COLUMN: Masters Preview

Tournament Favorite, what to make of Tiger, and what to expect from the course?

By: Will Purbaugh

For the Yellow Jacket

When Jim Nantz opens the telecast on Sunday and utters his traditional “Hello Friends,” golf fans will feel a sense of normalcy that comes with a Masters Sunday, but 2020 has turned the 84th Masters from a “tradition unlike any other” into a “Masters unlike any other.”

For the first time in the tournament’s long and rich history, the Masters will take place in the month of November and becomes golf’s final major for 2020. However, like any other playing of this great event, there are a ton of storylines leading up to the ceremonial tee shots on Thursday.

Can Anyone Stop Bryson?

In September, Bryson DeChambeau tore apart Winged Foot Golf Club like it was a local municipal golf course. His display of raw power and disregard for the treacherous rough at the U.S. Open: stunning.

Now, with Augusta having notoriously wide fairways and DeChambeau using a longer driver, which creates more club head speed, his length could be too much for the 94-man field.

The only person that I believe can stop DeChambeau is Bryson himself. His on-course antics in 2020 has become more commonplace.

From his blowup on a cameraman at the seventh hole at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in June, to his now-infamous 10 on the 15th hole at the Memorial, he can mentally blow up at times. If he can keep his composure on Augusta’s slick greens, DeChambeau could be slipping into green Sunday afternoon.

The Defending Champion

Tiger Woods’s triumph in the 2019 Masters was perhaps the greatest day in Augusta National history. The comeback, after having not won a major in 11 years, and all the controversy surrounding him in that timeframe made his win stuff even Hollywood would not write.

However, that was over 18 months ago now, and the Woods we have seen on the course since his win has not been impressive, to say the least.

Only one win, and the best finish of tied for 37th since the COVID-19 outbreak makes Woods nowhere near the favorite coming into this week.

But, Augusta has always had a way of rejuvenating its previous champions in a way that no other course can, giving Tiger and his fans a glimmer of hope that he can be the first man to defend his Masters’ title since…. Tiger Woods did himself in 2002. If you can not count one man out this week, it’s the 15-time major champion.

What Will Augusta be Like?

The old adage at the Masters is that the tournament does not start until the back nine on Sunday, but with 2020 being 2020, traditional thinking should be thrown out the window this year in terms of how the golf itself will actually look.

For starters, the Par 5’s on the back nine (13 and 15) will play into a different wind direction than they would in the traditional April date, making the risk of going for the green in 2 much more of an ask.

That wind flip will also make the three tough holes at the start of the back nine much easier, meaning we could see big shifts in scores coming down the stretch Sunday.

With how Augusta National seeds the golf course in the summer, players should expect greens to roll very similarly as they would in April. But the course itself may play longer, bringing distances that designers Allister Makenzie and Bobby Jones intended when the course opened in 1934, more relevant this weekend.

No matter what happens this week on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National, golf fans should rejoice that come Sunday afternoon, we will get to see someone slip on the green jacket in Butler Cabin, and that we will only have to wait five more months to see another Masters in 2021.