Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
By its very nature, a Masters in November is unlike the traditional date in April. But the 2020 Masters also had to deal with COVID concerns, no patrons and competition with the NFL for airtime. What changes to the Masters stood out most to you and which ones did you enjoy?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Two things I can think of, and I “enjoyed” them both. First, the growth of actual rough, or in Mahstas parlance, the “second cut”. Without it, everyone would’ve been at least 5 under, and Johnson minus 30. They should let it grow in around the greens a little more if they want to salvage some degree of control over lower scoring. Second, the greens were a little slower than normal, and I thought this was a good thing… it made good putts less susceptible to unfair rolls, while bad putts came up short, and made some of the really penal breaks less death-defying. For example, how many times have we seen those 15-foot breaks on 9 green cause balls to go sailing by as they picked up speed on the down slope? The higher up you aimed, the greater the speed coming back down. Unfair. The one negative effect of November was that balls were landing soft and not rolling and collecting mud as they plug-jumped. Maybe they should’ve allowed lift, clean and place.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Oh boy did I like seeing rough, I know some didn’t but here’s why I liked it. It clearly caused a problem for those that couldn’t hit the fairway, and this may be surprising, but that should be part of the test for all players to help identify the Champion with the complete game. Not just BOMB and GOUGE. I also liked the new camera views and complete coverage. I’m not sure if that was an advantage of not having patrons or what, but it was noticeable. If the Tour and others don’t recognize this, then its their and our loss for other events.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame member, PGA of Canada: This Masters was the most entertaining I have ever watched. The insight into the property was fascinating which was brought out through the use of the drone cameras. I knew there are 10 Cabins, but I didn’t know they form a small village surrounding the clubhouse which appears to be cut out of the hillside overlooking the Par 3 course. I loved the pictures of the Par 3. The course looks entirely different without patrons and actually looked like a real golf course. Rae’s Creek looks man-made from above as it crosses in front of #12 and behind #11. The sunlight is different in the Fall showing a lot more ‘humps and bumps’ in the fairways and the greens look far more severe in this light as well and spike marks were a lot more evident. I appreciate the course was wet from the heavy rain, but I thought the grass appeared scruffy and not as highly manicured. If Course owners and Club Boards of Directors had these conditions as their role model, they could have saved $Ms. For a place with no rough, the second cut sure looked thick and juicy. I did miss the ’10 shot’ rule which had to be removed due to the lack of daylight, but I didn’t miss the stupid fake bird songs. And, last, I’ll bet everyone attending did not miss coming home with their throats full of green pollen dust. I wish I could play there.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Well the thing that jumped out to me was the dampness of the course, despite no rain after Thursday morning. I was a bit surprised that their sub air system didn’t dry the course out a bit more. I did enjoy the extra camera angles provided by the drones and whatever other equipment they used, and I hope they can find a way to continue to show those in future years. It was also neat seeing guys hit shots from places you’d never seen before, like Cameron Smith hitting his 3rd from way left of 15 green, when that typically would have been smack dab in the middle of the grandstand.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The views of never-before-seen shots of the property were terrific. The drone flyovers and camera angles from where the “patrons” usually clutter the landscape were great to see. In fact, the best change was the absence of the pimento sandwich munching throngs blocking sight lines. And they weren’t there to stop errant shots or trample down the Bermuda to make for easier recovery shots. Life without roars is just fine.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I’ve been to the Masters and have some appreciation for how hilly Augusta National is and how much contour exists on many of the greens. However, the new camera angles provided by CBS drones and the absence of patrons showed the severity of the landscape much better and why it’s so tough to score on those greens. I also liked play in threesomes and the absence of “playing through” commercials – the worst marketing tool ever foisted on golf fans.
Dustin Johnson used to be known for not getting the job done in the majors: five runner-up finishes where he had leads but couldn’t hold them. Now he has two major victories, is tied with Gary Player for wins on the PGA Tour (24) and is about to pass Rory McIlroy to sit in third place with most weeks ranked as World #1. DJ has been regarded as an immense talent since his first years on Tour but also labelled an under-performer. With his latest win, can Johnson finally shed that tag?
Deeks: Yes. Not sure how Paulina has altered the activity program (and won’t ask her), but it seems to be working.
Loughry: DJ has an impressive career so far; he has certainly underachieved in my opinion at MAJORS. I’m not sure this one win sheds that entirely, his body of work is impressive, nonetheless. But Majors are tough to win and should be. I think DJ is settling in with some maturity and ready for Major starts. Mickelson was a bit of a late bloomer that way too. And I bet DJ ends up around Mickelson’s career when he’s done -close in wins (44) and Majors (5). He’s only 36, and he has some 30+ Major starts in his “prime”. He’s already on the Hall of Fame with his current resume. He wins one more Major, he sheds that tag of “under-performer”.
