Sport Editor Adam Robertson previews the long-awaited Masters, set to start on the 12th November, as always, at Augusta National in Georgia.
As the sporting world continues to be upended in 2020, this year’s (although last season’s) Masters tournament at Augusta National is finally set to take place, beginning on November 12th. It is the third of the usual four majors to have been re-arranged with the British Open, regrettably, being forced to cancel. Some might make fun, but even golf will feel different without crowds and it will certainly be unusual not seeing masses of people following this year’s contenders around the course.
What makes the Masters so unique is of course that it is held on the same course year in year out. It can hold a psychological edge, both positively and negatively, over any golfer. Just ask Rory McIlroy who, since his infamous collapse back in 2011, has never really looked likely to win in spite of five top ten performances. It feels like something the Irishman has never really been able to shake off, in spite of his illustrious career.
This writer will always try and defend Rory. Elite level athletes now can hit such unbelievable heights that it’s sometimes hard to put those who have also achieved into perspective. There’s a similarity to tennis there. Murray and Wawrinka have won three grand slams each, but this incredible achievement looks small next to the incredible grand slam hauls of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. While Murray and Wawrinka must have regrets about not winning more, any kid dreaming of a career in the professional game would bite your hand off just to reach the tour, never mind achieve that level of success.
It’s the same with McIlroy. It’s easy to think of Tiger Woods’ incredible 15 majors and wonder why nobody else has quite hit those heights. It’s simple really, there’s never been anybody as good. It’s not like those infamous few holes at the Masters went on to derail McIlroy’s career. He went on to win the US Open in that same year, before picking up the PGA in 2012 and then an extraordinary 2014 saw him win two of the four majors available. He’s also a FedEx Cup winner and has numerous Ryder Cups to his name. That’s not to say the Irishman himself isn’t desperate for another win, but his not-stratospheric success shouldn’t be a stick to beat him with.
More so than the other two majors based in the US, Europeans have had a decent record at Augusta over the past few years. Whilst the US Open and PGA have consistently seen American winners since 2015 and 2016 respectively, Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia are amongst those to have triumphed recently in The Masters.
The two majors since golf’s restart, though, have been won by Colin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau. Whilst Morikawa’s form has dropped slightly since his PGA Championship win, the latter has impressed since his return. Having clearly worked on the physical side of the game, the American’s game has predominantly revolved around power rather than placement. This has led some to ponder over whether his game is suited to Augusta – a much smaller course where accuracy is just as important as distance.
Last year’s event was a great moment for sports, especially given its obsession with a comeback narrative. After years in the wilderness, Tiger Woods returned to claim his fifteenth major. However, the stats wouldn’t suggest a repeat of the feat, given that nobody has claimed successive Masters since Tiger himself in 2001 and 2002 when he was at the peak of his powers.
Brooks Koepka, infamous for his ability at majors (4 of his 7 PGA Tour wins have come from these tournaments) has been plagued by injury problems and so it’s hard to say how he might perform, if he is able to play at all. After his extraordinary run which saw him claim three majors in a run of five, he just fell short last year, and he’ll be heading to Augusta determined to put that right.
The Masters is hard to predict at the best of times, never mind in such an uncertain climate, but the world rankings have Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm at numbers 1 and 2 respectively. Both have been incredibly consistent over the last year or so and Spaniard Rahm is always up there with the favourites, though he has never been quite able to get over the line.
The WGC (essentially the second most prestigious golf event on the tour) was meant to be held in China at the beginning of this month but was cancelled. It’s a tournament that can throw out a shock winner every now and then but, as ever, I’ve put my own predictions below to be mocked at a later date. Out of desperation, I’ve given myself three picks.
– Patrick Cantlay
– Tyrrell Hatton
– Jon Rahm