Down the Lines: The Masters

Joe+Mulholland+puts+on+a+rain+jacket+during+a+practice+round+at+the+Masters+golf+tournament+Wednesday%2C+Nov.+11%2C+2020%2C+in+Augusta%2C+Ga.+

David J. Philip | Associated Press

Joe Mulholland puts on a rain jacket during a practice round at the Masters golf tournament Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, in Augusta, Ga.

Wes Sanderson, Editor-in-Chief

A tradition unlike any other. This phrase is synonymous with one tournament that takes place in southeast Georgia. Augusta, GA, with a population of just over 200,000, becomes the center of the golf universes for one week a year as the top players in the world converge on Augusta National Golf Club to compete in the annual playing of the Masters.

The Masters is more than just another major championship. Typically, the first of golf’s four majors, the Masters this year closes the 2020 major golf season. The typical dogwood lined fairways with pink azaleas in full bloom are instead replaced by fall colors and cooler temps at the historic venue.

Though there will be no patrons lining the pristine fairways, no roars to echo through Amen Corner, the Masters will go on and a green jacket will be donned Sunday on the 18th green.

In the spirit of arguably the most-watched major, here is a preview of the 2020 playing of the Masters.

 

Storylines to start the week

The Big Cat’s chase towards 18

Typically the first major of the year, a November Masters caps off the most unprecedented year of golf in recent memory. Five-time champion, and currently defending champ, Tiger Woods rolls into Augusta hoping to find the same magic he did last April and continue to chase down Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.

Tiger Woods walks in the rain along the fourth fairway during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. (Matt Slocum | Associated Press)

While recent form does not bode well for the defending champion, Tiger has been a familiar face at Augusta since his low amateur debut back in 1995. Time is not on the side of Woods, currently 44 years of age, in his quest to catch Jack’s record, but Woods still has gas in the tank and with the trophy case sitting at 15 major wins, the conversation and chase is still the talk in some circles.

 

A Career Grand Slam for Northern Ireland’s favorite star

Woods isn’t the only one chasing down major fame. Former world number one, Rory McIlroy is searching to become only the sixth player ever to win all four of golf’s majors.

McIlroy’s scar tissue is heavy. Some have wondered if his 2011 final round meltdown is too much trauma to get over. Maybe without patrons present, McIlroy finds peace between the pines and conquers his demons, snapping not only his major championship drought, but also gaining him access into the halls of golf greatness.

 

Bryson vs. Augusta National

Since the PGA TOUR restart in June, one of the biggest phenomena has been the bulk up of American golfer Bryson DeChambeau. DeChambeau blistered golf courses from coast to coast in a way that some find to be the straw that has broken the camel’s back when it comes to the distance debate.

DeChambeau, who won the US Open at Winged Foot, has exerted his will and force on golf courses that historically have punished those who don’t play from the fairway and made them his own personal playground. DeChambeau showed in his US Open victory that pounding the hell out of the golf ball, to yardages closer to 400 yards at times, leads to better chances at birdie no matter the length of grass you end up hitting your next shot from.

Could DeChambeau’s massive distance gains take the fun out of a shorter golf course that has always been a second shot golf course? Could Dechambeau blast Amen Corner, take home a green jacket and at the same time force the governing bodies into action to tackle the massive gains in distance?

 

Smart Betting match-ups

Golf betting really heats up for the biggest events on the calendar, the Masters is the Super Bowl of golf, so here are some solid options in multiple formats for this year’s playing of golf’s ultimate event. Each prop will be given a brief reasoning on why this would be a smart investment.

 

Outright Winner

Bryson DeChambeau +800: 

The favorite coming into the week. DeChambeau bludgeoned Winged Foot Golf Club in route to his first major championship. Driving the distance debate after creating insane lines off the tee, can DeChambeau make Augusta a driver wedge golf course and run away with a green jacket? At +800 it is worth considering placing money on the favorite, but be cautious of DeChambeau’s streakiness with the putter which can be a crutch on fast Augusta National greens.

