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.
No fans, no fun
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.
The comeback kids
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.
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.
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.
Steady beats spectacular
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).
Bryson ranks first among all players this week in driving distance. Bernhard Langer ranks last among the players to make the cut.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) November 15, 2020
Bernhard (-3) beat Bryson (-2) by one stroke.
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?