THE Open season is done with for this year. The US Masters Tournament at Augusta National in Georgia saw to that.
It was the culmination of three Major championships spread over 18 weeks in an abbreviated campaign. Each had their dates reset by the Covid-19 pandemic and each delivered compelling golf.
The British Open, pencilled in for July at Royal St. George’s in Kent, England was called off altogether. The Royal & Ancient Golf Club, the custodians of the oldest and most famous golf tournament, took no chances with the Coronavirus.
They declared that the next time the Claret Jug will be contested for will be from July 15 to 18 next year, at the same venue.
The PGA Championship was moved from its original slot in May to the first week in August. That was where Collin Morikawa announced his arrival on the global stage with first Major win. His outstanding triumph will long be remembered for the 293-yard drive on the par-4 16th in the last round. That tee shot came to rest just seven feet from the flag stick He knocked it in for eagle – and the title.
Bryson DeChambeau’s US Open victory was characterised by him out-muscling the famed Winged Foot tract designed by AW Tillinghast in 1923. Some reports have it that he put on about 40 pounds (of muscle) and made it count as he out-drove everybody. For good measure he won by six shots for his maiden Major title.
The Masters, always scheduled as the first of the season’s four Majors, was the last this year.
But by no means was it short on entertainment and sheer class – even if the fans were at home watching it on television, just as they did for the PGA Championship and US Open.
It was a massive vindication of Dustin Johnson’s pedigree. The five-stroke victory margin merely underscored a brilliant performance. And he silenced the catcalls that every so often harped on his “only one Major” and being “winless when leading after the third round in four other Majors”.
This was a polished display of the highest order. And undeniably it put the rest of the golf world on notice that there is a lot more of the same to come, even if he is 36.
Johnson’s 20-under-par 268 is the new record total at the Masters. It shaved off two strokes from the previous best set by Tiger Woods in 1997 and matched by Jordan Spieth in 2015.
In a Major that was interrupted by rain on the first day, Johnson led by four shots going into the fourth and final round. That was whittled down to just one shot, when Im Sung-jae made a run at the world number one after he bogeyed holes 4 and 5. But it was brief and when Johnson got going again after that he never looked back.
South Korean Im, 22, finished tied in second place, alongside Australian Cameron Smith.
They both showed good spirit and a lot of grit as they endeavoured to make off with the Green Jacket themselves. But it was not to be – not on this occasion.
World number three Justin Thomas had much support at Augusta, but he could only manage fourth place, a further three shots off the pace on 12-under 276.
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, world number four in this week’s rankings, was favourite for many at the start. But he finished tied fifth with South African Dylan Frittelli – another stroke adrift.
Some have it that the burden of chasing the Green Jacket to complete his career Grand Slam is weighing down McIlroy. Indeed, this might well be true to some extent. He started with a three-over round and then hit back with a 66,67 and 69. He will have taken that fifth place with some satisfaction after his opening 75.
Spain’s world number two and another of the pre-tournament favourites Jon Rahm shared seventh spot. The 72 and 71 over the weekend put paid to his aspirations of a first Masters Green Jacket.
Taiwan’s CT Pan and former world number one Brooks Koepka were also joint seventh on 10-under.
Defending champion Woods, who made a fifth Masters title last season his 15th Major win, could do no better than a tie for 38th. It was fitting then, that he helped Johnson into the Green Jacket at the traditional awards ceremony.
Johnson, now a 24-time PGA Tour winner and twice a Major champion, deserved no less than he left Augusta with.
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