Late tee time at Masters

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Finally, it’s Masters week.

It’s extremely weird to be saying the PGA Tour is at Augusta National in November. But here we are. When the coronavirus hit everyone earlier in the year, it was uncertain if or when we’d play any more golf.

When the Masters went away in April, it signaled bleak times. Nothing marks the start of spring golf like seeing the azaleas in full bloom on the brilliant green fairways of Augusta National as patrons tune in for the Masters.

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For a long time, that was up in the air. Now it’s back, although certainly not in the springtime. But on the bright side, there are warm temperatures in the forecast, although rain is also expected Thursday and perhaps Friday.

The bottom line is we’re finally going to see the Augusta National layout and many of the world’s best fight it out for a green jacket. Welcome to the weird world of golf, 2020 version.

And it will only get weirder in five months when we get to the Tour’s next major when it’s the Masters again. That’s right, we’ll see back-to-back green jacket ceremonies. The most thrilled, and disappointed, person on the PGA Tour will be this week’s winner. He will have to hand over the coveted green jacket in just a few months.

With this year’s Masters field at 92 golfers, the eventual champion will actually need to focus on beating a smaller number of players. The reasoning? A number of players will be there for ceremonial purposes only and almost certainly will not contend. Fred Couples, Sandy Lyle, Larry Mize and Jose Maria Olazabal will tee it up this week. That foursome, as well as a couple of others, have all had their days in the Georgia sunshine and are former champions. But those days are many years removed and it will be impressive if they are even around for the weekend. Sorry guys.

That brings us to the defending champion. Last year we wrote that the moon and stars would align and Tiger Woods would earn another green jacket. They did and he did —but with a lot of help.

He dodged plenty of bullets as he won his fifth title at Augusta National. During the final round, Woods, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Francesco Molinari and Brooks Koepka all had a share of the lead at some point. And Koepka certainly had momentum on his side as he had won three of the previous seven PGA Tour majors.

But one by one, all of them faded into the sunset for one reason or another and Woods took an impressive stroll up the 18th fairway en route to his 15th major. Right there with him were thousands of his closest friends marching right behind him down that fabled fairway.

That was 2019. In 2020 everything has changed. Including Tiger.

This year we don’t feel Woods has a chance to repeat. He’s not playing nearly well enough or often enough to contend. It’s simple in that he’s got flashes of brilliance that can be followed up by moments of disaster. To win here, one needs four solid rounds with minimal error, neither of which Woods is capable of producing right now.

His game is a two-edged sword. He needs to play more to get into a groove but he needs to watch how much he plays to keep his body in as good a shape as he can. Those two things don’t add up to a winning combination.

And that’s especially true for a world-class player like Woods, especially at a site like Augusta National, and especially at a major tournament.

But we are going back to that same saying about the moon and stars aligning. Only this time, we’re going in a different direction player-wise.

Yes, the moon and stars will align this week and we see Rory McIlroy, at 10-1, earning his first green jacket. That will also give him another spot in the history books as he will finally complete the career grand slam. It would make him just the fifth player to accomplish the feat.

Again, like we said last year when picking Woods, we aren’t crazy. There is reasoning behind our madness. First, it’s 2020 and everything’s gone haywire. Second, the Masters is in November which is unheard of. And third, McIlroy has been close before and needs to find a way to seal the deal.

He held a four-shot lead in the 2011 Masters before a final-round collapse, shooting an 80, left him with a T-15. He’s been trying to recover ever since.

And in this wild and wacky 2020, it should surprise no one, or maybe everyone, if he goes on to win the Masters. He’s 10-1.

We’re also going to take a long look at Bryson DeChambeau at 8-1. He’s the most recent major winner (the U.S. Open). Why not go back-to-back in majors? Stranger things have happened. Like a PGA Tour player racking up 400 yards in carry yardage with a driver. Will added yardage and his out-of-this-world scientific approach to the game help DeChambeau earn an XXL green jacket?

About the Author

Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 18-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas including 10 years as a writer/editor with VegasGolfer Magazine. He also contributes to the GolfNow Network of websites and Las Vegas Golf Insider.

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