The 2020 US Masters Golf Tournament will begin on Thursday, 12 November and ends on Sunday, 15 November and will be played at Augusta National Golf Club.
Postponed from its traditional April date, the 84th edition of the the Masters tournament will feel a little different in a November timeslot this year.
With no spectators allowed on site and winter just around the corner, the tournament that usually heralds the unofficial start of spring in the US is expected to provide a few surprises, and the odd curveball.
But one thing won’t change come Sunday: a green jacket will be slipped over the shoulders of the player who best tames Augusta National.
UPDATE 16/11/2020: US MASTERS - Tournament Results
Tournaments have been fan-free for most of this year, but it’ll certainly be magnified at the Masters. Roars that reverberate across the entire course when a player does something special are all part of the Augusta mystique and their absence will be conspicuous, especially on the back nine when players get a real feel for how the tournament is placed. While some players feed off the energy that the “patrons” - as they are referred to at Augusta - bring, others won’t mind the chance to soak in the surroundings at an empty and quiet Augusta. Fan-free or not, Augusta in November is better than no Augusta at all.
The experts say winning your first major is the hardest. If that’s true, then Bryson DeChambeau quite rightly deserves to be one of the favourites at Augusta this year. The Scientist and Cobra One-Length iron pioneer was exceptional at the US Open in September when he strolled to a six-shot win at an arduous Winged Foot that put the golf world on notice. While much has been said about his transformation physically, it takes a gifted athlete to get longer without ruining other aspects of his game – just ask the countless number of pros who have tried and failed before him. He’s been talked about as the player who will revolutionise golf, like Tiger and Jack before him, and has been waxing lyrical about introducing a 48-inch driver shaft for the Masters. DeChambeau says it will make him even longer and if it does, it’ll take something, or someone, special to stop him.
With a swing that could inspire poetry, Rory McIlroy just can’t seem to find it at Augusta when he needs it most. He’s had plenty of chances, including a final-round pairing with Patrick Reed in 2018, but the green jacket he needs to complete a career grand slam has so far eluded him. His recent record suggests he is almost guaranteed to finish top 10 again but his problem seems to be sustaining momentum in the final round - when everyone else is going low on Sunday, Rory is the guy stuck in neutral. His last major win was in 2014, almost unbelievable for a player of his talent, but Rory might be the player who shoots 63 in the final round this year to obliterate his Augusta hoodoo. When he’s on his game, there is simply no-one better to watch in golf.
Dustin Johnson might be short of a run this year but the world’s No.1 golfer has to be considered a serious threat at Augusta. DJ’s positive COVID test in October just prior to the CJ Cup put the brakes on some serious momentum he’d built up in the 2020 season, culminating in the 36-year-old being crowned the FedEx Cup champion. As well as claiming the Tour Championship, Johnson won the Northern Trust Open and was beaten in a playoff at the BMW Championship. His form in recent majors has also been noteworthy, with a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship and a tied sixth result at the US Open – the last tournament he played. Health permitting, DJ is due to tee it up at the Houston Open the week prior to the Masters and he’s gone close at Augusta in recent years, notching four consecutive top tens, including a runner-up finish last year. Barring any unfortunate incidents – he didn’t play in the 2017 Masters after falling down some stairs at his rental house just prior to the start of the tournament – DJ should be right in the hunt.
It’s referred to ad nauseum every year, but what is Amen Corner and how did it get its name? It’s the run of holes stretching from 11 to 13 and it never fails to deliver drama. Players start to tighten up and the nerves get rattled when they face the approach shot to the narrow 11th green, which features a pond that is fed by Rae’s Creek guarding the left side. Then it’s over to the 12th hole, the famous short par three with the inverse green and a sloping bank in front that has seen many short tee shots begin a slow roll into Rae’s Creek. The 13th is a par five that used to be a risk/reward proposition, with Rae’s Creek snaking the length of it, but now it’s a driver-short iron eagle opportunity for most players. Sports Illustrated writer Herbert Warren Wind coined Amen Corner, basing it off a tune he liked called ‘Shoutin’ In That Amen Corner’. While the song is probably thankfully long gone, the name has stuck ever since.
Late in September, the golfing world was aghast after aerial images of Augusta National revealed the course was looking a shade of brown instead of the usual verdant green. But with the tournament being held in autumn, things were always going to be different this year. The course is usually closed to members for six months of the year, shutting down straight after the Masters ends in April. It was no different this year but with the tournament held in November, golf fans were getting nervous. The Augusta National fairways are always scarified weeks out from the start of the tournament in April before being overseeded with ryegrass and the course staff followed the same schedule, just with the tournament being held seven months later. After a few weeks of solid watering, the fairways have bounced back to their normal state of pure perfection.
After outplaying and out-thinking his opponents last year, Tiger Woods has the opportunity to go back-to-back at Augusta for a second time in his career. No-one knows the course like Tiger, who started his meteoric rise in 1997 with a record-breaking 12-stroke win and won consecutive green jackets in 2001 and 2002 before adding another in 2005 and last year’s famous win. Many people had written him off before he won in 2019, as age and injuries began to catch up with the man who changed golf forever. But the 44-year-old simply showed just how good he is under pressure with a final round that minimised mistakes and maximised his knowledge of the course. The turning point came at the short par 3 12th hole, where he found the green while Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau all dunked their balls into Rae’s Creek. From that point on, Tiger got a sniff of victory and duly saluted in one of the most memorable Masters wins in recent memory. It was Tiger’s 15th major and if he wins a sixth green jacket this year, he would tie Jack Nicklaus for the most Masters wins. However, he hasn’t quite found his best form this year yet, as injuries have again hampered him. One thing’s for certain, should Tiger be in the hunt there’s no-one better at taking their chances in a major.
