Forward of the 85th Masters at Augusta Nationwide, we take a look at 5 conceivable storylines to apply this week, that includes Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth and Lee Westwood …
Can McIlroy triumph over his swing problems in tandem with new trainer Pete Cowen and give you the chance to contend? Will Dustin Johnson repeat his dominant victory 5 months in the past? Can Bryson DeChambeau energy his approach to victory, or will a resurgent Jordan Spieth proceed his successful shape?
And what are Lee Westwood’s probabilities of in the end making his primary step forward on the age of 47? Here is how the primary primary of the yr may just play out…
Rory’s Grand Slam bid: Phase 7!
It is nonetheless onerous to fathom how, after successful his fourth primary on the 2014 PGA Championship, Rory McIlroy has no longer added to that tally within the six years since hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy for the second one time at Valhalla.
A month up to now, he had additionally had his identify etched under the greats of the sport at the Claret Jug following a powerful Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, thus touchdown the 3rd of the 4 primary titles. All that remained used to be a Inexperienced Jacket, and definitely successful the Masters used to be an issue of “when”, and no longer “if”?
Six failed makes an attempt at finishing the Grand Slam later, questions stay over McIlroy’s talent to get the activity achieved at Augusta Nationwide, a direction which will have to be preferably suited for his taste of play. However the problem here’s extra mental than bodily.
Rory McIlroy salutes fanatics after striking at the 5th hollow inexperienced all over the overall spherical of The Gamers Championship at TPC Sawgrass on March 17, 2019 in Florida.
Keyur Khamar | US PGA TOUR | Getty Pictures
McIlroy has spoken overtly and truthfully about his struggles within the Masters, no longer that six top-10 finishes during the last seven years may well be classed as “struggles” for mere mortals. Over and over, he has described the “psychological hurdle” he has to clamber over to earn a seat and a natter with Jim Nantz within the Butler Cabin.
He will deny it, however even 10 years on, it’s nearly sure that McIlroy is still haunted by way of his notorious back-nine meltdown when main the Masters halfway via Sunday afternoon. Sure, he bounced again within the very subsequent primary and destroyed the sphere to win the USA Open in record-breaking taste at Congressional, however each and every time he pitches up at Augusta, a lot of the pre-tournament hype is taken with his Grand Slam aspirations.
It is not possible to steer clear of, and obviously a distraction, and McIlroy has attempted the whole lot relating to preparation – each competitively and in his mindset – as a way to transparent that ultimate hurdle. And yearly he does not arrange that, it will get a notch more difficult the next yr.
And now, he has added focal point on him after his revelations following a deficient efficiency at The Gamers closing month. His swing used to be faltering, he admitted that, when he were given to the highest of his backswing, he had little concept of the place the ball used to be going. However how did it get to this?
The faults advanced all over pace coaching classes closing autumn, a plan of action he conceded used to be influenced by way of the style of Bryson DeChambeau’s thumping win at the USA Open. McIlroy has since grew to become to Pete Cowen with the intention to get him again not off course, and that additional period may well be helpful at Augusta. However what’s extra helpful is getting his wedges nearer to the pins, and striking much less power on his striking.
It is tough to peer him contending this week, however who is aware of. The additional paintings at the vary, with a brand new trainer, could be a welcome distraction from the standard “will he or would possibly not he” focal point of the Grand Slam bid.
He nonetheless has quite a few time on his aspect, and he’s going to know the price of persistence and patience. It labored for Sergio, in spite of everything!
DJ has case for protection
Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods. 3 legends of golfing, and the one 3 gamers to have effectively defended the Masters. That is a measure of ways difficult a job it’s to move back-to-back at Augusta Nationwide.
However, for Dustin Johnson this yr, the instances are other, and in his desire. Having cruised to a good-looking five-shot victory in November, he returns to shield his identify simply 5 months later. As unfair as it could appear to be the reigning Masters champion for no longer even part a yr, the primary receive advantages for Johnson is that the recollections of his 2nd primary win are nonetheless recent, and he’s in kind of the similar shape.
