We had to wait an extended seven months for this year’s Masters at Augusta National, as the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the 2020 sporting calendar. Usually pencilled in April, the historic competition was moved until November. For Dustin Johnson, it was worth the wait.
The World No. 1 trailed US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and Rory McIlroy in the pre-tournament golf odds, but breezed his way through the four rounds and onto a record-breaking victory.
It was 11th-time the charm for Johnson, who carded 65, 70, 65 and a final-round of 68 to finish an impressive 20-under par (268), smashing the previous tournament record (270) set by Tiger Woods in 1997 and matched by Jordan Spieth in 2015. The 36-year-old’s final card also matched the all-time major record score (-20), tying him alongside Jason Day’s PGA Championship win in 2015 and Henrik Stenson’s 2016 Open triumph.
Johnson, who is the first World No. 1 since Woods in 2002 to win the tournament, attacked the prestigious course from the start of play on Thursday to his final putt on Sunday, and as a result, he set the pace for most of the unprecedented Masters. His bogey-less 65 in the first round, which included an eagle on the second and an impressive five birdies, tied him at the top of the leaderboard with this year’s surprise package Dylan Frittelli and England’s Paul Casey.
The World No. 1 started his second round on the back nine, making Amen Corner look easy as he birdied the 11th, 12th and 13th, but a couple of bogeys on the 14th and 15th pegged him back, and after parring the front eight holes, he finally carded another birdie on the ninth – heading back into the clubhouse as the joint-leader on nine under, alongside compatriot Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Abraham Ancer and Cameron Smith.
Johnson, Thomas and Rahm all being tied on nine under marked the first time in major history that the top three players in the world shared the lead after any round in any of the four tournaments.
However, it didn’t last long as Johnson’s third-round of 65, which again included an eagle and five birdies, separated him from the rest of the pack. His seven-under card brought him to -16, some four shots clear of Ancer, Sungjae Im, and Smith, who were all on -12.
In the final round, the World No. 1 extended his lead to -17 with a birdie on the third, but two successive bogeys on the fourth and fifth brought him back down to -15. Whilst that would have shattered most golfers’ nerves, Johnson didn’t let it get to him, and he bounced back with birdies on the sixth and eighth.
He steadied the ship heading into the back nine with four successive pars, before three birdies on the bounce at the 13th, 14th and 15th extended his lead at the top. Johnson ended the final round with pars on the 16th, 17th and 18th, beating his nearest challenger Smith by five strokes.
“It’s hard. I was nervous all day. I could feel it,” Johnson, who finally cracked a smile as he rolled his third shot next to the hole on the 18th, said afterwards.
“It still feels like a dream. As a kid, I was dreaming about winning the Masters and having Tiger put the Green Jacket on you still feels like a dream.
“But I am here and what a great feeling it is. I could not feel more excited.”
Can Johnson defend his title in just five months? He’s already the bookies favourite!