A Masters Unlike Any Other

-- Nov 22, 2020 at 7:55 pm ET

12th Hole Par 3 at Augusta National - Host of the Masters Tournament Par 3, 12th Hole at Augusta National

Back in March, it was unclear if the golfing world would be able to celebrate the time-honored tradition that is the Masters tournament. When the PGA tour adjusted to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament, which typically concludes on the second Sunday in April, was postponed in hopes that a green jacket could still be awarded in 2020. As Augusta National does not operate in the summer months (May through October) due to the extreme Georgia heat and humidity during this period which is neither conducive to golf course maintenance nor play, a tentative date in November was scheduled. Fortunately, this date was ultimately finalized, allowing us to take another visit down Magnolia Lane.

Albeit, fans, or patrons as they are referred to at the Masters, were not invited to the tournament, a decision made back in August, even though at last week’s Houston Open, 2,000 fans were permitted on the course. This certainly detracted from some of the excitement at the 84th Masters. However, since the PGA tour restarted its season in June, we have gotten somewhat used to it. Furthermore, the galleries were not necessarily non-existence as Augusta National members, tournament officials, and golfer’s spouses walked the course.

Now to the golf:

Heading into the tournament, the main headline, other than maybe Tiger Woods and his defense of his 2019 win, was Bryson DeChambeau and his plans to truly overpower Augusta with drives that Bobby Jones, the course’s designer, probably never fathomed. In fact, DeChambeau revealed that he believed 67 was par for him as opposed to the scorecard’s 72. Additionally, coming off a 6-shot victory at the US Open in September, he was the clear betting favorite with +750 odds overall compared to the second-best odds of +1100 overall held by John Rahm and Rory McIlroy. However, despite this build up, DeChambeau was never really part of the conversation and struggled to make the cut on the number at even par.

Ultimately, he finished at 2 under par (or 18-over according to his par) 18 shots back in 34th place out of the 92-man field. In his post-round interviews, he mentioned that he was not feeling well and was suffering from a dizziness he had never experienced: “whatever’s going on up here, I have no idea. Just dizziness.” It is hard to say whether this truly affected his score or if it was a convenient answer to his subpar play.

To the disappointed of many golf fans around the world, Tiger Woods also struggled in the tournament after a solid start in the first two rounds. His first-round 68 put him only 3 shots back of the pack of leaders at 7-under. In his second round, which was split over Friday afternoon and Saturday morning due to the rain delay that postponed play by nearly 3 hours on Thursday morning, Tiger failed to get much going and missed birdie opportunities on 13, 14, and 16. Consequently, he finished his second round at 5-under, still just 4 back and certainly in the conservation.

Unfortunately, he stalled at even par for his third round later that day while Dustin Johnson surged to a four-shot lead after posing a 65, putting Tiger 11 shots back. Despite being out of contention, Tiger unfortunately made a highlight on Sunday by recording a 10 on the treacherous par-three 12th. On the same hole where in 2019, 4 of the last 6 players rinsed their teeshots in Rae’s Creek and paved the way for Tiger’s historic win, Tiger rinsed three balls of his own, leading to his worst career score at the Masters. Previously, Tiger had recorded two 8s, both of which were triple bogeys on par 5s.

To his credit, the five-time Masters winner went on to birdie five of his remaining six holes to wrap up his tournament at 1-under par. This left him in a tie for 38th.

Ultimately, Dustin Johnson continued his impressive play in 2020 and claimed his second career major victory at “the tournament [he] wanted to win the most.” In fact, his respect for the tournament caused him to turn down opportunities to play at Augusta National as a junior so that he could play his first round at the course in the field of a Masters tournament. His four rounds of 65, 70, 65, and 68 led to a Masters scoring record at 20-under par, surpassing Tiger’s and Jordan Spieth’s marks at 18-under. Admittedly, the softer course conditions of a fall Masters contributed to Johnson’s score. Nevertheless, he won with a five-shot margin of victory over Australia’s Cameron Smith and South Korea’s Sungjae Im.

Going into the final round, Johnson held a 4-shot lead. However, he has an unfortunate history of failing to convert 54-hole leads in majors. The first dates back to 2010 when he surrendered a 3-shot lead at Pebble Beach and finished T-5, and the fourth occurrence is as recent as this year’s PGA championship where he held a 1-shot lead going into Sunday but ultimately finished T-2. This time, Dustin used his experience to persevere through a somewhat shaky start, in which his lead shrank to just 1 after back-to-back bogeys at the 4th and 5th, and gather himself for a strong finish, birding 13, 14, and 15 to truly separate himself from his closest pursuers.

The walk up the iconic eighteenth hole brought out the emotions for Dustin and his brother Austin – Dustin’s caddy since 2013. Austin teared up in the moment, and Johnson had to remind him that their work was not quite done: “I had to jab him a little bit on 18 because he was tearing up and made me tear up – I’m like, I still got to finish this off, I can’t be crying.” In his post-round press conference, Dustin admitted that he did not look at a leaderboard since the 7th hole and wanted to finish strong to ensure his victory.

“I dream of winning a lot of majors, just … it hasn’t quite happened yet.” - Dustin Johnson

Johnson became the first world number 1 golfer to win the Masters since Tiger Woods did it in 2002. Additionally, he is setting his sights on many more major wins: “I dream of winning a lot of majors, just … it hasn’t quite happened yet.” Logically, “[he] wants to get to number three first.” With the 2021 Masters less than five months away, he will soon have his chance.