Five key takeaways from a fall Masters

Record-setting scoring and D.J.'s brilliance highlight an interesting week at Augusta.
Dustin Johnson is awarded the green jacket by 2019 Masters champion Tiger Woods at Augusta National.

The 2020 Masters will always be remembered for Dustin Johnson's record-setting performance to win his first green jacket.

It was a superb display of ball-striking, length off the tee and steady putting to reach 20-under, a score only matched in a major by Jason Day in 2015. Despite his four-shot overnight lead shrinking to one early on Sunday, Johnson calmly exorcised some demons, snapping an 0-4 streak of failing to finish on top after holding 54-hole leads in majors.

But with the next major, the 2021 Masters, in just five months, it's worth rehashing the oddities that came with hosting the tournament in the fall. Winter is coming, but spring is just around the corner, too.

  1. No fans, no fun
    Dustin Johnson plays Augusta National's famous 12th hole without a crowd in sight during Sunday's final round.

    PGA Tour events without fans have been no fun for anybody, but for the Masters, it was pure buzzkill. Without roars echoing through the trees at Amen Corner, Johnson felt no pressure, chasers never got that adrenaline lift and the back nine felt lifeless to both the players on the ground and the millions of fans watching at home.

    "You kind of miss the roars,” Brooks Koepka told GolfChannel.com. “That's the one thing I miss the most is just kind of the excitement, the buzz that goes around."

    Maybe the Masters tournament organizers should consider offering a COVID-19 vaccine to anybody who purchases a ticket next spring. Watching another Masters without patrons feels like too much pandemic fatigue to bear.

    What is your biggest takeaway from the 2020 Masters? Who is your choice for a green jacket in 2021? Let us know in the comments below.

  2. The comeback kids
    Rory McIlroy escapes a bunker on the second hole during the final round of the Masters at Augusta National.

    There were two spectacular comebacks that bode well for the futures of both Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods at Augusta.

    McIlroy recovered from a first-round 75 to finish in a tie for fifth at 11-under. He admitted that he's probably been putting too much pressure on himself to win a green jacket and complete a career grand slam. “I loved the feeling of being relaxed out there and it's something I probably need to try to adopt going into five months' time,” McIlory said.

    Woods' rally was even more impressive. After carding a 10 on No. 12 - the worst score in his PGA Tour career - he rattled off five birdies in the last six holes. Imagine if Woods could pull off that kind of rally during a future Sunday with the crowd roaring. It would be Nicklaus-esque.

  3. Spring vs. fall conditions

    After watching the players attack soft conditions, it was apparent how much more strategically a firm-and-fast Augusta plays in the spring.

    There was no fear in aiming directly at pins. The ball would hold and spin. Missing on the wrong side of the green or the hole didn't inflict the same damage to a scorecard if it had set up the same, more delicate shot in April. Mud balls were also an issue in spongy fairways. Cameron Smith set a record by becoming the first golfer with four rounds in the 60s. It's hard to imagine that happening in the spring.

    “It felt wrong in terms of kind of like the ball plugging or a putt being really slow or something not being very fast,” Xander Schauffele told GolfChannel.com.

    We shouldn't put an asterisk next to Johnson's victory. However, it will be interesting to compare this leaderboard to 2021's. Target golf with soft conditions is so much simpler to manage than a risk-reward course full of pitfalls where approaches, pitches and putts must be so much more exact.

  4. The rise of D.J.

    For all the talk of parity, young guns and Bryson's pursuit of muscles and mauled drives, this Masters could signal a turn in D.J.'s luck at majors. He is primed for a prolonged run atop the world rankings. At age 36, his game and mind have matured and he seems more determined than ever.

    Consider his incredible run of performances since August - a tie for second (PGA Championship), two seconds (BMW Championship, Vivint Houston Open) and three victories: The Masters, the Northern Trust (30-under!) and The Tour Championship. His lowest finish was a tie for sixth at the U.S. Open.

    It will be tough to sustain that excellence, especially with a pronounced break over the holidays from competitive golf, but if I were a betting man, my money will be on Johnson winning another green jacket in 2021.

  5. Steady beats spectacular
    Bryson DeChambeau found plenty of trouble at the Masters in 2020.

    The tortoise just beat the hare ... again.

    It was only fitting that the golf gods paired Bryson DeChambeau with Bernhard Langer during the final round. Langer, the oldest player to ever make the cut at 63, averaged 50 fewer yards off the tee and still beat DeChambeau on the day (one-under to one-over) and in the final standings (tied for 29th at three-under compared to a tie for 34th at two-under).

    DeChambeau, the pre-tournament favorite after winning the U.S. Open in impressive fashion, will shoot himself out of tournaments regularly with his freeswinging style. It was good to see Augusta National defend herself admirably, but how long will that last?

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
6 Comments
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I predicted Rory M would win the 2020 Masters, and other than his opening 75, he did fairly well. With his new "relaxed mindset," and only 5 months to wait, the Grand Slam is waiting for him in 2021. Mark it down--you heard it here first!

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Having no fans let us see many beautiful parts of Augusta National that usuallly are hidden. We also saw shots from places we’ve never seen before like Cameron Smith’s third shot on 15 Sunday.

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DeChambeau barely making the cut and then getting beat by a 63-year-old was priceless. I cannot stand his approach to the game. He is the guy who swings for the fences every at bat, has as many strike-outs as hits, and typically leaves the winning run stranded at second. If you cannot put your drive in the fairway, you do not deserve to win.

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Despite the lack of fans, this was still a fun tournament to watch. Having seen numerous PGA tournaments as a fan, including multiple Majors, I actually find it makes a much bigger difference in person than on TV. I’ve actually appreciated seeing the no-fan tournaments because you hear more commentary from the golfers and caddies. As it relates to Augusta, you really could see the course differently, and more fully, which gave me more of an appreciation for the course as you would see it if you were playing it.

As for the scoring and soft conditions, to me it didn’t make it better or worse than the traditional course conditions - just different - and again nice to see it in a different way, just as you do your own course. No doubt DJ’s record setting score will always be questioned, but you can’t take away from the win - they were all playing the same course, same conditions.

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I did not miss the morons in the gallery at all. Understand crowds will make a difference, but yelling stupid stuff so you can brag about it to your buddies is the epitome of the me-me-me generations. Even the 2000 fans allowed in for the Houston Open included these jablonies and was insufferable to listen to on the TV so I turned it off.

Commented on

Great analysis, Jason.

Two comments on two players:

D.J.: I think he's been the best player in golf for a while. Having watched most of his performance at the Northern Trust on TV, I'm not quite sure I've seen such dominance since, well, the old Tiger. And at Hartford he won despite nearly beating himself a few times. He is the most talented player, overall, in golf, even considering how good DeChambeau has become lately. I agree with you that he may just be hitting his stride.

Rory: He is an enigma, at least as far as his mental state goes. Putting too much pressure on himself? I think he's fallen back on that one more than once. Rory just needs to 'Cowboy up' a bit, to use the old Red Sox phrase, or to channel Ben Hogan's steeliness and forget about pressure. He seemed to do that pretty well earlier on, from 2011-2014. He's certainly too good to have any major (no pun intended) self-doubts.

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Five key takeaways from a fall Masters