Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

U.S. Masters Golf 2020 Preview: Will Tiger Woods Roar Again?

Posted on 10 November 2020 by Sarah Wilmore

 

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Tiger Woods will finally get the chance to defend his green jacket at the U.S. Masters from 12-15 November.

The tournament traditionally occurs in April, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 will be the first time that it happens in November.

Augusta National prides itself in hosting an exclusive tournament usually restricted to 100 players who receive an invitation to compete.

The smaller field means that all players typically start from the first tee, which is unusual for a PGA Tour event.

However, to cope with the reduced daylight hours, this year, there will be a two-tee start in three balls for the first two rounds.

But after the cut, the field will be reduced to the top 50 players and ties, meaning the traditional one-tee, two ball start will continue as usual for the weekend.

The reduced daylight will, however, be good news for British fans as it means we should hopefully see a winner crowned by 8 pm GMT.

All rounds will be aired live on Sky Sports with highlights available each day on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.

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Due to the pandemic, the Par-3 contest, which has occurred every Wednesday preceding the U.S. Masters since 1960, will not go ahead this year.

The event has only been cancelled once before in 2017 due to bad weather.

The contest usually sees players flanked by their families, with children running up and down the fairways in little white boiler suits.

However, the cancellation of the contest will be welcome news to some, as winning is perceived unlucky.

No player has ever won the Par-3 event and the U.S. Masters in the same year.

The superstition is so strong that players typically ask a family member or fan to hit a shot for them during the contest to disqualify them from winning.

Englishman Matt Wallace was the last player to win the contest in 2019, so will keep his title for another year. His odds of winning the U.S. Masters are currently 150/1.

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2020 will also see the tournament played behind closed doors for the first time.

When the winner holes the final putt on the 18th green, there will not be the usual roars and clapping from well-behaved patrons, but a few quiet cheers from officials and players.

One benefit of this will be an even better view of Augusta on television.

Since the PGA Tour resumed without fans in June, we have been able to see much more of the courses without fans blocking the view.

But perhaps the scariest part of the challenging Augusta this year, will not be Amen Corner, but the risk that some players will test positive for Covid-19 and have to withdraw from the tournament.

Each competitor will take a test before they can set one foot on the perfectly manicured fairways of Augusta.

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And 2017 U.S. Masters Champion Sergio García has already received the dreaded news that he has tested positive for the virus after suffering from a sore throat and cough.

He has withdrawn from the event, and a reserve will take his place.

Joaquin Niemann also pulled out last week following a positive test result.

For those that play, they will be competing for over $2million, the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the tournament and 600 FedEx Cup points.

5 Players to Watch

  1. Tiger Woods

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One of the greatest golfers ever with one of the greatest sporting comebacks, Woods is the defending champion.

2019 saw the 44-year-old claim his first major victory in eleven years, after suffering from multiple injuries and undergoing a very public divorce.

Woods won by four shots over Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele to become the second oldest champion.

All fired up, he then went on to win the ZOZO Championship in October 2019 but has since slipped 27 places in the Official World Golf Rankings to 33rd in the world.

However, Woods has an excellent record at Augusta, and it would come as no surprise if he won again.

Woods has won five green jackets and 15 majors. If he could win the U.S. Masters just once more, he would equal Jack Nicklaus’ record there and be two shy of his 18 majors.

The American also shares the U.S. Masters tournament-low score with Jordan Spieth on 270 strokes (-18), which he shot in 1997.

  1. Bryson DeChambeau

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Golf’s new heavyweight and confessed physics nerd was recently described by the Washington Post as having a “scientist’s mind in a linebacker’s body.”

The 27-year-old is the bookies favourite to win at 8/1 having won his first major title, the U.S. Open in September by six shots.

For many years now, DeChambeau has approached golf differently, spraying water on balls to replicate morning dew in practice and using complex equations to get the ball around the course.

But recently, DeChambeau has taken a different approach, but one still heavily backed by science.

Over the past year, the American has gained 40 lbs in weight thanks to a high protein diet and an intense training regime.

Consequently, DeChambeau has gained 20 yds in driving distance and is now the PGA Tour’s longest hitter and believes that’s what helped him win his first major.

Golf fans and pundits alike can now foresee that DeChambeau might walk all over Augusta’s luscious fairways before slipping into a green jacket on Sunday.

Nicklaus famously said that Augusta is “the quintessence of a second-shot golf course.” Hitting greens in the right places are paramount to success there.

And with an average driving distance of 344.4 yds, DeChambeau will have shorter shots into the greens than any other player.

There will be many holes, including the first, where he will only be hitting a wedge into the green. And some such as the third, he will be able to drive the green with just a three wood.

But if you needed any more convincing as to why DeChambeau is the favourite this weekend, the softer course conditions will play right into his hands.

The colder and wetter month of November could mean Augusta plays longer than in April. So, players like DeChambeau who can carry the ball further will have even more of an advantage.

  1. Jon Rahm

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World Number Two, Rahm, has an excellent track record at the U.S. Masters and has never finished outside the top 30.

The last two years, the Spaniard has finished in the top 10, with his best finish in 2018 where he came fourth.

This year alone, the 25-year-old has won twice on the PGA Tour at both the BMW Championship and the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.

Rahm is on good form, and with five PGA Tour titles already, he will be searching for his first major victory.

His strong performances at Augusta so far suggest he has the potential to emulate the three Spaniards who have already achieved the golfing pinnacle: Seve Ballesteros, José María Olazábal and Sergio García.

  1. Dustin Johnson

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36-year-old Johnson has been world number one for a total of 102 weeks.

Like Rahm, he has finished in the top ten the last two years at Augusta and came within just one shot of victory in 2019.

He last won a major in 2016 and has since become the eighth person ever to have finished runner-up in all four majors.

This week, he will be looking to seal the deal, and as the second-longest hitter on tour, like DeChambeau, his distance will be an advantage.

  1. Rory McIlroy

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Every year, golf fans rush to place bets on McIlroy in the hope that he will finally achieve the Grand Slam.

The Nothern Irishman hasn’t won a major since 2014 when he won both the British Open and the U.S. PGA in the same year.

But he has a good track record at Augusta, and from 2014-2018 he finished top 10 there every year.

2011 was the closest he came to victory as he entered Sunday with a four-shot lead.

But he experienced a catastrophic collapse, shooting 80 to finish T15, the worst round in history by a professional golfer leading after the third round.

It will be the 31-year-old’s first U.S. Masters since becoming a father, and perhaps his 10-week old daughter Poppy will be the lucky charm he’s been missing.

 

It will undoubtedly be an exciting week at the U.S. Masters, and we hope it will bring joy to all our readers during this challenging time.