Cover photo courtesy of Hunter Martin/Augusta National
The fact the No.1 player in the world went out and led the Masters from start to finish, set a scoring record in the process, and beat the field by five strokes, gave the wacky year of 2020 some normalcy in golf’s final Major of the season.
Dustin Johnson showed every bit of why he is the top ranked player in the world in winning the 2020 Masters. It was the second major for Johnson as he also won the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont.
Sunday, he had a four-shot lead heading into the final round, but that shrank to one stroke early Sunday. The question that came to the forefront immediately – how would the seemingly unflappable Johnson respond?
After bogeys at the 4th and 5th cut the lead to one, Johnson stepped up on the par 3, 6th hole and stuck his tee shot leading to an easy birdie. He followed two holes later with another birdie on the par 5, 8th hole.
On the back he shot three-under, with birdies on 13, 14 and 15 to give him the comfortable winning margin.
“It was a battle all day, an internal battle with myself,” said Johnson of his final round. “I proved that I could get it done on Sunday with the lead at a major, especially in tough conditions. I felt like it was tricky out there today. There were doubts in my mind because I had been there. I’m in this position a lot. It was like, ‘When am I going to have the lead and finish off a major?’”
While Johnson’s well-crafted win was the story of the Masters, there were some other happenings that may be talked about longer than Johnson’s first Masters’ win.
Bryson DeChambeau came into the tournament with more buzz than any other player not named Tiger Woods, quite possibly in the history of the event.
After winning the U.S. Open early this year by over-powering Winged Foot, the chatter leading into the event was could DeChambeau do the same to Augusta National.
DeChambeau did not help the scrutiny by saying that he was thinking Augusta played more like a par 67 for him.
Well, he did go out and make a lot of birdies (18) and did blast some tee shots way down the fairway (324.2 yards average, first), but he also had some issues putting and with his short irons at times – 11 bogeys and two double bogeys-plus.
Still, the result was 2-under final, tied for 34th place. After the tournament, DeChambeau talked about not being 100 percent health wise.
“I’ve got to fix whatever is going on up here,” said DeChambeau. “I have no idea – just dizziness. It’s only when I go from down to up, so I can’t even like think and talk right now. But that’s just what happens, I go down and up and my brain gets all disoriented. I’m 60 percent right now. Every time I get up I’m winded and I just don’t feel great. It’s weird.”
What annoyed me post-tournament was all the talking heads jumping on the anti-DeChambeau bandwagon.
After the U.S. Open win, some anointed him as someone that could run the table, almost inferring he will not lose again. Then he goes out and struggles – mind you he still was 34th and did shoot 2-under – but now he is overrated and his Open win was a fluke. It seemed like many were pleased he didn’t win the tournament.
I picked him as my favorite for the Masters, but this is the nature with golf. You are only as good as your most recent effort. Do you remember all the talk after Jordan Spieth won the 2015 Masters and U.S. Open?
There was the talk about how many majors Spieth could win. Could he catch Tiger? It was crazy at the time. He did bring home the 2017 (British) Open, but since then he has not been knocking down doors and is now lost in the shuffle.
To me, the entire week for DeChambeau was summed in the second round, when his tee shot on No. 3 landed in the rough and was never found.
The TV cameras showed the ball landing not too far into the rough, but no one was able to find it and he had to go back to the tee. He ended up with a triple-bogey, then followed with two straight bogeys.
It happens in golf. There are good weeks and bad weeks, no matter how good the golfer. It was back in July, Johnson shot 80-80 to miss the cut at the Memorial, then came back the next week, shot a 78 in the first round of the 3M Open before withdrawing.
He came back with a 12th in the Fed Ex St. Jude, then started his amazing run with a second at the PGA, followed by first, second, first finish in the PGA Tour Playoffs.
DeChambeau had about the worst imaginable week for him at this point and he still shot under par. There are good weeks and bad weeks.
I for one am looking forward to his next start which will be the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the Plantation Course at Kapalua in January.
Kapalua is a course tailored for big hitters as it’s wide open and the players benefit from the Hawaiian winds. It should be a site to see his tee shot at the 18th hole, the downhill and downwind, 677-yards par-5.
The longest 11 drives recorded by ShotLink since 2000 on the PGA Tour have come on that hole, the longest by Tiger Woods in 2002 at 498 yards. Don’t think DeChambeau won’t take a shot at the mark.
One final note on DeChambeau. In his final round at the Masters, DeChambeau was paired with the ageless wonder Bernhard Langer. The 63-year-old Langer became the oldest player to make the cut at the Masters and his final round of a 1-under, 71, left him 3-under for the tournament and tied for 29th.
Much was made of Langer beating DeChambeau – he beat a lot of named players – but even the wily German walked away amazed from what he saw from the younger players.
“Normally I play my own game,” said Langer when asked what it was like to play with some big hitters. “I don’t even worry about who I’m with and all that, but I was a little bit spectating here and there. I was in awe and just watching how they swing and how hard they hit it, and every once in a while I had to tell myself, go on, stop watching and play your game and focus on what you want to do. But it is fun to watch and fascinating how they do it.”
Finally, what would the Masters be without Tiger Woods making news?
Certainly, Woods’ final round had arguably the most talked about hole of the week. At the par 3, 12th hole, one that always seems to jump up and bite someone during the final round, became an epic meltdown for the defending champ as he took a 7-over 10 on the hole. His tee shot went into the water, as he did his shot from the drop zone. His next shot went into the back bunker, and his shot from out of the bunker was hit thin and found the water again.
After the hole Woods came back and showed why he is one of the greatest to ever play the game as he ran off five birdies in his last six holes, including four straight to close out the tournament, leaving him at 1-under for the final score.
“This is unlike any other sport,” said Woods. “You’re so alone out there and you have to figure it out and you have to fight and no one is going to pull you off the bump. You just have to figure it out, and I did coming in.”
Cameron Smith, the young Australian golfer that finished tied for second at 15-under, made tournament history by being the first player to shoot all four rounds in the 60’s after shooting 67-68-69-69.
By Dennis Miller