Unstoppable Dustin Johnson, Rory comes up short, embarrassment for Tiger and DeChambeau: Things we learned from the Masters
A record winning total for Dustin Johnson. Rory McIlroy coming up short again in his latest career grand slam bid. And embarrassments for both Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau.
The 84th Masters delivered talking points aplenty in its novel November slot and it would be remiss not to also include Cameron Smith earning a place in the record books as the first player to shoot four scores in the 60s at Augusta National.
Oh, and let’s not forget 63-year-old Bernhard Langer becoming the oldest player to make the cut.
Pride of place goes to the mega-impressive Johnson, but it was one of those weeks that delivered more than one storyline and here are some of the main things we learned from the final men’s major of 2020:
Dustin Johnson is unstoppable when he’s on top form
The American's first major win in the 2016 US Open was slow in coming, given he had great opportunities on at least four occasions prior to that success at Oakmont. He was playing some of the best golf of his life heading into the 2017 Masters only to injure himself in an untimely slip in his rented house in Augusta.
The 36-year-old had built up a similar head of steam this time around, having won two of the PGA Tour's Play-Off events to claim a first FedEx Cup, when he tested positive for COVID-19 a month ago. But, despite having to isolate for 11 days in a hotel room in Las Vegas, his game was unaffected as he became the first world No 1 to claim a Green Jacket since Woods in 2002.
"I dream of winning a lot of majors, just hadn't quite happened yet," said Johnson. "Hopefully this one will help, though, give me a little spring."
Rory McIlroy can definitely complete the career grand slam
He was truly awful in his opening 75, but it was a gutsy fightback from the four-time major winner as he followed it with 66-67-69 to finish in a tie for fifth. That's three top-fives now in his six attempts to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Woods in that elite club, which can only be encouraging.
McIlroy has struggled in the past on Augusta’s greens but, on this occasion, he putted brilliantly for the most part. A "relaxed" attitude is also something that helped bring out the best of him over the final three rounds.
"I need to take the positives and played the last 54 really well and only made two bogeys in that stretch, which is probably the best run of golf I've played here," he said.
No-one fights harder in golf than Tiger Woods
It was in the 2002 Open Championship at Muirfield that Tiger first showed us his fighting qualities. In horrendous weather, he gave every single shot in the third round everything he had but still ended up with an 81. He then came out the next day and shot 65.
The 44-year-old's response to his horror hole in running up a 10 at the short 12th in the final round on Sunday was every bit as impressive as the defending champion birdied five of the last six holes to finish in red figures.
"This sport is awfully lonely sometimes," he admitted. "No one is going to bring you off the mound or call in a sub. You have to fight through it. That's what makes this game so unique and so difficult mentally.
"We've all been there, unfortunately, and you just have to turn around and figure out the next shot, and I was able to do that coming home."
Bryson DeChambeau needs to go back to the drawing board
The US Open champion set himself up for a fall when he said that "67" rather than 72 was the par for him at Augusta National. Even Woods in prime never came out with anything as daft as that and DeChambeau needs to learn to be more respectful about courses after finishing 18-over par in his mind.
He led the way in the long-driving stakes with an average of 328.88 yards - more than 15 yards further than second-ranked Cameron Champ - but that's 16 rounds he's played here now and only two have produced sub-70 rounds.
"I made enough birdies this week and eagles to have a chance to win," he insisted, though his sole eagle came at the 13th in the last round. "I made way too many mistakes that I've got to talk about with my caddie and go 'hey, how do we not make these mistakes anymore, how can we work better as a team to have that not happen?'"
The new wave of international players is the real thing
In sharing second spot, Australian Smith and Korea's Sungae Im showed they can hold their own at the top level and the same went for South African Dylan Frittelli and Taiwan's C.T. Pan who also secured top-10 finishes.
Smith, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, kept himself in the hunt with flashes of brilliance from difficult spots at the seventh and ninth in the final round and that historic feat of becoming the first player to break 70 in all four circuits was a nice consolation prize.
Bernhard Langer can keep adding to his Masters story
The two-time winner is the oldest player to make the cut after achieving that feat at a marginally older age than fellow 63-year-old Tommy Aaron in 2000.
Langer, a prolific winner on the Champions Tour, just keeps going and it’s a great advert for the game to see him strut his stuff alongside DeChambeau then McIlroy in the final two rounds.
"I felt right in the middle of it. I got to experience the longest guys in the world right now, and it's quite amazing. Different game," he said, though, of course, he showed that length isn't the be-all and end-all.
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.
If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.