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The Masters Preview: Georgia Back in the Spotlight for Tiger’s Defense

The Masters

If there’s one thing this country needs right now, it’s excitement. Things have been way too boring for way too long, especially in Georgia. There hasn’t been near enough excitement there recently, and that’s a shame. Thankfully, the Masters returns to Augusta National this week. It will be a major change of pace, as the tournament is usually in April, but it will be a welcome distraction nevertheless.

Besides the change of date, the tournament is especially exciting because it’s Tiger Woods’ first major defense since the 2009 US Open. But a new breed has emerged on Tour since then. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas top the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR). Bryson DeChambeau has powered his way through the US Open and made himself a force to be reckoned with on Tour, despite all his quirks. And then there’s Brooks Koepka. He’s struggled this year, but it’s never wise to forget about him on a major week.

So here is a look at some of the top contenders this week, and get ready for the biggest tournament of the year: the Masters.

Bryson DeChambeau

It feels almost obligatory to list him first. He’s the odds on favorite, the winner of the last major and the most entertaining man on Tour today. Is he obnoxious? Sure. Does he yell at cameramen? More than most. Is he ruining the game of golf? No, despite what so many talking heads will say.

DeChambeau hits bombs. He powered through Winged Foot while barely hitting any fairways. The question is, will he be able to do the same at the Masters? The course has always been known as one that require precision over power, but will Bryson break the mold? If anyone can, it’s him. He’s already reaching 200 mph ball speed on the range, which translates to 368 yards of carry. He’s also considering using a 48-inch driver, a length usually reserved only for long-drive competitions.

The Masters
There’s usually more to golf than power, but don’t tell that to Bryson DeChambeau (via Getty)

If DeChambeau can place the ball where he wants, forty yards past his opponents, he’ll be hard to beat this weekend.

Dustin Johnson

Going into last week, it was tough to predict how DJ would play. Sure he was the top ranked player in the world, but he missed multiple tournaments because of COVID-19. Last week’s Houston Open is the only tournament he’s played in since the US Open.

That being said, Dustin Johnson has been dominant. Since the PGA Championship in early August, his worst finish is a T-6 at the US Open. He has three runner-ups, including the PGA Championship and last week’s Houston Open, and a win in that time. He has only played in seven tournaments since the beginning of August, though so it isn’t much of a sample size.

Will he be able to maintain his pre-COVID form, or was last week in Houston a last gasp for DJ? Regardless, he’ll be looking for his first green jacket this weekend.

Justin Thomas

JT feels like a bit of a sleeper heading into Augusta, despite having the fourth best odds to win. DeChambeau, Johnson and Koepka seem to be taking all the headlines, but Thomas has been playing really solid golf. Since the Tour restarted in June, he’s had a couple top-fives, a few more top-tens and a win in a WGC event. In his last tournament, the ZOZO Championship @ Sherwood, he finished tied for second.

It hasn’t all been positive for Thomas, though. While he finished T-8 at the US Open, he struggled at the PGA Championship as the number one player in the world. With the pressure off, will he be able to take home his second major and first green jacket at the Masters?

Tiger Woods

He’s Tiger Woods. Is any more reason needed for him to be a top contender at the Masters?

The Masters
The moment that led to the most anticipated title defense in years (via augusta.com)

Because there probably should be. He’s been mediocre bordering on bad of late. His last tournament, also the ZOZO Championship, was a test run of sorts, as he was defending that title as well. It went poorly to say the least.

There were 78 golfers that teed off at the tournament, with 77 playing all 72 holes. Tiger came in 72nd place. Yes it was a strong field, yes he finished under par, but the tournament’s temporary new home was chosen with him specifically in mind. It was near his hometown and at a course he won at five times and finished second another five. He didn’t look anything like the greatest golfer of all time.

Can he recreate last year’s magic at Augusta this week? Maybe. Will he? Probably not.

Best of the Rest

Jon Rahm

He has two wins since June’s restart and is coming off a runner-up at Sherwood. He also made the most insane practice round hole in one. This looks like a great chance for him to grab his first major championship.

Brooks Koepka

He’s openly admitted to not caring about non-majors. He was the runner up at last year’s iteration of the Masters. He’s coming off of a top-five finish. Despite recent struggles, and missing the US Open because of COVID, don’t ever count Brooks Koepka out of a major. Don’t be surprised if he’s wearing green Sunday evening.

Patrick Cantlay

He was supposed to be golf’s next big thing. It took him longer than expected, but Patrick Cantlay has become one of the game’s elite. While he’s struggled in majors this year (T-43 in both), he’s coming off a win and playing fairly well. His best major finish is a tie for third at last year’s PGA Championship, but he’s someone who could top that this year at the Masters.

Jordan Spieth

He’s been bad; 80th in the world bad. But he’s won three majors (two at Augusta), been runner-up at three more and nearly won the Masters in 2018. If not for a branch on the 18th hole at Augusta, who knows where he’d be right now. He probably won’t win, but every golf fan should be rooting for Jordan Spieth this week.

 

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