The 2021 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club returns to its traditional April date after moving to November for 2020 due to COVID-19. Dustin Johnson shot a record 20-under-par 268 while winning by five shots over Australian Cameron Smith and South Korean Sungjae Im. Johnson broke the record set by Tiger Woods in 1997 and matched by Jordan Spieth in 2015.
If reports from players already on site are to be taken seriously, the soft course the players experienced in November has been replaced by one that is firm and fast. Traditionally, the defense of the 90-year-old layout has been its green complexes that, by Sunday afternoon, can confound even the greatest of players.
In November, Mother Nature conspired to make those conditions virtually impossible to maintain, but a dry spring in Georgia has returned the course to its normal level of difficulty. In addition, Augusta National has a reputation to protect, so it’s fair to assume that pins will be tucked and the greens will be running extremely fast by the weekend.
Fellow countrymen Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal both collected two green jackets, so why not Sergio?
As he has been for most of the season when he’s entered in a tournament, defending Masters champion Johnson is the favorite at +800. Spieth, winner last week after a long drought at the Valero Texas Open and the 2015 Masters victor, is next at +1000. At +1200 is U.S. Open champion Bryson Dechambeau, a lightning rod for criticism after declaring that the course is a par 67 or 68 for him.
Players Championship winner and the fourth-place finisher in November, Justin Thomas is also at +1200. Rounding out the top five is brand new father Jon Rahm, who held a share of the second-round lead in November and is looking for his first major championship.
Underdog Picks at Augusta National
The field at the Masters, outside of the three amateurs and over-the-hill former champions that can play until they hit their 65th birthday, is impressive, with top 50 players and recent PGA Tour winners all represented. With all of that talent, it’s indicative of the importance of experience at Augusta National that Fuzzy Zoeller’s win in 1979 is the only one recorded by a first-time player.
Brooks Koepka finished seventh in the November Masters, and his four major championships are evidence that he can beat a solid field on a challenging golf course. He is listed at +4000 odds, primarily because of recent injury issues, but if he gets in contention, the two-time U.S. Open champion can close the deal.
Another former U.S. Open champion who has been playing well is Webb Simpson, who would definitely benefit from tougher conditions. Experience at Augusta National matters, and he has six made cuts in nine starts and has top 10 finishes in his last two Masters. At +5000, he would be a solid choice, especially if the course plays as tough as expected.
This list wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of a former champion, and Spaniard Sergio Garcia at +8000 is a good bet to follow up his 2017 win with a second title. Fellow countrymen Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal both collected two green jackets, so why not Sergio?