For the past few years The Masters Tournament has been accompanied by the tagline 'A Tradition Unlike Any Other'. This statement has never been more true than in 2020, where the tournament has been pushed back to November due to the unprecedented effects of a global pandemic.
This year's playing will not feature fans (or patrons as they are called at Augusta National), nor will we see past champions, friends and family tackling the Par 3 Tournament on Wednesday afternoon.
The Drive Chip and Putt Championship and Augusta National Women's Amateur were both cancelled.
But on Thursday once the action gets underway, we should all take a moment to stop and appreciate the fact that this great event, though lacking a few of it's usual traditions, has come around once again for four days of welcome relief amidst what has been a very tough year for everyone.
Do you really need reminding? 2019 saw one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history completed.
When the reschedule date was first announced as November there were intial worries that Augusta National might not look at it's best. Indeed, aerial shots from just a couple of months ago showed that there was clearly plenty of work to be done.
But come Masters Week, was there really any doubt that the place would not look picture-perfect as always?
After the year we've had, the sight of that pristine green turf framed by huge trees and pine straw, with Rae's Creek winding it's way through some of golf's most iconic holes, looks even better than usual to me. Keep an eye out for a couple of autumnal leaves falling throughout the week, too...
When the action does kick off on Thursday, the course you see on your TV could look a little different without the patrons and grandstands present. But this might actually be an easier way to gain a real appreciation for just how much undulation there is at the golf course.
In terms of changes, Augusta are always making little tweaks here and there, often without actually disclosing them publicly so that part of the skill for the player is spotting them and adjusting accordingly. But this year appears to be mostly the same as 2019, with the lengthening of the 5th hole the key change.
If you've never watched The Masters before, then you're going to hear a lot about Amen Corner. This is the nickname given to Holes 11 to 13 at Augusta, home to some of the most memorable moments in Masters history. Water is in play on all three holes, and if you can get through unscathed then you're setting yourself up for a good score on the back nine.
Bryson will dominate plenty of the talk this week, and quite rightly in some ways as his transformation has been staggering. Reports of him hitting no more than 7 iron into the par 5s when he played Augusta during a scouting mission a few weeks back will no doubt strike fear into the hearts of some Augusta officials.
However the course has much more nuance to it, particularly around the greens, than plenty of other venues and so even if hitting it miles off the tee is a clear advantage, there's plenty of opportunities to come unstuck.
Tiger is defending champion this year, although every appearance he makes on the PGA Tour at the moment seems to be a case of 'we don't really know what his game is like' rather than being able to accurately predict how he's going to perform. If he's healthy, there's no doubt that he can compete and win at Augusta, but 2020 has been pretty underwhelming so far for the 15-time major champion (yes, it's still fun to type that).
Picking a winner seems to be getting more and more difficult every year, and that is due to the simple fact that there are SO MANY good players all with a serious chance.
Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson join DeChambeau as the lowest-odds in the field this week to win it, with McIlroy of course chasing the career Grand Slam.
But just behind them are a whole host of names, including Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay, and of course Brooks Koepka. The American finished strongly last week in Houston and his game is rounding into form just at the right time - could he be adding a Green Jacket to his impressive trophy cabinet on Sunday night?
One of my favourite traditions at The Masters is watching the previous Champions playing the course as they receive an invite every year following their victory.
Seeing the likes of Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer make the cut and mixing it with some of the game's brightest young stars, whilst passing on decades worth of knowledge and insight during Masters week, is just another of the things that makes it so special.
Now a senior, how long will it be until three-time winner Phil Mickelson is placed into the same category?
Finally, a couple of unfortunate absences to report this year. 2017 Champion Sergio Garcia announced on Monday that he tested positive for Covid-19 after starting to feel unwell on his way home from the event in Houston, and so has withdrawn from the tournament, as has young Chilean Joaquin Niemann who qualified after winning at The Greenbrier last September.
It was bound to happen to at least a couple of the golfers this year, especially when you consider the fact that fans were in attendance at Houston last week. Here's hoping that they are both healthy and in the field in April 2021!
Here's what Golfalot Presenter Sophie Walker is going for this week...
- Dustin Johnson to win - £5 @ 10/1
"DJ has been playing so well recently, he hasn't finished outside the top six in his last six starts! He has been pretty much the best golfer in the world for the last five years but still only has one major win to show for it. It's time for a second."
- Patrick Cantlay to win - £5 E/W @ 25/1
"Cantlay seemingly has no weaknesses - he drives it long and straight, he's a good iron player and a fantastic putter. Injuries have set him back a couple of years but he's recently started to show just why many regard him among the very best players in the world. Cantlay had a chance to win at Augusta last year and won recently at the Zozo too."
- Lee Westwood Top Englishman - £5 @ 10/1
"There's life in the old dog yet! The Masters seems to favour golfers with experience of the venue as you have to learn the course's many intricacies and quirks in order to really understand it, and few in the field have as much experience here as Westy."
Follow the link here for a full look at the Golfalot Staff Picks for Augusta, including a tip for the Top Debutant and a first major win for one of golf's most consistent players...
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