Photo courtesy of Augusta National
Like it or not, the 2020 Masters that runs Thursday-Sunday is going to be known as a heavyweight fight – Bryson DeChambeau vs. Augusta National.
DeChambeau, who in September overpowered Winged Foot to capture the U.S. Open, has vowed the same treatment for Augusta and the Masters. Following his first practice round, he should be taken as a man of his word.
He never had more than 185 yards into the green and views Augusta as a par 67, as opposed to a par 72. It was believed he never hit antying more than a 7-iron into a green.
“From a driving perspective,” DeChambeau said in a press conference earlier in the week. “I just am trying to get up there like I’m in a batter’s box swinging as hard as I can trying to hit a home run. I don’t know if there’s a better way to say it.”
Length obviously does not guarantee a victory with the difficulty of the greens and the lies around the greens. DeChambeau is quick to admit such.
“I can hit it as far as I want to, but it comes down to putting and chipping out here,” DeChambeau said. “That is one of the things that I think people sometimes struggle to see. As much as I can gain an advantage off the tee, I still have to putt it well and chip it well and wedge it well and even iron-play it well. And that’s what I did at the U.S. Open. If I don’t do [those things] well at the Open, I don’t win that tournament.”
Other factors that make this the most unique Masters is watching how the course plays different in November as opposed to April, and that there are no patrons on site this year.
One of the most anticipated happenings at the Masters every year are the crowd roars during the back 9 on Sunday.
Whether it was the masses watching on TV or the players contending for the win, when someone makes a great shot, the noise echoed through the trees around Augusta.
Tiger Woods will miss that the most of any player, as the “Tiger roars,” are at a different level than other players. It was a level of intimidation no other golfer enjoys.
While it will be fun to watch DeChambeau take his shot at over-powering Augusta, there are a number of players to make a run at a Green Jacket.
There are a group of 10-12 players, from which I think you will find your winner, as well as a couple former Masters’ champs who will elicit plenty of support.
The hype: this spot is 100 percent DeChambeau, even more so than Tiger Woods, the defending champion and arguably the most popular golfer to roam the fairways. Yes, he can win this tournament much the same way he manhandled Winged Foot to win the U.S. Open this year. While he hit his tee shots into space, lost in the win was his iron play and putting. That will be the key here as there is little doubt he will be well down the hole off the tee, so if his short game is intact everyone will be playing for second place.
The names: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, and Tiger Woods.
There is no bigger name than Woods and he is the defending champ, but I don’t think he enters as strong as he was last year. No player in the field has the command of Augusta as Woods does and his game certainly goes to another level once he drives down Magnolia Lane each year. I will always be a big Tiger fan, but this year I think it is too much of an ask.
McIlroy is always a threat, but he just seems to be getting in his own way when the tournament is on the line. He also has his Masters demons as who can forget the four-shot lead he took into the final round, then closed with an 89.
Thomas seems to have the best overall game to win here, but he too seems to have issues in the majors. Since winning his lone major at the 2017 PGA, he hasn’t found a lot of success in the big four tournaments. However, he does seem to be firing on all cylinders heading into the tournament.
Koepka is as tough in the majors as anyone the last few years, but what concerns me is his health. He claims the hip is fine but did admit his knee bothers him when walking downhill. That’s not a good thing at hilly Augusta.
Johnson was second here last year and is coming off a sixth in the PGA and a second in the U.S. Open this year. Has all aspects in his game necessary to win here and is still looking to redeem the accident in 2017 when he slipped down stairs at his lodging property and was forced to withdraw from the tournament after coming in with three straight wins and was the heavy favorite.
The non-names: Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa.
The Masters is one of the few tournaments even non-golf fans will watch and this group is for those people. Obviously, everyone in the golf world is every familiar with those four and with good reason but they are not yet at the commercial level of the above group.
Morikawa, a Cal-Berkeley grad, did well when he came back to the area to take the PGA at Harding Park this year. He was exceptional that week and let everyone know he has the game to contend every time he steps on the course. But what lingers here will be is it too overwhelming this week? He missed the cut at the U.S. Open and this will be his first Masters, leaving some doubts.
Schauffele is a player people repeatedly say not if but when he will win a major. He had a share of the lead here last year, then failed to birdie the 15th hole, basically losing a stroke to the field. A 10th in the PGA and a 5th in the U.S. Open shows he will be on the front page of the leaderboard come Sunday.
Cantlay is the least known of this group but don’t be surprised to hear his name a lot on Sunday. Last year he took the lead with an eagle on No. 15 but dropped a pair of shots on the next two holes. Was the moment too big for him? Perhaps but that was last year and if he stands in the same spot this year, I expect a much calmer performance. He did have a 16-month non-winning span, but after taking the recent Zozo Championship it figures to bolster his confidence this week.
Rahm belongs in every conversation about a potential winner every time he plays in a tournament. He has no major wins, but was in contention in 2018 before splashing a ball into the water on No. 15.
Hey, remember us: This is for two former winners in Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
Spieth went wire to wire here in 2015, winning by four strokes, then went on and won the U.S. Open as well that year. In 2017 he captured the (British) Open and looked like he was at the point off running off several majors. Since then he has had his issues, but Augusta remains a course that suits his eye as he has made the cut all six of his starts in the Masters.
Reed is easily the most polarizing players in professional golf as people seem to love him, or hate him. Allegations of cheating have done him no favors but count me as one of his fans. The 2018 Masters champ must be mentioned in the conversation when it comes to potential champions – his game overall is too good.
Thanks for the memories: Fred Couples and Phil Mickelson are the two here without debate.
Couples enjoyed Tiger like popularity before Tiger came on the scene and his win in 1992 here cemented his legend. This will be his 35th start at the Masters and he enjoyed a consecutive cut mark of 23. Freddie also has five top five finishes with six others in the top 10. It is likely out of his possibilities to win here again, but he usually makes a point to hit the leaderboard at the least every time he tees it up at Augusta.
Mickelson has won the tournament three times, but his recent form on the PGA Tour shows that it would be a stretch to make a run at another win. On the positive side, he does know how to get around Augusta and it would not out of the question to see him in the top 15 on Sunday.
So, who wins: I have to give the edge to DeChambeau this week. He just bombs away and with less penal rough at Augusta as compared to Winged Foot, he will be reach every green in regulation if not less. Unless he starts blowing his drives two fairways away it seems a lock for him the be in the top five.
Also new this year players going off on the No. 1 and No. 10 tees to begin their rounds. This is due to the fewer hours of daylight in November as opposed to April.
Here are some of the feature groups with their first-round tee times – remember, players will be going of the No. 1 and No. 10 tees:
4:33 a.m.: Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Louis Oosthizen
4:44 a.m.: Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Tony Finau
4:55 a.m.: Tiger Woods, Shane Lowry, Andy Ogletree (A)
5:06 a.m.: Jordan Spieth, Gary Woodland, Ian Poulter
8:27 a.m.: Phil Mickelson, Abaham Ancir, Bernd Wiesberger
8:27 a.m.: Bubba Watson, Matthew Wolff, Tommy Fleetwood
8:38 a.m.: Adam Scott, Collin Morikawa, Tyrrell Hatton
8:49 a.m.: Justin Thomas, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Brooks Koepka
9:00 a.m.: Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy
9:00 a.m.: Fred Couples, Max Homa, Dylan Frittela
9:11 a.m.: Zach Johnson, Justin Rose, Cameron Champ
Have a great time watching the tournament this week and make sure to take advantage of all www.masters.com has to offer!
By Dennis Miller