Full disclosure, I didn’t want this to happen. I have nothing against DJ. I’m not jealous at all of his six-foot four adonis-like build or that he took off his hat after a round of golf and his hair looked perfect (or that he took off his hat and still had hair). Not jealous of his iron play or putting or his driving game. Nor am I jealous that Dustin Johnson has the swaggiest walk in all the land and the demeanor of a NorCal Buddhist on the course (even though he grew up in South Carolina). And I’m surely not jealous that he won a Green Jacket on the heels of picking up ten million dollars and a FedEx cup a few weeks back.
Nope, not jealous at all. I just picked Justin Thomas to win. Actually, I’m happy Dustin Johnson won this Masters. Good for him. Guy has it rough and could really use the confidence boost.
On to April JT.
Regardless of who won this year, the 2020 Masters is going to be one we discuss forever like 1986 or 1997.
First, it was possibly the most interesting Masters to watch on TV since they started broadcasting the front nine in 2002. Now, between expanded television coverage, online streaming, and an incredibly versatile Masters app (well done IBM), we can watch live coverage essentially from start to finish each day. And for the first time ever, the final layer covering Augusta’s prized 18 was removed, the patrons.
If you’ve ever played amateur golf at any level or even in a league at your local muni, then you recognized the galleries at Augusta this year. The Masters resembled an amateur or even a big junior-golf event with only family and “team” allowed on the course this year. For sure the fans are the engine that drives The Masters. But in a year spent looking for silver linings, Augusta’s beauty haloed the grey cloud that represents the patrons’ absence.
Remove the fans and the stands and the concessions, and Augusta National stood before the world like never before. Although the players noticed some tactile differences in the grass and there was an eerie lack of color around the course thanks to the unique November timing, this was how we were supposed to see Augusta in 2020. This was our treat for the patience and cooperation we’ve shown. We got to see the course in a way we’re likely never going to again. There was nothing to distract from the golf being played on it.
Oh, and ESPN’s College GameDay was broadcasting live from Ike’s Pond DURING round three. What a country.
However, everything that made The Masters unique in 2020 will leave an asterisk next to this year in the record books. For starters, the timing of this year’s event will lead some to suggest you can not compare this Masters to any other. The course wasn’t the same as a traditional Masters thanks to being played in November. Even on television, it was easy to see how receptive the greens were and the lack of rollout in the fairways. It was just target golf. Pick a number and a line, and if you hit the shot correctly, it was like tossing darts. Folks had fairway woods checking up at Augusta National; silly. Yet, only one of these world class golfers even touched the record in a Masters supposedly played in “much easier” conditions.
And back to the patrons, but this time for the effect they had on the players. It’s almost impossible to measure the impact their absence had. You could argue it made the experience easier. There were less distractions and the course was wide open. Others might say the quiet was off putting. Whatever the case, it’s again one of those facets of this year’s Masters that will always follow this champ around (unless he snags another win at Augusta).
Speaking of the champ, had DJ just won with a normal score like seven, eight, hell even twelve under, we’d all smile and march forward proud of how well this event went and how blessed we all are for having been a part of it. But no. DJ bounced around Augusta National like it was some warm up track he plays before big tournaments. It doesn’t help the anti-asterisk crowd when DJ finishes at 20-under in the November Masters. So have fun with that argument the rest of your life.
Asterisk or no asterisk, patrons or no patrons, the 2020 Masters was a wild success. DJ punched his ticket to the cool kids party, we all got to see Paulina’s snazzy green jacket and a golf course in its purest form, golf dorks are going to argue about the legitimacy of these records for a long time and we have another Masters in 140 days.