Forward of the eighty fifth Masters at Augusta Nationwide, we take a look at 5 potential storylines to observe this week, that includes Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth and Lee Westwood …
Can McIlroy overcome his swing points in tandem with new coach Pete Cowen and discover a strategy to contend? Will Dustin Johnson repeat his dominant victory 5 months in the past? Can Bryson DeChambeau energy his strategy to victory, or will a resurgent Jordan Spieth proceed his profitable type?
And what are Lee Westwood’s probabilities of lastly making his main breakthrough on the age of 47? Here is how the primary main of the yr might play out…
Rory’s Grand Slam bid: Half 7!
It is nonetheless onerous to fathom how, after profitable his fourth main on the 2014 PGA Championship, Rory McIlroy has not added to that tally within the six years since hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy for the second time at Valhalla.
A month beforehand, he had additionally had his title etched under the greats of the sport on the Claret Jug following a convincing Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, thus touchdown the third of the 4 main titles. All that remained was a Inexperienced Jacket, and certainly profitable the Masters was a matter of “when”, and never “if”?
Six failed makes an attempt at finishing the Grand Slam later, questions stay over McIlroy’s potential to get the job achieved at Augusta Nationwide, a course which must be ideally suited to his model of play. However the challenge right here is extra psychological than bodily.
Rory McIlroy salutes followers after placing on the fifth gap inexperienced through the remaining spherical of The Gamers Championship at TPC Sawgrass on March 17, 2019 in Florida.
Keyur Khamar | US PGA TOUR | Getty Pictures
McIlroy has spoken brazenly and actually about his struggles within the Masters, not that six top-10 finishes during the last seven years might be classed as “struggles” for mere mortals. Repeatedly, he has described the “psychological hurdle” he has to clamber over to earn a seat and a natter with Jim Nantz within the Butler Cabin.
He’ll deny it, however even 10 years on, it’s nearly sure that McIlroy continues to be haunted by his notorious back-nine meltdown when main the Masters halfway by Sunday afternoon. Sure, he bounced again within the very subsequent main and destroyed the sphere to win the US Open in record-breaking model at Congressional, however each time he pitches up at Augusta, a lot of the pre-tournament hype is targeted on his Grand Slam aspirations.
It is not possible to keep away from, and clearly a distraction, and McIlroy has tried all the pieces when it comes to preparation – each competitively and in his mindset – with a purpose to clear that remaining hurdle. And yearly he would not handle that, it will get a notch harder the next yr.
And now, he has added give attention to him after his revelations following a poor efficiency at The Gamers final month. His swing was faltering, he admitted that, when he obtained to the highest of his backswing, he had little concept of the place the ball was going. However how did it get to this?
The faults developed throughout velocity coaching periods final autumn, a plan of action he conceded was influenced by the style of Bryson DeChambeau’s thumping win on the US Open. McIlroy has since turned to Pete Cowen in an effort to get him again on observe, and that additional size might be helpful at Augusta. However what’s extra helpful is getting his wedges nearer to the pins, and placing much less stress on his placing.
It is troublesome to see him contending this week, however who is aware of. The additional work on the vary, with a brand new coach, may be a welcome distraction from the same old “will he or will not he” focus of the Grand Slam bid.
He nonetheless has loads of time on his facet, and he’ll know the worth of endurance and persistence. It labored for Sergio, in spite of everything!
DJ has case for protection
Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods. Three legends of golf, and the one three gamers to have efficiently defended the Masters. That is a measure of how powerful a job it’s to go back-to-back at Augusta Nationwide.
However, for Dustin Johnson this yr, the circumstances are totally different, and in his favor. Having cruised to a good-looking five-shot victory in November, he returns to defend his title simply 5 months later. As unfair as it’d appear to be the reigning Masters champion for not even half a yr, the primary profit for Johnson is that the recollections of his second main win are nonetheless recent, and he’s in roughly the identical type.
And he is nonetheless world No 1… by a ways!
Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas stroll previous FEDEXCUP letters on the sixteenth gap through the first spherical of the Dell Applied sciences Championship at TPC Boston on August 31, 2018 in Norton, Massachusetts.
Tracy Wilcox | US PGA TOUR | Getty Pictures
We have seen many Masters champs who’ve performed themselves right into a rut thereafter, and as a substitute of interested by contending for the title a yr later, they’re internet hosting the annual Tuesday Masters Membership Dinner distracted by the worry of lacking the midway reduce and having to hold round for the weekend to assist a brand new champion into a brand new Inexperienced Jacket. However Johnson’s second begin after his Augusta triumph was one other win, once more taming a world-class discipline on the Saudi Worldwide.
DJ won’t be fazed by the burden of historical past in opposition to him, and he would, little question, be delighted to shed tears in public once more as he takes his victory photocall. And if he does get that likelihood once more, he has the added bonus of some thousand patrons in attendance to share his euphoria.
Can ‘Basher Bryson’ ship?
The speak began barely a couple of minutes after he had received the US Open, blitzing the sphere by six pictures utilizing the “bomb and gouge” ways that many had predicted would show his undoing on a observe like Winged Foot. The dialog forward of the Masters was not essentially if Bryson DeChambeau would win, however by how a lot?
And what number of scoring information would he break? And statistical information? And can he put that new driver, with the 48-inch shaft, in his bag and cut back 14 holes at Augusta Nationwide to a drive and a wedge? Because it transpired, it was not one of the above.
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Actually, DeChambeau completed one shot behind 63-year-old Bernhard Langer, who was a two-time Masters champion earlier than the American was born! However Bryson had endured worrying well being issues through the match, and his clarification for his sickness was suitably out of the peculiar.
