who’s to say that the same strategy that won him this year’s U.S. Open won’t again prove to be an effective game plan on a course that isn’t intentionally setting up to make the pros fail?
This week, Bryson took his driver straight to the source during his practice rounds and showed that he has taken no signs of slowing down. Just check out these numbers from his first round of the week:
During recent practice round at Augusta National, the beefy man:
-Had 65 yards into 1
-Reached upslope on 9
-Had 9 iron into 15
-Cleared trees on right side of 18
It is the question, the only question, heading into the Masters: Can Bryson break Augusta? https://t.co/m1dylsmRsm
— Joel Beall (@JoelMBeall) November 5, 2020
Those are the kinds of numbers that drive the old school golf hardo INSANE. How could he do something so preposterous! Yet, here we are. He proved at Winged Foot that he didn’t need to hit fairways, he just needed to get as close to the hole as physically possible and all bets were off. It’s been reported he may attempt to bomb certain drives into opposite fairways, through Augusta’s pines and who the hell knows where else. The golf course looks differently to Bryson and it’s no question he is the story of the week. Love him or hate him, he steals headlines and makes you pay attention. Like everything in life, golf will continue to evolve just as it did when Tiger marched into Augusta and won by 12 shots in 1997 causing the course to tinker with its distances as a response. If Bryson is able to “break” golfs most precious golf venue, we may see it look a little different come 2021.
What about golf’s other meathead?
Not too long ago every time we talked about major championship golf we thought of one man – Brooks Koepka. People forget if not for a shocking 12th hole where Brooks (and Tony Finau and Ian Poulter and Francesco Molinari) sent his into Rae’s Creek, he would have been in a prime position to win his first green jacket. He ended up finishing tied for second place which isn’t too bad for someone in just his fourth Masters.
Though he is battling a lingering injury and he skipped the US Open, he preformed well at the Houston Open and seems to be back to the confident meathead we’ve come to know. With Bryson now sitting on the throne as golf’s muscular hardo, Brooks’ petty levels will be off the charts. I expect some fireworks.
Will DJ strut into another major victory?
Watching Dustin Johnson play golf is like watching the waves crash on the beach. It’s the same, monotonous, powerful rhythm that human beings are captivated by. They travel hundreds of miles just to sit there and watch in its repetitive glory. Johnson, standing at 6 foot 4 inches tall, paces around the golf course with a sense of coolness and calmness all while physically contorting that frame into ways that only a rubber band should be able to do. As I sit here in this sunken recliner writing this preview, the remnants of today’s pretzels and hummus apparent on my shirt, I can only wonder how we are the same species. Johnson is an athlete marvel. He’s won in each of his thirteen years on the PGA Tour. Only Tiger, Jack and Arnold started their careers with longer streaks. For Dustin, his hangup has always been preforming when the moment matters the most. To his name, he has just one major championship – the 2016 US Open. That’s not to say he hasn’t been in the conversation though. He’s consistently seen other men lift the trophy as he struts to the locker room wondering what went wrong. His pure athleticism puts him in contention on every golf course he wanders into and he’ll be looking to cross that finish line just like he is every time he swings the club. He finished T2 in the 2019 Master’s, cleaned up at the FedEx Cup earlier this year and nearly won the Houston Open last week.
His resume is littered with W’s and almost W’s. If you have a chance to bet on this guy – do it.
Earth to Jordan Spieth
Here comes the time in every golf preview where I lovingly reflect on Jordan’s 2015/2016 year of golf. Spieth won five times that year including the first two legs of the Grand Slam. He took the Masters by four strokes, won the US Open, missed a playoff at the Open by a shot and finished tied for second at the PGA. He ended up winning player of the year and skyrocketed to number one in the world. He was golf’s next “Tiger.”
The came the 2016 Masters. Everyone knows what happened there. The infamous quad on 12 that ultimately cost him the tournament and produced perhaps the most depressing image of all time as he was forced to hand the green jacket on Danny Willett’s (who?) shoulders. I mean he had a five stroke lead! It still stings.
March 1 / April 1 pic.twitter.com/Fbo4WaXCos
— Brendan Porath (@BrendanPorath) April 1, 2020
ANYWAY, he wasn’t completely derailed seeing as he won another major in 2017 but it’s no question that something happened. Since 2017, he’s yet to win a golf tournament and or even really contend too seriously.
Now, here’s the part where I boost you Spieth fans up. Spieth loves Augusta. It’s the site of his first major, a place he’s reached eternal glory and a course that suits his game. Outside of an ugly front nine 40 in 2019, he played nearly flawless golf and would have had a chance in the end. There is no better place for Jordan to rediscover himself and return to glory than Augusta National in the Fall. We deserve something uplifting and inspirational at the tail end of the worst year in human history and I can think of no better result.
So who is going to win this thing?
A popular pick, and one I like, is Tony Finau. He played in that Sunday pairing alongside eventual winner Tiger Woods (ever heard of him) in 2019 and is one of those guys who always seems to be inside the top ten. He’s a reasonable pick and one that I would make.
However, my official lock of the century is a guy I spent many words on earlier in this preview – Dustin Johnson. He’s just been playing out of his mind good this year and fits the narrative well. He’s a bomber who doesn’t have to break his back to do it *cough* Bryson *cough* and is smooth and silky with the irons and wedges. If he gets that putter rolling he’ll strut his way to a green jacket.
Outside of those obvious picks some other guys to keep an eye out for are Xander, Rory and the defending champion Tiger Woods. Tiger’s time in the sun seems to be inching closer to a final curtain call, however, when we are talking about the greatest of all time – anything is possible.
This tournament snuck up on me like to many drinks will in two weeks but I’m more than ready for some Fall major championship golf. Enjoy the rounds!
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