The 2020 Masters Tournament begins Thursday, seven months later than originally scheduled. What is traditionally the first of golf’s four majors is, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the last of three for 2020. 

Collin Morikawa won the PGA Championship in August, followed by Bryson DeChambeau’s U.S. Open triumph in September.

For the first time, the Masters will be held with virtually no patrons in attendance. Players’ families and members of the Augusta National Golf Club will be on the grounds, but there won’t be any gallery ropes or bleachers.

The temporary move to November is certain to have an impact on the outcome of the tournament. It’s the same course, butthe conditions will be different enough from the spring to make an impact.

The Masters is the only major played at the same venue every year, so Augusta National experience is a big advantage. Only one first-time participant has won the tournament since 1935. That was Fuzzy Zoeller, who won in a playoff in 1979.

This year, a case could be made that everyone is a rookie, with the course playing differently and the lack of patrons reacting to every stroke. My guess is the course will play slower, and the greens won’t be as lightning fast as we’re used to seeing in April.

Betting Options

There are predominantly two ways to bet on the Masters. The first is a futures bet on a player to win the tournament. The winning wager pays off at the odds established for the player at the time of the bet. The other way is to bet on matchups of a pair of players.

Much like betting the moneyline on a game, each player is given odds of beating the other one. In most cases, these are straight-up bets with no stroke spread. Depending on the sportsbook, there are a variety of matchups available.

Starting at the Top

The most compelling matchup pits world No. 1 Dustin Johnson against No. 6 Bryson DeChambeau. Johnson is the reigning FedEx Cup champion and winner of 23 Tour events, including the 2016 U.S. Open. He’s won at least one TOUR event every year since 2008.

DeChambeau is easily the most enigmatic player on the PGA TOUR. He first came to notoriety because all of his irons are the same length, due to his reliance on physics to analyze how to play the game. Last year, he decided that gaining weight and strength would help him maximize distance off the tee.

Since joining the TOUR, he’s put on at least 40 pounds, 20 of which came before last season. The move has paid off as he gained almost 19 yards of driving distance, according to the PGA TOUR. The extra distance was clearly on display during his win at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot.

In 1997, Tiger Woods overpowered Augusta National, prompting the club to make a number of changes to “Tiger Proof” the course. From adding distance to growing a first cut of higher grass, the club has kept anyone from bettering Tiger’s 18-under score.

The Matchup

Dustin Johnson is the favorite in the matchup betting, even though DeChambeau is a slight favorite over Johnson in the futures betting. Johnson is at -130 with Dechambeau at +110. In the futures, Johnson is at +900, slightly behind DeChambeau’s +800.

Since 2015, Johnson hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in the Masters. In 2019, Johnson tied for second, one shot behind Woods. He missed the 2017 tournament after injuring his back the night before play started. 

With the way he’s been playing, there’s no reason to believe Johnson won’t be able to continue that streak. The fact that Johnson has only won a lone major is partially due to some bad luck. At the age of 36, he’s in the prime of his career and, much like Phil Mickelson, could easily get to five or six major victories in the next few years.

DeChambeau has yet to crack the top 20 at the Masters. The wild card factor is whether he will be able to use his newfound length to do what Tiger did in 1997. I have my doubts as to whether DeChambeau will be able to match the expectations and the hype around what he’s doing.

He’s a great player, and I had him on my shortlist at Winged Foot, but Johnson is playing great golf. Johnson’s coming off a tie for second last week, so he’s in great form and is my pick to win the tournament. 

It’ll be fascinating to watch DeChambeau navigate his way around Augusta National, but my pick is clearly Dustin Johnson.

Featured Image: “Dustin Johnson – The Masters Par 3 Contest” by fabfiver5 is licensed under CC BY 2.0