Tyrell Hatton’s win at the BMW Championship at Wentworth in October was notable for two things: he streeted a top-class field by four strokes in chilly weather and he wore a hoodie while doing so. While the win enhanced his credentials for this year’s Masters, Hatton’s hoodie took much of the focus off his exceptional play. Dress code zealots were in an uproar after the win and traditional clubs felt it necessary to remind members that hoodies, such as Hatton’s, were not an approved dress code item. The whole saga underlined the silliness that often pervades golf but while the weather isn’t expected to be quite as cool at the Masters, you suspect the Augusta board might be keeping a close eye out for any hoodie-wearing hijinks. And while they’re at it, they might pull Erik van Rooyen in for a closer inspection of his trademark short trousers.
Rae’s Creek cuts through the Augusta township for almost 10 miles, a mostly unremarkable journey bar for a few hundred metres when it enters the Augusta National property. The creek was named after an early Irish settler and its influence at Augusta is pronounced. Similar to a links course where most greens break towards the ocean, the pull of Rae’s Creek has an effect on the majority of putts on the course. It’s the lowest point on the layout and players will often work out where they are in relation to it and adjust their green reading accordingly. Rae’s Creek has provided a damp end to the hopes of many Masters contenders through the years and its influence will again be pronounced.
When Adam Scott won the green jacket in 2013, it was a win for all Australians. Fans had spent years waking up early full of anticipation only to see Australian winning hopes flounder in withering final round finishes. But with Jason Day also at the pointy end, 2013 seemed like a good year to tune in. Scotty won it on the first extra hole of a playoff against Angel Cabrera and in the process ended a lifetime of disappointment for Australian golf fans. Testing positive to COVID isn’t the perfect lead in for Scotty but should he recover quick enough, he will be a leading chance with his fluent swing and distance off the tee. And if he has any luck with his putter, a constant source of frustration in his game, then he’ll be in with a top chance to add a second green jacket to his trophy cabinet.
It’s an honour to receive an invitation to play the Masters and for 26 players this year, the dream, albeit a delayed one, is about to come true. Six amateurs will be teeing it up including Australian Lukas Michel, who won the US Mid-Am last year to earn the chance to play. And on the professional front Colin Morikawa will make his Augusta debut having already won his first major - the US PGA Championship at Harding Park in August. Matthew Wolff, who was runner-up to Bryson DeChambeau at the US Open, will also make his first trip to the Masters. Both Wolff and Morikawa look top chances of joining a select list of Masters debutants to win the tournament at their first attempt: Horton Smith, who won the first Masters in 1934, Gene Sarazen, the 1935 winner, and Fuzzy Zoeller, who claimed the green jacket in 1979.
Justin Thomas is one of the toughest competitors in golf but it is somewhat of a surprise that he hasn’t really contended at the Masters in his four attempts. He’s made the cut in every attempt and has improved every time he’s played the Masters, culminating in a tied 12th result last year. A winner of the 2017 US PGA Championship, Thomas is a perfectionist and is one of just 12 players to record a sub-60 round (59 at the Sony Open in 2017). He’s simply too good a player to disregard – will this be his year?
As one of the lowest points on the course, the short par 3 12th hole is a stage for frequent drama at the Masters. The wind can be unpredictable, often swirling around the stands of pines, to compound its difficulty. The hole has been the turning point in several recent Masters: last year Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau and Francesco Molinari all found the water while either leading or deep in contention. And in 2016 Jordan Spieth rinsed two balls at the 12th when leading by five shots and then staggered home to eventually finish runner-up to Danny Willett – a result that still stings Spieth four years later. Players who walk off with a par at the 12th won’t be complaining.
The Masters is a massive money spinner for Augusta National every year, reportedly making a $29 million profit at the 2015 Masters. So what does a wealthy club do with its cash reserves? It buys the land next door to make the course longer. The 13th hole has become a bit of a bugbear at the Masters, as the length of today’s players has turned the par 5 into a drive and short iron rather than the risk-reward hole it once was. The club decided to purchase land from the adjoining Augusta Country Club, an excellent course in its own right, in order to shift the tee back and lengthen the hole. But it’s not going to happen anytime soon: the acquired land will need to be “Augusta-fied” first so it resembles the rest of the course. It’ll take time to grow the trees and plant Augusta’s famed azaleas to merge the new parcel of land into Augusta National, the course regarded as Disneyland for golfers. With the 13th tee shifted back it will lengthen the hole and restore it back to its intended design.
The golfer who goes by the nickname of Shrek, in reference to his gapped grin, has the unwanted distinction of finishing runner-up in all four majors. Louis Oosthuizen won the Open Championship in 2010 by seven shots but has been nosed out in subsequent majors, including the 2012 Masters. The South African made an albatross in the final round, just the fourth in Masters history and the first one on the second hole, but lost in a play-off to Bubba Watson after the left-hander weaved an incredible shot out of the pines on the second extra hole. Oosthuizen has a solid record at the Masters and possesses a fluid tempo that makes his swing look effortless. With credentials like that you’d think he’d have another major or two left in him and if he wins this year, he’ll join Gary Player, Trevor Immelman and Charl Schwartzel as South African winners of the green jacket.