BRYSON DeChambeau is set to start the US Masters Tournament, the season’s third and final Major championship of 2020, as the favourite.
A lot of that has to do with the American’s triumph at the US Open in September where he vanquished the field, using his power-game to full advantage and won by six strokes at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York.
DeChambeau will not be short on support at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, starting Thursday, but not as many are forecasting a big a victory as that of his first Major two months ago. Of course, this is not to say that he cannot do it, yes, he can.
Having said that, there will be a swath of players bent on trying to carve out a nice piece of history for themselves and don the Green Jacket for a first time, not in the least two lads from Europe – Jon Rahm of Spain and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.
World number one Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, third in the rankings,
are also expected to contend, come next Sunday afternoon.
Xander Schauffele, who has wins at the Tour Championship and WGC-HSBC Champions among others, and Brooks Koepka, who has slipped to 12th in the world through injury, having started the year as No 1, are another two players that many a pundit think could also have a say in how things pan out at Augusta.
Patrick Cantlay, who finished tie for ninth at Augusta last season and is now ranked ninth in the world, and Collin Morikawa, who won the PGA Championship in August at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, California for his maiden Major title, perhaps should also not be omitted from the early going.
Defending champion Tiger Woods will also be at Augusta National, but he is not expected to light things up like he did last year when he won a 15th Major and crowned a massive comeback from injury and personal setbacks.
There are a few longer shots for the title who could make a run for it, including world number eight Webb Simpson. Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed, who won it in 2018 and won the WGC-Mexico Championship in February for his second World Golf Championship title are also in it.
But much of the spotlight will focus on DeChambeau, who out-drove everybody at Winged Foot and then had his short-game in tip-top gear to win by a wide margin. He is expected to employ a similar approach at Augusta National, a course that has vanquished many a big name and left the aspirations of so many star players in tatters down the years.
There was a school at the US Open who figured that it was not only DeChambeau’s length (of shot) that secured him his first Major, but a combination with a first-class short-game and hot putter.
Augusta is known to treat those well who show class around the greens and who
That combo certainly served DeChambeau well at the US Open and the 27-year-old, who has won seven times on the PGA Tour, will be hoping his game clicks like that again this week.
Rahm, who won the fifth of his five PGA Tour titles at the BMW Championship in August, is without a Major title, but some experts and his fans speak only of when, instead of if, he wins a Major.
Also winner of the Memorial Tournament in August, which lifted him to world number one, albeit for two weeks, Rahm definitely has the game to win at Augusta. And should he pull it off, it will certainly resonate nicely with the Spanish folks as it would follow in the footsteps of his heroes, Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia – Spaniards who have conquered Augusta.
A win for McIlroy would go a long way to easing some of his pain. The former world number one, now ranked fifth in the global standings, has not won for more than a year on the PGA Tour – his win being the WGC-HSBC Champions last year November.
The last of his four Major titles came at the 2014 PGA Championship.
In the build-up to the Masters, McIlroy alluded to the “long time” since he was in the winner’s circle and said that he was focused on winning again.
Indeed, victory at Augusta next Sunday would also see him capture a career Grand Slam. He also has to his credit, the 2011 US Open, 2015 British Open, as well as 2012 PGA Championship.
It is quite likely that the winner will come from beyond these three leading contenders, maybe Reed, who knows how to win here and has shown good
enough form this season to throw his
name into the hat, along with DeChambeau and the others.