144 days. That’s all we had to wait between Masters tournaments as the 84th instalment of the Augusta National tournament finds its way back to the classic spring slot. Many questions will be answered this week. Will DJ be able to become only the fourth player to defend his green jacket? Will Bryson be able to tame Augusta with his explosive power? Or will it be an outside favourite who will don the green jacket, as Danny Willet did back in 2016?
Last Year’s Antics
For some people Dustin Johnson’s Masters victory in 2020 came with an asterisk. The competition was played outside of the normal masters window, meaning that the course played differently and almost unnaturally for the competition. The greens were damp from the overnight rain allowing for players to attack the pin more, the normally brutal Augusta greens unable to bait players in only to spit them off the edge. There were also no fans at the event, that occasionally hostile atmosphere silent but for a few key workers onsite. Johnson was not alone in facing these conditions, with each player having the same opportunities yet he was the player who strode away with a 5 shot victory margin and a green jacket.
And we go again..
This year’s competition is shaping up to have some excellent contests. 2015 champion Jordan Spieth won his first tournament since his triumph at The Open in 2017 last week and will hope to continue this run of form he’s recently found going into this week’s major. After all the talk from Bryson about how he was going to overpower the course in 2020, he barely made the cut and only finished a disappointing T34, 18 shots behind DJ. Leading the FedEx Cup standings with 2 wins and 5 top 10s already this season means that Bryson is certainly one to watch coming into the week. If you don’t believe me, watch the video below. (If you don’t believe me, watch the video on Twitter of Bryson bombing drives on the Augusta practice range!)
Jon Rahm has been building himself up to this tournament, and with the recent birth of his son Kepa, could this be the boost he needs to get this first major victory? Despite having a couple of stints at world number 1, the elusive major has continued to evade him but with an impressive playoff win against DJ last August, could this be the time to break that run? Of course one player who is no stranger to major wins is Rory McIlroy. He has 4 majors under his belt and requires just one more to complete the grand slam; The Masters. Most golf fans will remember that fateful final day back in 2011. Going into the final day with a 4 shot lead, Rory had the collapse of a lifetime, going 8 over on the final day and finishing 10 shots back from the eventual winner Charl Schwartzel.
Two outside shouts for the title are Lee Westwood and Colin Morikawa. Westwood may be one of the older players on tour, but this season he’s turned back the clock and is playing with a new outlook on the game and it’s working. Playing alongside his fiancé, Helen Storey he finished 2nd in back to back events, and now has his son caddying this event for him. Morikawa on the other hand has focused in on his irons, and is all about the numbers. One of the purest strikers of the ball on tour, he’ll be hoping to build on his form from the major he won last year, and his victory at the end of February in the WGC event.
Sadly there is one familiar challenger who will absent from this year’s event. Tiger Woods is still recovering in this home in Florida after than nasty car accident left him requiring surgery and the players have let him know how much his presence at Augusta will be missed.
Finally, the two top ranked players in the world; Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas. Both players have been phenomenal over the last year, but it’s DJ who sits on the top spot. Johnson may not be in the form he was in before last year’s tournament, but he’s been solid in recent weeks and it’s impossible to count him out after the dominant performance of last November. However it Justin Thomas who enters this week red hot of his win at The Players. Since his first Masters in 2016 he’s only ever gone on to finish higher than the year before, and in 2020 he finished 4th. Could this year be when JT finally gets his green jacket?
With that we’re just a day away from the 84th Masters, where dreams are made and the slightest error can lead to collapse. Will a bookie’s favourite lead the way or will it be a new face who will put on the green jacket that so few own yet so many desire? All I know is, the Masters starts today and I’m ready for it!
How to watch the 2021 Masters:
Dates: 8-11 April 2021
TV: Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event
Highlights: BBC Two after the conclusion of play. Full Schedule
- Round 1 live from 14:00 to 00:30 (including featured groups from 14:00 to 19:00)
- Round 2 live from 14:00 to 00:30 (including featured groups from 14:00 to 19:00)
- Round 3 live from 20:00 to 00:30
- Round 4 live from 19:00 to 00:30
Written by: Sam Peters
Edited by: Lois George