The Masters returns to Augusta National just five months after Dustin Johnson broke the tournament record score to defeat Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im by five shots. Can he become just the fourth player to win back-to-back titles in the event’s 87-year history? Who stands in his way?
DEFENDING CHAMPION: World No.1 Dustin Johnson shot 20-under-par 268 to set a new tournament record and beat Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im by five shots.
COURSE: Augusta National Golf Club was established in 1933 and was designed by legendary duo Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones. Amen Corner (holes 11, 12 and 13) is one of the most dramatic stretches in world golf, especially during Sunday’s final round. The course shouldn’t play as long as it did during last November’s Masters, when the playing surfaces were softened by greater amounts of rain.
PLAYERS TO WATCH …
Defending champ Dustin Johnson bogied the 4th and 5th holes in the final round last November to see his four-shot overnight lead cut to just one over South Korean Sungjae Im.
But if the World No.1 was panicking, he certainly didn’t show it, responding immediately with birdie at the par-3 6th as Im made bogey. Johnson went on to birdie 8, 13, 14 and 15 to break the scoring record and don his first green jacket.
The 36-year-old hasn’t been in the best form lately, posting just one top-10 finish from five starts since his Masters victory. But he deserves his position as favourite in the betting, especially when you consider he was runner-up at Augusta in 2019, T10th in 2018, T4th in 2016 and T6th in 2015.
Former World No.1 Rory McIlroy will have his seventh opportunity to complete the Career Grand Slam this week.
The Northern Irishman has certainly had his chances at Augusta National – most notably in 2011 when he coughed up his four-shot 54-hole lead – but has always stumbled at some stage during the tournament.
Last year, McIlroy began the event with three-over 75 before shooting rounds of 66, 67 and 69 to finish T5th.
McIlroy, 31, would become just the sixth player to claim the Career Grand Slam should he win the green jacket, joining Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen in the exclusive club.
RIGHT: Johnson won his second major championship when he claimed the Masters last November. PHOTO: Rob Carr/Getty Images.
Cameron Smith became the first player ever to record four rounds in the 60s at the Masters last November – 67, 68, 69 and 69 – but still came up five shots short of runaway champion Johnson.
The Queenslander played some unbelievable recovery shots from underneath the pines at the 7th and 9th holes last year that led to birdies – check them out here – and he would’ve won the tournament with his 15-under total in all but seven previous editions of the Masters.
Smith, currently 32nd in the Official World Golf Ranking, has been in solid form this year, finishing fourth at The Genesis Invitational in February, sharing 11th at the WGC Workday Championship and finishing T17th at The Players.
The 27-year-old will make his fifth appearance at the Masters this week and, in addition to last year’s effort, was T5th back in 2018.
Former Masters champ Jordan Spieth returns to Augusta fresh off his Texas Open victory, which broke his near four-year winless drought that stretched back to the Open Championship in 2017.
The three-time major winner simply loves the Masters. He finished T2nd on debut in 2014, won in 2015, finished T2nd in 2016, shared 11th in 2017 and finished third in 2018.
Spieth wasn’t much of a factor in 2019 or 2020 – despite making the cut at both events – but his return to form suggests he will once again be one of the main contenders this week.
The 27-year-old Texan, who now owns 12 PGA Tour titles, has recorded six top-15s from his seven most recent starts stretching back to early February.
72-HOLE RECORD: Defending champion Dustin Johnson broke the scoring record last November with his 20-under-par 268 total.
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: Adam Scott (2013).
Round 1: Friday (9Gem/Fox Sports 505 LIVE 5am – 9:30am)
Round 2: Saturday (9Gem/Fox Sports 505 LIVE 5am – 9:30am)
Round 3: Sunday (9Gem/Fox Sports 505 LIVE 5am – 9am)
Round 4: Monday (9Gem/Fox Sports 505 LIVE 4am – 9am)
*AEST, check local guides