Top-ranked Dustin Johnson didn’t get out of Group Play in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and withdrew from the Valero Texas Open recently, but he still is favored to defend his title in the 85th Masters, which begins Thursday.
DJ claimed his second major title last November, after the traditional first PGA Tour major of the year was postponed by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Johnson shot 68 in the final round to set the tournament scoring record at 20-under-par 268 while claiming a five-stroke victory over Sungjae Im of South Korea and Cameron Smith of Australia.
It doesn’t bother Johnson that he’s only had the Green Jacket, given to the winner of the Masters, for only five months.
“It wouldn’t bother me if I only had it for a day,” said Johnson, who will attempt to become the fourth player to win the Masters in consecutive years. “It’s incredible. It’s something I dreamed of as a kid. It has just been an amazing experience.
“ … In November, the greens were soft. You could be a lot more aggressive with longer clubs. They would stop and hold the greens. I felt like I was in complete control of the golf ball the whole week. I was super focused all week and knew exactly what I was going to do and was able to execute.
“I’d imagine it’s going to be pretty firm and fast. It’s definitely not going to be as soft as it was. You’re going to have to be able to land the ball in different spots. It looks like it’s shaping up to be a normal Masters.”
Five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods, who won in 2019 and put the Green Jacket on Johnson, will not play as he continues to recover from a car accident in California last month.
Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., has said that the famed course which has hosted the Masters since its inception in 1934, will allow a limited number of fans on the course.
Those on the property will be required to wear facemasks and that other health and safety standards will be in place.
“Following the successful conduct of the Masters Tournament last November with only essential personnel, we are confident in our ability to responsibly invite a limited number of patrons to Augusta National,” Ridley said. “As with the November Masters, we will implement practices and policies that will protect the health and safety of everyone in attendance.
“Nothing is, or will be, more important than the well-being of all involved. While we are disappointed that we will be unable to accommodate a full complement of patrons this year, we will continue our efforts to ensure that all who purchased tickets from Augusta National will have access in 2022, provided conditions improve.”
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland will make his seventh attempt to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Woods as the only players to complete the Career Grand Slam by winning the Masters.
McIlroy, whose fourth and last major victory came in the 2014 PGA Championship, has been close at Augusta, finishing fourth in 2015, tying for 10th in 2016, tying for seventh in 2017, tying for fifth in 2018 and tying for fifth again last year.
Even though Rory has been struggling a bit, could this be his year?
- Dustin Johnson, United States – The defending Masters champion will attempt to join Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo by winning two Green Jackets in a row. DJ, who has been off his game a bit lately, still has won five times in the last two years. He also has finished in the top-10 in five straight Masters, including a tie for second in 2019.
- Justin Thomas, United States – The second-ranked Thomas also is No. 2 in the FedEx Cup standings thanks to his victory in the Players Championship last month and three other finishes in the top-fives this season. He has placed in the top 10 in the Masters in each of the last four seasons and led after two rounds last year before finishing fourth.
- Jon Rahm, Spain – The third-ranked Rahm comes to Augusta as a father after his wife, Kelley, gave birth to their first child, a boy them named Kepa, on Saturday. Has seven top-10s this season, including a tie for second in the Zozo. He has three straight top-10s in the Masters—solo fourth in 2018, a tie for ninth and tie for seventh last year.
- Bryson DeChambeau, United States – A tie for 21st in the 2016 Masters, when he was low amateur, remains his best finish in four starts at Augusta, as he tied for 34th last year. DeChambeau became a major champion when he won the U.S. Open in September, and he also won the Arnold Palmer Invitational to take the lead the FedEx Cup standings.
- Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – Will make his seventh attempt to complete the Career Grand Slam, and he’s been close in the Masters, with six top-10s in the last seven years. His best was fourth in 2015, and he tied for fifth in 2018 and last year. Rory has four major titles and his four top-10s this season include a tie for eighth in U.S. Open.
- Xander Schauffele, United States – The sixth-ranked Schauffele has five top-10 finishes this season, including solo fifth in the U.S. Open, and ranks fifth in the FedEx Cup standings. He tied for second in the 2019 Masters, closing with a 68 to finish one stroke behind Tiger Woods, and posted a tie for 17th last year at Augusta National.
- Jordan Spieth, United States – The 2015 Masters champion, who has three major titles, ended a nearly four-year victory drought by winning the Valero Texas Open, and he has four top-10 finishes in his last six starts. Spieth has four other top-10 results at Augusta National, including ties for second in 2014 and 2016, and solo third in 2018.
- Collin Morikawa, United States – Captured the 2020 PGA Championship and the 2021 WGC-Workday among his fourth PGA Tour victories, joining Tiger Woods as the only players to win a major and WGC before the age of 25. Makes his second trip to Augusta National and will try to improve on his tie for 44th in his debut last year.
- Sergio Garcia, Spain – The 2017 Masters champion returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since then by winning at Sanderson Farms earlier this season, and he also tied for ninth in the Players Championship and tied for fifth in the WGC-Match Play in his last two starts. He has three other top-10s at Augusta, include a tie for fourth in 2007.
- Patrick Cantlay, United States – The 10th-ranked Cantlay is third in the FedEx Cup standings after winning the Zozo, placing second in the AmEx and tying for third at Pebble Beach this season. He is making his fifth start in the Masters, and his best result was a tie for ninth two years ago, and he followed that up with a tie for 17th last season.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Lee Westwood, England; Webb Simpson, United States; Tony Finau, United States; Paul Casey, England; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Patrick Reed, United States; Sungjae Im, South Korea; Tommy Fleetwood, England; Viktor Hovland, Norway; Tyrell Hatton, England.
- Scottie Scheffler, United States – Lost in WGC-Match Play final, solo fifth in WGC Workday, T-7 in the Phoenix Open recently. Posted T-19 in Masters debut last year.
- Joaquin Niemann, Chile – Forced to withdraw from the 2020 Masters because he got Covid-19, after posting a T-23 in U.S. Open. Second in both Hawaii events this year.
- Will Zalatoris, United States – The Korn Ferry Tour points leader also has made a splash on the PGA Tour this season, including a T-6 in the U.S. Open in his major debut.
- Christiaan Bezuidenhout, South Africa – Seven-time winner as a pro finished T-7 in Arnold Palmer Invitational, has two top-20s in WGCs. T-38 in Masters debut last year.
- Carlos Ortiz, Mexico – Won three times on Korn Ferry Tour before claiming first PGA Tour victory in 2020 Vivint Houston Open, Making his debut in the Masters.
For first-round tee times, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html