After months of delay in a year where we all thought we might never see it play out, the greatest tradition in golf is finally here, as the best players in the world once again gather at Augusta National for the 84th Masters Tournament. Usually played in April, the coronavirus pandemic has brought PGA Tour golf to Georgia in the middle of November, where we will see autumn foliage towering over the historic green landscape, making this Masters Tournament one unlike any we have ever seen before.
The eyes of the fans who usually pack the course will instead have to watch on television, and they will obviously be focused on the defending champion, none other than Tiger Woods, who has held the title for the past 579 days due to the pandemic. He will be looking to overcome a slow start to the 2020 season to try and win his record sixth green jacket. This will not be an easy feat, however, as the best players in the world are vying to take the most valued prize in golf away from the former world No. 1.
Although this Masters will be in the fall, the weather will not have a significant impact on the tournament. The middle of the week brought some showers to the south and slowed the fairways and greens down, but the weekend is bringing classic sun and breezes to Augusta, which will make the greens fast and the golf balls fly farther, setting up the players to record very low rounds.
I think this will be a Masters unlike any other, not only because of the November start, but because of what Bryson DeChambeau has the capability to do to Augusta. Historically, the difficulty of the Masters has mainly been on the greens, which are very fast and have few places to land the ball for a player’s approach shot. However, the course is not brutally difficult otherwise, playing under 7,000 yards, and with the absence of fans and grandstands, a lot wider now as well. DeChambeau’s ability to carry drives well over 300 yards will allow him to cut corners on many of the short par 4s, as well as turn longer holes into birdie opportunities. While there are certainly other long hitters like Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson who will attempt to do the same, no other player has such a significant advantage off the tee as DeChambeau, which is why many experts are picking him to win his second major in a row this weekend. Even amongst the best golfers in the world, he stands out, and this pandemic pushing golf back and allowing him to bulk up into a long-driving machine makes him my favorite to win the Masters this year. If he can play like he did at the U.S. Open, he will tear Augusta to pieces and leave the competition in the clubhouse.
My pick to win: Bryson DeChambeau
Winner final score: -15
Other players to watch: Brooks Koepka and Patrick Cantlay