From his opening tee shot of a delayed first round at the Augusta National on Thursday, Dustin Johnson winning the 2020 Masters was never really in any doubt.
Challenged by the likes of joint runners-up in Australian Cameron Smith and Korea’s Sunjae Im on Sunday, the 36-year-old South Carolinian was for the most part during the final round – like he had been across the week – a vision of calm, elegance and above all, precision.
Having dropped just two shots in 54 holes prior to Sunday, there may have been a few wobbles during the opening five holes, but that was surely going to be par for the course with a four-shot lead.
Nevertheless, having gone four years since his US Open win at Oakmont, and having surrendered a final round three-shot cushion before – albeit before his maiden major victory in 2010 – any normal man would have felt the demons creeping in.
Not DJ however.
Scrambling to save pars three times on the front nine, the challenge in his rear-view mirrors eventually waned.
Then a lengthy putt at the 13th for birdie – with a three-shot lead – then reestablished his four-stroke margin, as Johnson’s route home around the back nine became something of a leisurely jaunt to the final green.
Completing a 68 to shoot a record score under par, the small gathered band of staff and team members around the final green beckoned Johnson to his second major win.
As he spoke to US television on the 18th green emblazoned in his shiny new possession, the emotion flowed for Johnson who grew up a mere hour north of Augusta, but it was a rare chink in the armour after an almost unshakable week.
The winner of the FedEx Cup earlier this year and PGA Tour Player of the Year for a second time, his class and form shone through effortlessly.
After such a showing of prowess and maturity, the question now is, how many more majors might he notch?
Lessons for DeChambeau
As Johnson celebrated his moment in the Butler Cabin on Sunday evening, Bryson DeChambeau meanwhile, leaves Georgia licking his wounds.
A regular victim of the tall Georgia pines and unforgiving greenery, DeChambeau admitted to feeling unwell over the weekend, but surely his game was not prepared suitably in any event.
His maiden win in late summer was down to combination of resilience and brute force, but the Masters ruthlessly exposed the Californian’s power-reliant game.
As we suggested in our preview last week, Augusta was always going to need more precision than brawn; DeChambeau discovered that to his cost, finishing on -2, an astonishing 18 shots off the eventual winner.
Though DeChambeau’s game and indeed physique has greatly improved this year, Augusta was a quiet reminder, that he will need more than one side to his game, if the US Open is not to prove his only major win.
McIlroy Grand Slam wait goes on
Rory McIlroy‘s week at Augusta could probably be looked upon as a relative success, but inconsistency – often at critical times – still dog the Ulsterman.
After shooting a 75 on his opening round, McIlroy was left to merely scramble to make the cut, and after building momentum on both Saturday and Sunday, faltered at pivotal moments.
His sterling third round run reignited hopes of a remarkable fightback, but at -8 after five birdies in 12 holes, a chance for -9 at the par-5 13th, flopped into a six.
Then on Sunday, having climbed to -11, McIlroy produced his customary shank into the trees on the right of the 10th green – bogeying – to lose all momentum once more.
Despite his resurgence over the final 36 holes, the damage was already done to his major tilt however, and sadly for the Northern Irishman, it is a familiar tale.
So will he ever claim the prized Green Jacket he so craves?
A T5 of -11 with Dylan Frittelli is just one place shy of his best finish of 2015, but McIlroy surely had bigger sights.
It is now 23 majors and counting since his last win at Valhalla.
Time is on the four-time champion’s side obviously, but the as competition increases and his damaging errors do also, his time in golf will not be evergreen.
Rahm, Thomas, lacking major mentality
As the world number one continued his FedEx Cup winning form of the last six tournaments, his top-three rivals Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas threatened a Masters win, but again collapsed in some style.
Indeed, Saturday, was a tale of woe for both players.
For Rahm after 43 holes, the Spaniard was rolling along nicely, but after topping his second shot into the trees at eight, then hit a tree on attempting to return to the fairway, watching his ball ricochet back into a bush.
Rahm carded a seven, and never recovered to finish T7.
For Thomas, it is the second major on the bounce the 2017 PGA champion has fallen by the wayside, after such a strong early position.
Tied for the lead as the second round came to a close early on Saturday, the Kentucky native then saw his hopes dissipate at the turn and by close of play, was suddenly six off the summit and trailing badly, having visited the drink also.
Thomas recovered well to finish fourth, but at this moment in time, like the Spaniard, the same mental fragility is still weighing heavy.
Both men have enjoyed hugely a successful – if disrupted – year on the PGA Tour, but when it comes to the ‘big four’ are missing that little bit of steel to get the job done.
Whilst Thomas does have a major in the bag, Rahm still waits. Many fancy the latter to break his duck sooner rather than later, but will need to look to this week in Georgia, as a learning curve.
Amen corner claims the Tiger
Aside from Johnson’s dominance on Sunday, one of the biggest stories of the final round was Tiger Woods‘ remarkable septuple bogey 10 at the notorious 12th hole around Amen corner.
Though having fallen down the field over the weekend, his three visits to Rae’s Creek at ‘Golden Bell’ was an undistinguished and rather terminal manner to conclude what had been a valiant defence, from the five-time Masters champion.
His 68 on opening day was a huge credit to the 15-time major winner, condemning the many who had given Woods little chance in mounting a defence of his 2019 title.
After hitting his highest score on a single hole in his professional career however, as if to highlight the 44-year-old’s remarkable return from back surgery, Woods then recovered with huge credit to finish 4-2-3-3, birdying the last four holes on Sunday, to finish back in the red at -1.
Tiger’s April tale from last year will still remain in the annuls of sporting history, for as long as the same books are written.
And, as a rather hopeful note to end a tumultuous 2020 on for the watching global audience, the Woods’ major story may not yet be finished.
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