Feature | Golf

Everything you need to know about the 2020 Masters

All you need to know about one of the golf year's highlights as Tiger Woods defends his title at Augusta with Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson among the contenders.

By Rory Jiwani ·

In April 2019, golf superstar Tiger Woods pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history to claim his fifth Masters title in August.

Nineteen months later, due to the coronavirus pandemic, he returns to Augusta National to defend his Green Jacket and perhaps boost his ailing Tokyo 2020 qualification hopes.

But the 44-year-old will need to rediscover his touch having played six times since the resumption of the PGA Tour without troubling the top 10.

Woods' best recent finish was a share of 37th place at the PGA Championship in San Francisco, a tournament won by Collin Morikawa who will bid to become the first victorious Masters debutant since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

US Open winner Bryson DeChambeau and world number one Dustin Johnson are also bidding to break their Masters ducks.

Being held in the autumn means Augusta's floral surroundings look different to usual, but the 84th Masters Tournament is sure to be as stiff a test as always with 'Amen Corner' - the difficult stretch of holes from 11 to 13 - sure to throw up its fair share of drama once more all week and especially on Masters Sunday.

For the second occasion since its inception on 1960, the Par 3 Contest on the eve of the Masters has been cancelled due to Covid restrictions with the event rained off in 2017.

Defending Masters champion Tiger Woods

Woods is already assured of his place as one of the greatest players of all time, but his victory last year at Augusta was nothing short of a fairytale.

No fewer than 11 years since his last major triumph and after a succession of well-documented personal issues and injury problems, Woods shot a final round 70 to complete a famous win.

After 14 previous major successes, this was the first he had won having been behind going into the final round.

But the Covid-induced break has had an impact on Woods' form with the golfing great failing to get near the top 10 in six events since July.

In his last outing, at the no-cut ZOZO Championship at Sherwood Country Club in California, he finished tied for 72nd despite a second-round 66.

Only three players, including his old rival and final day playing partner Phil Mickelson, finished behind him.

On his tigerwoods.com website, he admitted he had plenty of room for improvement saying, "I played the par 5s awful. This is one of the golf courses you have to take advantage of all the par 5s. They’re all reachable and I did not do that well this week. I played them probably around even par if not over par for the week.

"I did not drive the ball and didn’t hit my irons close enough consistently.” - Tiger Woods speaking after last month's ZOZO Championship

With injuries seemingly behind him, Woods has been as subdued as the atmosphere around him with crowds banned from courses due to Covid.

While Augusta, where he won his first major back in 1997, usually brings out the best in him, it would be a surprise to see him contending this year.

That lack of form has also dented his hopes of playing at the Olympic Games for the first time.

The postponement of the Games by a year means qualification will be determined by the world rankings on 21 June 2021.

Woods has slumped to number 33 and 18th among Americans with a maximum of four players per nation teeing it up at Saitama's Kasumigaseki Country Club next July.

But if anywhere can spark a resurgence, it's Augusta National.

Tiger Woods celebrates winning the 2019 Masters

The leading contenders at Augusta

While Woods' form has been ordinary, Dustin Johnson's has been anything but.

'DJ' was tied for second last weekend behind Carlos Ortiz at the Houston Open, his first tournament back after he tested positive for Covid following his second place at the US Open.

That was his sixth consecutive top-six finish, a run which started with a share of second at the PGA Championship followed by victory in the Northern Trust.

Last year, the 36-year-old was tied for second behind Woods for his best placing in the Masters.

He now has four runner-up finishes in majors against a sole victory at the 2016 US Open.

Johnson is the model of consistency at Augusta, finishing in the top 10 in his last four Masters appearances.

Could this be the year he finally gets to don the Green Jacket?

After winning in September's US Open, Bryson DeChambeau has been all the buzz in golf.

The 27-year-old bulked up considerably during the Covid break, transforming him into the biggest driver on the PGA Tour and taming Winged Foot to claim his first major.

Nicknamed 'The Scientist' for his analytical approach to the game, he has attracted notoriety for slow play and acts of petulance on the course.

But he is certainly talented and his rivals, including Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, are now seeking to increase their length off the tee to keep pace.

Before DeChambeau, only Woods and 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus had won the NCAA Division I title, the US Amateur Open and the US Open.

And there are reports of a "jaw-dropping" recent practice round with 1988 Masters champion Sandy Lyle, including him going through the green with his tee shot on the par-4 third hole.

There's also been talk of 'Bryson-proofing' Augusta, and other courses in golf, to stop him running riot.

