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Even with a pandemic and the fact we are all lost in time, The Masters 2021 is upon us. For me personally it’s right up there as the greatest show on earth. The Masters 2020, also known as the “The One in November” just wasn’t the same all be it welcomed at the time. Before we have a look at this years Masters it is worth noting it is a completely different course with firm fairways and greens in its normal spring beauty.
Thankfully famous holes like the opening hole of Amen Corner, the eleventh White Dogwood with blooming flowers as a back drop to the green, and the Par three twelfth Golden Bell will look as beautiful as ever.
The Par three 16th Redbud will also look back to its best with crowds once again surrounding the history and intrigue of what’s gone before. It never fails to deliver. Remember Brooks Koepka and Ian Poulter taking time out to check in on Tiger Woods latest heroic shot on the famous Par three on his way to winning in 2019? Incredible when you think Brooks Koepka was still in contention standing on the tee at seventeen.
So have no doubt, the return of crowds and the famous echoes that run in and out of the trees add to the pressure on the players and also the spectacle from a viewing point. The hairs as always will stand up on the back of your neck and as three time winner Nick Faldo once said “The course is perfection and it asks perfection”.
Trying to pick a winner is never as easy as it might seem, but looking at the stats in recent times there is a regular pattern to finding a winner. Below are a few contenders and stats thrown in to back them up.
Firstly lets look at last years winner Dustin Johnson. While the odds might seem on his side, statistics say otherwise. Only three players have successfully defended The Masters namely Jack Nicklaus 1965-1966, Nick Faldo 1989-1990 and Tiger Woods 2001-2002. Dustin Johnson destroyed the course in November on his way to victory but the fairways and greens were soft which helped his incredible driving off the tee and also improved his putting, sometimes his achilles heel.
In recent tournaments his driving has been poor so much so that the Taylormade ship spent one week at his home trying to get him fitted with a driver that will resolve the problem. Spring greens at Augusta sorts out the men from the boys also and while his record at Augusta speaks for itself it’s a big ask this time around. Eight of the last 10 winners were outside of the favourite bracket while being World number one doesn’t mean success either with nine of the last 10 winners, not the World number one.
Bryson DeChambeau ticks all the boxes and after his ridiculous comments prior to last years Masters, the dust has now settled. The pressure will have eased slightly and his form leading into this years event could not be better with a win in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and finishing third in The Players.
The Florida swing in the build up to the Masters is a big pointer towards a winner and if that’s the case this year well The Scientist can get measured for a green jacket. Tiger Woods went close in two majors prior to winning in 2019 and Bryson comes in as current US Open champ so another box is ticked. He has also shown in recent events that there is much more to his game with an exhibition of iron play in recent wins and also his putting is right up there with the very best. He is for me the man to beat.
Justin Thomas has had an up and down season on and off the course. He comes into this years Masters in a good place finally off the back of a brilliant win at The Players. He is one of the best iron players in the world and his short game around the greens is as a good as it gets both vital around Augusta. He has three top 20 finishes in the last three years finishing tied for fourth last November when a break in play due to rain perhaps broke his momentum.
His recent finish at Augusta and a return to form makes him a contender. The stats show that six of the last 10 winners had posted a top ten finish at Augusta before going on to win. Justin Thomas will win a Green Jacket at some point it could be 2021.
Up next Rory McIlroy, and before you stop reading just give me a chance. He is still one of the best players in the world and despite the smoke about recent form he has four top 20 finishes since the last Masters where I remind you he finished fifth. The standards he has set means that if he is not winning there is a crisis. The further he goes without winning the more likely he is to get his game back. Sky Sports broadcaster Ewen Murray is great in the build up to the Masters in picking out who is swinging well and he commented recently that Rory is not far off despite recent results. Paul McGinley who knows Rory better than most and at times his biggest critic, suggested the same. He has a new coach in Pete Cowen and they will hope to get things sorted for Augusta. Don’t rule him out.
Two players also worth a look at are Xander Schauffele and Sungjae Im. Xander loves Augusta and while recent form is a negative his record at the Masters is excellent. Top 20 finish in 2017 he finished tied for second in 2019. He also has that all important stat on his side having played well in a recent major finishing fifth in The Us Open 2020. Remember seven of the last 10 winners of The Masters had not tasted a major victory previously.
Sungjae Im finished runner up at Augusta in November and he also has a win in 2020 at The Honda Classic. He finished in the top five at The Sentry Tournament of Champions and if recent winners are anything to go on in terms of the stats, he will go close.
So sit back and enjoy the 2021 Masters it is quite simply everything that makes sport great. Hopefully you will come across the winner and no doubt there will be a tear in the eye at some point with another magic moment as the roars ring around golfing heaven. For me hopefully its when Rory lands on the green at 12 on Sunday with a six shot lead.
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