Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider will include 2015 champ Jordan Spieth, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and first-timers Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff among the notables.
The construct of the field for the 2020 Masters was announced months ago but it’s timely to revisit it once more. The qualifiers for the tournament were set as if it had been staged in its usual slot in April. Winners of eligible tournaments since play resumed in June qualified only for the 2021 Masters.
With the recent withdrawals of Joaquin Niemann and Sergio Garcia, both due to COVID-19, the field stands at 92 as of Monday afternoon. Twenty-six (or 28 percent) are first-time participants, a not-so-insignificant fact given the documented value of course knowledge at Augusta National Golf Club. Because the par 72 is so consistent over time, the golfers aren’t just playing the course, they’re playing against relative experience of others. It’s as close to a home-course advantage as a veteran can get at what technically is a neutral site.
The variable that’s new to all is the weather, at least as it concerns the seasons. However, with traces of summertime heat and humidity hanging on, it’s possible if not probable that only the reduction of daylight hours will feel different to everyone who has traveled to Augusta, Georgia, in early April. Daytime highs will eclipse 70 degrees and even flirt with 80 during the first two rounds. Winds will be light, but rain is all but guaranteed thanks in part to the encroachment of what’s left of Tropical Storm Eta that made landfall in southern Florida late on Sunday night. Suffice it to say that the SubAir system has been oiled and will be engaged.
Advance forecasts were suggesting much cooler air. The compromise is that it’ll likely be warm enough for fewer hours every day, but the impact on the distance the ball flies won’t be as substantial as previously considered. Even so, because Augusta National is a second-shot test and favors placement off the tee over length, the conditions could influence roll on the fairways and the greens.
Because of the unprecedented transition to the fall, comparisons to the last edition in 2019 should be left to the record only, but there’s still a curiosity for how Augusta National will stack up against it this week. With a scoring average of 71.865, the 2019 field was the first to break par since 1992. The average driving distance of 296.5 yards was much longer than usual (although only holes 1 and 2 are measured) as driving accuracy also rose. Those two statistics rarely evolve with a direct relationship, but all other facets of completing a round also were easier.
Defending champion Tiger Woods navigated a scintillating finale to prevail and he led the tournament in greens in regulation. That’s job one for anyone who intends for him to slip the green jacket over his shoulders come Sunday. ShotLink isn’t utilized at Augusta National, but it’s not dumbing down the recap by attaching other analytics to his performance. Woods ranked 10th in converting GIR into par breakers, 14th in putts per GIR and T10 in bogey avoidance. On the whole, it was just enough to escape with a one-stroke victory, his 15th in a major.
For the second consecutive edition, Augusta National tips at 7,475 yards. The addition of 40 yards to the par-4 fifth hole last year yielded a scoring average of 4.336. Not only was it the hardest hole on the course, but it also was the 10th-hardest of 522 par 4s in all of 2018-19. That’s notable because as recently as 2016, it wasn’t inside the top-half hardest holes on the course.
In addition to a new format that will send groupings off split tees in the first two rounds, the 36-hole cut has been modified to low 50 and ties. The previous provision of including all within 10 strokes of the lead has been eliminated.
Included in a series of spoils, the champion will receive a lifetime exemption into the Masters, five-year exemptions into the other three majors and a five-year membership exemption on the PGA TOUR.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Rookie Watch, Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
* – Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.
Source: PGA tour