DeChambeau has the tools to give himself plenty of birdie opportunities but, as the saying goes, "Drive for show, putt for dough."

He has worked out his own method on the greens too, using a long putter handle which 'locks' to his left arm so the motion comes almost entirely from the shoulders.

With everything worked out to the finest of details, the man from Modesto, California looks to be the one to beat.

Speaking after his US Open win, he gave an insight into his philosophy saying , "My goal in playing golf and playing this game is to try and figure it out. I’m just trying to figure out this very complex, multivariable game, and multidimensional game as well. It’s very, very difficult. It’s a fun journey for me."

If he is able to do to Augusta what he did to Winged Foot, he could be on his way to joining the greats.

Bryson DeChambeau with the 2020 US Open trophy

There are a host of previous winners in the line-up but 2017 champion Sergio Garcia is missing after a positive Covid test.

Adam Scott, victorious in 2013, won the Genesis Invitational back in February but has failed to make the top-20 since the resumption of the PGA Tour.

Rio 2016 Olympian Patrick Reed, who broke his major duck at Augusta five years after Scott, was in contention for a long way at the US Open and finished tied for third at the European Tour's flagship BMW PGA Championship.

Garcia's compatriot Jon Rahm may have been overtaken by DeChambeau in the big-hitting stakes, but his form has been exemplary of late with six top-20 finishes in his last seven outings.

He has scored two wins since the end of the Covid break, taking the Memorial Tournament in July and the BMW Championship the following month where he beat Dustin Johnson in a playoff thanks to a monster birdie putt.

Former world number one Rory McIlroy has been playing solid if unspectacular golf in recent weeks and is now a year without a tournament victory.

The Masters is the only major missing from his collection, and the Ulsterman has not won a major since 2014.

Rio 2016 gold medallist Justin Rose has gone almost two years without a title and finished tied for 17th with McIlroy in last month's ZOZO Championship, eight shots behind winner Patrick Cantlay.

The Englishman has twice been a runner-up at Augusta - in 2015 and 2017 - and needs some good performances to boost his hopes of defending his Olympic title in Tokyo.

Rose currently lies 28th in the world rankings with four Britons - Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Paul Casey - all in front of him in the race for a maximum four Olympic berths.

Hatton scored the biggest win of his career so far in last month's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, where his decision to wear a hoodie irritated some of golf's more traditional followers.

This year also saw him claim his first title on the PGA Tour at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The 29-year-old has failed to fire in three previous Masters appearances, but he could be one of the players to watch this week.

Fleetwood was tied for 13th at Wentworth but has finished outside the top 50 in his two PGA Tour outings since then, while Casey has struggled after sharing second place at the PGA Championship.

Tyrrell Hatton celebrates his victory at the 2020 BMW PGA Championship

History of the Masters

The Augusta National was opened in 1933 by Bobby Jones, a multiple winner of the Open Championship and US Open, with the first Masters being held a year later.

Built on a former plant nursery, Augusta boasts spectacular flora and each hole is named after a tree or shrub which can be found in its vicinity.

Originally called the 'Augusta National Invitational', the Masters features more amateurs than the rest of the majors with former champions allowed to return every year.

Since 1949, the winner has been formerly awarded the Green Jacket with the previous year's champion placing it on his shoulders inside the Butler Cabin.

The tournament enjoyed its heyday in the 1960s and 70s when Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus dominated the event.

Palmer won in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964 with South African Player becoming the first overseas Masters champion in 1961 and claiming his third title in 1978.

Nicklaus won his first Masters title in 1963 and became the first golfer to secure consecutive triumphs in 1965 and 1966, putting on the Green Jacket himself.

'The Golden Bear' claimed a record sixth title in 1986 at the age of 46 making him the oldest winner in Masters history.

Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player at the start of the 2016 Masters

Augusta National is an exclusive club with only around 300 members at any time.

It has a somewhat chequered past when it comes to equality with membership barred to black people until TV executive Ron Townsend was admitted in 1990.

Lee Elder became the first black golfer to play the Masters in 1975.

In a year which has seen the call for racial equality reach a crescendo, Augusta has marked Elder's achievement by making him an honorary starter along with Nicklaus and Player.

The two former multiple champions had teed off with Palmer until his death in 2016.

Women were also barred from Augusta until 2012 when then chairman Billy Payne, the man who brought the Olympic Games to Atlanta in 1996, admitted former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and philanthropist Darla Moore.