“I went to a number of medical doctors attempting to determine what it was,” he stated in January. “I obtained a few MRIs, I went to an inner-ear physician, had eye assessments and ear assessments, and so they even did ultrasounds on my coronary heart and neck. However one factor I’ll let you know is I’ve achieved quite a lot of mind coaching, and the frontal lobe of my mind was working actually, actually onerous. That is what gave me some bizarre signs. It was like loopy overworking.
“All of it took a toll. I do not assume it was precisely that particular factor. However it was a mixture of some issues that escalated my mind, overworking and simply giving out.”
So, there you could have it. If Bryson desires to win the Masters, he has to cease overloading his mind! However after his exploits at Bay Hill, attempting to drive the inexperienced on the par-five sixth, he proved past affordable doubt that he captivates golf followers – and sports activities followers – like no different present participant.
No matter he does at Augusta Nationwide, and he’ll certainly be an element if he can keep away from sickness, will probably be entertaining to look at. Though perhaps not a lot for the Masters committee!
Jordan Spieth is again
It would not appear that way back that Jordan Spieth was an computerized contender for the Masters yearly. Actually, he was brief odds for each main, it doesn’t matter what the venue, however the Masters was the place he actually excelled. His first three journeys to Augusta Nationwide? Second, first, second! And he went shut once more in 2018 as he and Rickie Fowler pushed Patrick Reed to the wire.
Spieth’s victory in 2015 was about as dominant as they arrive, opening with a 64 that was three pictures higher than anybody else within the discipline, and back-to-back 70s over the weekend have been sufficient for a four-shot win that some felt might have been double the profitable margin had he actually been pressed.
The younger Texan then received the US Open, albeit with just a little assist from DJ, he was proper up there within the combine at The Open and the PGA, and on his return to Augusta in 2016, he was on target to higher his profitable margin from the earlier yr – 5 clear on the activate Sunday.
After which he rinsed two balls in Rae’s Creek on the twelfth and, whereas Danny Willett was not complaining, that appeared to set the American again for some time. However he then answered his critics with an astonishing remaining 5 holes to win The Open at Royal Birkdale in 2017.
In January this yr, the previous world No 1 was on the verge of dropping out of the world’s prime 100. However an outstanding week in Phoenix started to show his fortunes round, and he stored it going at Pebble Seashore and led going into the ultimate spherical two weeks working.
He was proper up there once more at Bay Hill, placing just like the Spieth of outdated and looking out way more constant and assured from tee to inexperienced. He simply wanted to cease utilizing up the overwhelming majority of his luck on a Saturday and avoid wasting gems for Sundays!
And that he did, in some model, when he landed his first win in nearly 4 years in his residence state. At the beginning of the yr, Spieth’s odds for the Masters weren’t far off these of when he made his debut. After the Gamers Championship, these odds had shortened to 14/1. Successful the Valero Texas Open noticed him arrive at Augusta on Monday with an additional spring in his step, and rated by Sky Guess because the third favourite at 10/1 behind solely Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau.
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA – APRIL 06: Jordan Spieth of america performs a shot from the tenth tee throughout a observe spherical previous to the Masters at Augusta Nationwide Golf Membership on April 06, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia.
Kevin C. Cox | Getty Pictures Sport | Getty Pictures
He is arrived at Augusta earlier than, with none type to talk of, and contended. Think about what he can do when in type! Dismissing Spieth’s possibilities on the Masters is like dismissing the prospect of a profitable Tiger Woods comeback. By no means rule out Spieth at Augusta, by no means.
Can Westwood lastly bag a serious?
Lee Westwood, like Colin Montgomerie, has spent a lot of his profession saddled with the unenviable tag of “greatest participant by no means to have received a serious”. However the best way he is been enjoying during the last 18 months, he’ll head to Augusta Nationwide with each likelihood of passing on that label.
Watching him go head-to-head with huge Bryson at Bay Hill was a pleasure, and proof sufficient that the Englishman nonetheless has what it takes – and extra – to compete with golf’s elite on the large stage.
The Masters has all the time been an excellent match for Westwood, now 47, and he is aware of get round Augusta regardless of its size showing unsuitable for the seasoned campaigners to deal with.
He’s the reigning European No 1, he is comfortably inside the highest 50 on this planet rankings, and he has a relaxed demeanor about him each on and off the course, trying each inch like a person having fun with his golf – and life typically.
Lee Westwood of England performs his second shot on the third gap through the first spherical of the DP World Tour Championship Dubai on The Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates on November 21, 2019 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
David Cannon/Getty Pictures
Simply after he was topped Race to Dubai champion in December, Rob Lee wrote: “It would not be a life-changing occasion for Lee to win a serious, he is had loads of success each individually and for Europe within the Ryder Cup, however a serious could be an endorsement of simply how good he is been all through his profession.
“I am not going to say it is too late for him to make that main breakthrough now. He’s nonetheless extremely rated by his friends worldwide. He is a unprecedented participant who’s had a unprecedented profession, but when I might grant him one want for 2021, it could be that elusive main win.
“I am completely sure and satisfied that Westwood may have one other good crack at a serious, perhaps greater than as soon as. It is as much as him to defy historical past and recover from the road, however you can not rule it out”.
The veteran went shut in an outstanding two weeks in Florida, at Bay Hill after which The Gamers, being paired with DeChambeau within the remaining group of the ultimate spherical in each, and there was all of a sudden quite a lot of love for his possibilities on the Masters, the place he has six top-10 finishes – two of them as runner-up.
Lee John Westwood in a Inexperienced Jacket? You’d need to be fairly cold-hearted to begrudge him that honor.