And he is nonetheless international Number one… by way of a ways!
Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas stroll previous FEDEXCUP letters on the 16th hollow all over the primary spherical of the Dell Applied sciences Championship at TPC Boston on August 31, 2018 in Norton, Massachusetts.
Tracy Wilcox | US PGA TOUR | Getty Pictures
We have now observed many Masters champs who’ve performed themselves right into a rut thereafter, and as an alternative of desirous about contending for the identify a yr later, they are website hosting the yearly Tuesday Masters Membership Dinner distracted by way of the concern of lacking the midway reduce and having to hang out for the weekend to lend a hand a brand new champion into a brand new Inexperienced Jacket. However Johnson’s 2nd get started after his Augusta triumph used to be every other win, once more taming a world-class box on the Saudi Global.
DJ might not be fazed by way of the burden of historical past towards him, and he would, without a doubt, be overjoyed to shed tears in public once more as he is taking his victory photocall. And if he does get that opportunity once more, he has the added bonus of a couple of thousand consumers in attendance to percentage his euphoria.
Can ‘Basher Bryson’ ship?
The controversy began slightly a couple of mins after he had gained the USA Open, blitzing the sphere by way of six pictures the use of the “bomb and gouge” techniques that many had predicted would turn out his undoing on a observe like Winged Foot. The dialog forward of the Masters used to be no longer essentially if Bryson DeChambeau would win, however by way of how a lot?
And what number of scoring information would he destroy? And statistical information? And can he put that new motive force, with the 48-inch shaft, in his bag and cut back 14 holes at Augusta Nationwide to a pressure and a wedge? Because it transpired, it used to be not one of the above.
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If truth be told, DeChambeau completed one shot at the back of 63-year-old Bernhard Langer, who used to be a two-time Masters champion sooner than the American used to be born! However Bryson had continued being concerned well being issues all over the match, and his reason behind his sickness used to be suitably out of the strange.
“I went to a couple of medical doctors making an attempt to determine what it used to be,” he mentioned in January. “I were given a few MRIs, I went to an inner-ear physician, had eye exams and ear exams, they usually even did ultrasounds on my middle and neck. However something I can let you know is I have achieved a large number of mind coaching, and the frontal lobe of my mind used to be running actually, actually onerous. That is what gave me some bizarre signs. It used to be like loopy overworking.
“All of it took a toll. I do not believe it used to be precisely that exact factor. But it surely used to be a mix of a couple of issues that escalated my mind, overworking and simply giving out.”
So, there you might have it. If Bryson desires to win the Masters, he has to prevent overloading his mind! However after his exploits at Bay Hill, seeking to pressure the golf green on the par-five 6th, he proved past affordable doubt that he captivates golfing fanatics – and sports activities fanatics – like no different present participant.
No matter he does at Augusta Nationwide, and he’s going to definitely be an element if he can steer clear of sickness, it’s going to be entertaining to observe. Despite the fact that possibly no longer such a lot for the Masters committee!
Jordan Spieth is again
It does not appear that way back that Jordan Spieth used to be an automated contender for the Masters yearly. If truth be told, he used to be quick odds for each and every primary, it doesn’t matter what the venue, however the Masters used to be the place he really excelled. His first 3 journeys to Augusta Nationwide? 2nd, first, 2nd! And he went shut once more in 2018 as he and Rickie Fowler driven Patrick Reed to the cord.
Spieth’s victory in 2015 used to be about as dominant as they arrive, opening with a 64 that used to be 3 pictures higher than any individual else within the box, and back-to-back 70s over the weekend had been sufficient for a four-shot win that some felt can have been double the successful margin had he actually been pressed.
The younger Texan then gained the USA Open, albeit with just a little lend a hand from DJ, he used to be proper up there within the combine at The Open and the PGA, and on his go back to Augusta in 2016, he used to be on the right track to higher his successful margin from the former yr – 5 transparent on the activate Sunday.
