It’s been less than five months since the 2020 Masters Tournament was held at Augusta National Golf Club, won by the world’s number one player with a record score of 20-under-par 268. Dustin Johnson’s total was two shots better than the record originally set by Tiger Woods in his historic 1997 victory and later matched by Jordan Spieth in 2015.
The score should actually be prefaced with an asterisk since the major championship took place in the fall, when the storied venue is softer and the greens lack their traditional treacherous speed, especially on downhill putts. If various reports from players are to be believed, the course is expected to play much tougher this time around.
Between Johnson’s record score and Bryson DeChambeau’s contention that the course plays as a par 67 or 68 for him, the members in the green jackets are likely to react with a particularly penal course setup. For most golf fans, there is nothing more entertaining than the world’s best players being challenged by tough conditions.
Johnson isn’t playing all that well, and Spieth is coming off an emotional win. DeChambeau is going to need more time to understand the nuances of Augusta National, so that leaves (Justin) Thomas as my top pick.
Betting Odds Favorites
Johnson had originally planned on playing in last week’s Valero Texas Open but opted at the last minute to instead prepare for the defense of his Masters title. He is the favorite at +800, even though his play of late hasn’t matched his hot streak in the fall.
After finally breaking through after over 3½ years of frustration with last week’s win, Jordan Spieth is at +1000. The victory was his fifth top five finish in the last seven weeks, solidifying his return to form after finishing out of the top 100 in FedEx Cup points in 2020.
U.S. Open winner DeChambeau and Players champion Justin Thomas are next at +1200. DeChambeau, despite his favorite status in November and reliance on prodigious length, never got going and finished tied for 34th at 2-under 286.
After opening with rounds of 66 and 69, Thomas was part of a five-way tie for the lead entering the weekend but failed to break 70 the rest of the way and settled for a solo fourth-place finish.
Favorite Picks at Augusta
Johnson isn’t playing all that well, and Spieth is coming off an emotional win. DeChambeau is going to need more time to understand the nuances of Augusta National, so that leaves Thomas as my top pick.
He hits it a long way, has a high ball flight and just had a top five finish in November. His performance at The Players Championship in March also gave him a ton of confidence after his faux pas at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier in the year.
Though he hasn’t been playing particularly well, Rory McIlroy at +2000 will be looking to improve on his fifth-place tie in November. A win will give the 32-year-old Irishman a career Grand Slam, an accomplishment that would cement his legacy as a great player.
He’s been working with swing coach Pete Cowen to get back to the form that has earned him four major championships, though none since 2014.
The 2018 Masters green jacket winner, Patrick Reed, has been playing well, and former champions generally find a way of rising to the top of the leaderboard. He tied for 10th in November despite a mediocre 1-under-par weekend. Currently seventh in the world rankings, Reed has shown he has what it takes to get it around Augusta National in the spring.