Bryson DeChambeau putts on the 10th green during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. (Charlie Riedel | Associated Press)

 

Xander Schauffele +1600:

Schauffele is a top-five major machine. In Schauffele’s 13 major championship appearances, he has four top-five finishes, including his runner-up finish in 2019 at this very tournament. It is only a matter of time before this big game hunter breaks through. Schauffele at +1600 is a steal when the Masters already holds the smallest field of all majors. Schauffele has no real flaws in his game, but his proximity-to-hole will need to be dialed in if the field begins to heat up.

 

Patrick Cantlay +2500:

The winner of the ZOZO Championship in Beverly Hills, Cantlay has found form yet again in the fall wrap around season. Cantlay has not had the major performances he did in 2019, where he racked up two top-10 finishes, but nevertheless, Cantlay’s recent finding of form should bode well for him at Augusta. Cantlay has made two of three cuts at the event and if his putter is hot, Cantlay can square off with the world’s best.

 

Tyrrell Hatton +3000:

Hatton has had a fairly quiet fall season, competing just four times since the US Open, where he missed the cut. In those four starts though, Hatton has made waves for not just his play, which includes a win at the BMW PGA Championship in London, but for his wardrobe choice of sporting a hoodie while on the course. Though dress choices should not affect play, since donning the hoodie, Hatton has a win and another two top-ten finishes. The ninth-ranked player in the world should consider wearing a hoodie this week at Augusta, it seems to be paying dividends.

 

Make/Miss Cut

The format of the cutline was updated Monday morning for the first time since 2013, shrinking the weekend field to the top-50 players and ties, shrinking already the smallest weekend field of the majors to an even shorter field.

 

Jordan Spieth to Make the Cut -290:

The former world number one has struggled the past few years, with no real answers. Though there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel for Spieth, there is reason to believe that he can make this small field cut. Since 2014, which was the first time Spieth received an invitation to the Masters, he has yet to miss a cut and has only one finish outside the top-20. Though Spieth will most likely not earn a second green jacket this weekend, he should be considered a safe bet to see on the weekend.

Jordan Spieth chips to the second green during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. (Matt Slocum | Associated Press)

 

Kevin Kisner to Make the Cut -188:

Kisner has been a weekend staple on Tour, and though Kisner has yet to claim a major title, the Aiken South Carolina native has yet to miss a cut at Augusta. Cooler conditions could cause the shorter hitter to alter game strategy, but Kisner is one of the best putters on TOUR. This is practically a home meet for him this week. I expect Kiz to make the weekend.

 

Danny Willett to Miss the Cut +132:

The 2016 Masters champion has been ice cold in recent appearances. Since the PGA Championship, Willett has missed five cuts, which included two majors and a Rolex Series event on the European Tour. I don’t hope for anyone to play badly, but this should be a lock for anyone thinking about playing the Make/Miss lines.

 

Zach Johnson to Miss the Cut +134:

The 2007 Masters champ is beginning to show his age. At 44 years old, Johnson has not had the success of others past their prime. Johnson’s best finish came at the US Open in September when he finished tied for eighth, but lack of consistent form, mixed with cooler conditions does not make for a great formula for a guy that barely hits 280 off the tee. Johnson has made the last two cuts at Augusta, but it’s hard to imagine we see the ‘07 champion around after Friday. 

 

Finishing Position

Matthew Wolff to Finish Top-Five +750:

A bit of flyer given this is his appearance at the venue, but after finishing tied forth at the PGA Championship and solo second at the US Open, there is high value in Wolff to again make the podium. Wolff’s iron play will be key to his success at Augusta. 

 

Jordan Spieth to Finish Top-10 +380:

Though the last three seasons have seen Spieth spiral from being one of the top players in the world to fighting to stay inside the top-100, there is reason for hope in this bet of a top-10 finish. Besides for last year’s tournament, where Spieth finished Tied for 21st, Spieth has three podium finishes along with his historic win in 2015. Augusta has some good memories for the former world number one, maybe they can kickstart his return.

 

Erik Van Rooyen to Finish Top-20 +380: 

This is another player making his Masters debut. The South African has shown promise in recent months, recording four top-30 finishes worldwide, including a tied sixth at the Scottish Open in Europe. The 50th-ranked player in the world should fare well in a smaller field. Tee-to-green, Van Rooyen is one of the most consistent on tour, but his putting will need to stay in check for a top-20 finish.