After which he rinsed two balls in Rae’s Creek on the 12th and, whilst Danny Willett used to be no longer complaining, that appeared to set the American again for some time. However he then spoke back his critics with an astonishing ultimate 5 holes to win The Open at Royal Birkdale in 2017.
In January this yr, the previous international Number one used to be at the verge of falling by the wayside of the sector’s peak 100. However a very good week in Phoenix started to show his fortunes round, and he saved it going at Pebble Seashore and led going into the overall spherical two weeks working.
He used to be proper up there once more at Bay Hill, striking just like the Spieth of previous and taking a look way more constant and assured from tee to inexperienced. He simply had to prevent the use of up the majority of his excellent fortune on a Saturday and avoid wasting gem stones for Sundays!
And that he did, in some taste, when he landed his first win in nearly 4 years in his house state. Initially of the yr, Spieth’s odds for the Masters weren’t a long way off the ones of when he made his debut. After the Gamers Championship, the ones odds had shortened to 14/1. Successful the Valero Texas Open noticed him arrive at Augusta on Monday with an additional spring in his step, and rated by way of Sky Guess because the 3rd favourite at 10/1 at the back of simplest Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau.
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA – APRIL 06: Jordan Spieth of the USA performs a shot from the 10th tee all over a convention spherical previous to the Masters at Augusta Nationwide Golfing Membership on April 06, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia.
Kevin C. Cox | Getty Pictures Recreation | Getty Pictures
He is arrived at Augusta sooner than, with none shape to talk of, and contended. Believe what he can do when in shape! Brushing aside Spieth’s possibilities on the Masters is like pushing aside the chance of a a success Tiger Woods comeback. By no means rule out Spieth at Augusta, by no means.
Can Westwood in the end bag a significant?
Lee Westwood, like Colin Montgomerie, has spent a lot of his profession saddled with the unenviable tag of “very best participant by no means to have gained a significant”. However the best way he is been taking part in during the last 18 months, he’ll head to Augusta Nationwide with each and every probability of passing on that label.
Observing him move head-to-head with giant Bryson at Bay Hill used to be a pleasure, and evidence sufficient that the Englishman nonetheless has what it takes – and extra – to compete with golfing’s elite at the giant degree.
The Masters has at all times been a excellent are compatible for Westwood, now 47, and he is aware of easy methods to get round Augusta in spite of its period showing incorrect for the seasoned campaigners to deal with.
He’s the reigning Eu Number one, he is with ease within the peak 50 on this planet scores, and he has a comfortable demeanor about him each off and on the direction, taking a look each and every inch like a person playing his golfing – and lifestyles basically.
Lee Westwood of England performs his 2nd shot at the 3rd hollow all over the primary spherical of the DP International Excursion Championship Dubai on The Earth Route at Jumeirah Golfing Estates on November 21, 2019 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
David Cannon/Getty Pictures
Simply after he used to be topped Race to Dubai champion in December, Rob Lee wrote: “It would not be a life-changing match for Lee to win a significant, he is had quite a few luck each for my part and for Europe within the Ryder Cup, however a significant can be an endorsement of simply how sensible he is been right through his profession.
“I am not going to mention it is too overdue for him to make that primary step forward now. He’s nonetheless extremely rated by way of his friends international. He is an odd participant who is had an odd profession, but when I may just grant him one want for 2021, it will be that elusive primary win.
“I am completely sure and satisfied that Westwood may have every other excellent crack at a significant, possibly greater than as soon as. It is as much as him to defy historical past and recover from the road, however you can not rule it out”.
The veteran went shut in a very good two weeks in Florida, at Bay Hill after which The Gamers, being paired with DeChambeau within the ultimate crew of the overall spherical in each, and there used to be unexpectedly a large number of love for his possibilities on the Masters, the place he has six top-10 finishes – two of them as runner-up.
Lee John Westwood in a Inexperienced Jacket? You’ll should be lovely cold-hearted to begrudge him that honor.