Schurman: Careers meander like a country stream with high and lows. Rory came out fast and won a bunch of majors but didn’t do quite so well relatively with other TOUR events and now his talent level has gone silent. Jordan Spieth burst on the scene hitting it everywhere and holing from everywhere, winning a ton in a short time frame proving ‘two things don’t last: dogs who chase cars and pros who putt for pars”. Dustin has had personal issues, struggled to ‘close’ majors but basically plodded along to a Hall of Fame career before he won this week. He holds the current longest streak for years of winning and had some very close calls in big events. He is the ‘player of this time’. Appreciate and enjoy!
Rule: I never considered him an under-performer to be honest, other than his Major record, but with two of those now, he’s in pretty good company. And let’s be honest, he’ll likely win a couple more before he’s done. The fact that he’s won a tournament in 13 straight years to start his career, how could anyone say he has under-performed? His game right now is at such a high level that I can see him dominating the next couple of years, which will solidify his Hall of Fame credentials.
Quinn: That tag never really fit a guy that wins something every year, but the green jacket sure does. He has already achieved one heck of a lot and holding it all together and playing great on Sunday is going to help him in every Major from now on.
Mumford: Based purely on the numbers, it’s hard to say DJ is an underperformer. Yet, from his early days on Tour he was tagged with an abundance of talent and incredibly high expectations. Perhaps he should have won even more regular Tour events and certainly could have accumulated more majors. Golf at every level is full of coulda’s, woulda’s and shoulda’s that all sound great but don’t change the actual outcome. Where does he go from here? The records of many of the games greatest players are comfortably within reach. DJ is only 36 and at the peak of his career with many productive years left. When all is said and done, I expect DJ will rank among the Top 15 golfers of all time. That’s not underperforming at all.
While Johnson’s victory on Sunday was never really in doubt, which other players impressed you? And which, if any, were a disappointment?
Deeks: By far Cameron Smith. What an amazing performance. Ditto Sung Jae Im, the driving machine. Rory was kinda there, but not really, and that was disappointing. I read somewhere today that in recent majors, Rory is 24 over par on his first rounds, and minus 61 on his final three. Something tells me Rory should refuse to show up for his first rounds. Also, not that I care, but DeChambeau was a complete bust. I know, he wasn’t feeling well, but the game of golf was spared another spanking.
Loughry: Smith was a bit of a surprise. I wouldn’t say he impressed me though other than all four rounds in the 60’s. Im wasn’t too bad either. LANGER, Langer was impressive. Seriously. A grandfather competing for a green jacket and beat many top 50 players in the world including DeChambeau. And there’s my disappointment, I thought Bryson would have been better but Augusta bit back.
Schurman: Every event has key turning points. The first was when Ancer missed from 3ft on #2. I am a Bryson fan so to see him have an off week wasn’t fun. Seeing Cory Conners bogie #17 and 18 on Saturday stung a bit too. Of course, my constant betting choice, Patrick Cantlay let me down. Impressive results came from Im who drove it like Moe, Cam Smith who is tenacious enough to win a lot, Abraham Ancer, the same, Mike Weir, Cory Conners and Nick Taylor. The trophy and the accolades go to DJ, but the miracle performance was by Langer. Some might marvel at the 5-birdie finish by Tiger, but his most impressive score came on #12. Who knew a score like that would ever be posted by him?
Rule: Bernhard Langer and Mike Weir impressed me. For those guys to shoot the scores they did without the length required to reach the par 5’s in two and heck, some of the par 4’s in two! What amazing performances. Beyond that, it was the Masters rookies that impressed. In terms of disappointments, I would have to say Rory’s first round and Bryson’s entire tournament, although that one didn’t disappoint me all that much.
Quinn: It was a joy to watch Cam Smith creating shots, smiling, and having fun. Sungjae Im’s incredibly slow back swing was a clinic for weekend hackers. That was great to have those two in focus all round Sunday. Disappointed that Rory blew up Thursday and Rahm hit those stunningly bad shots. It would have been great if they had stayed in the mix late Sunday.
Mumford: Very impressed with Sungjae Im. The kid drives the ball straighter than anyone since Greg Norman. Also, Cameron Smith’s short game is spectacular. Disappointed that there wasn’t more of a challenge from McIlroy, Koepka, Rahm and Thomas but their misfortunes occurred in earlier rounds and left them too far back for the final round. The most impressive performance on Sunday was from Tiger Woods, making birdie on five of the last six holes, after an embarrassing 10 on the 12th hole. Most players would have mailed it in after that. Tiger has shown since he was a kid that there’s no quit in him, but this was above and beyond.