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Johnson set to defend as sense of normalcy returns to Masters

The Masters returns to its conventional date this week as the yr’s first main at Augusta National and Dustin Johnson is the person to beat on a format that, whereas acquainted, will play and look a lot completely different than the one he triumphed on 5 months in the past.

Colorful, blooming azaleas set in opposition to emerald fairways and greens can be again on full show in stark distinction to the autumn foliage that created a somewhat distinctive setting final yr when COVID-19 pressured the Masters to be performed in November.

And not like the tender situations that an in-form Johnson took full benefit of with blistered drives, laser-like approaches and strong placing en route to his record-setting efficiency, course situations might show a lot completely different this time round.

“If it’s soft again, yeah, you’d be able to shoot some low scores,” stated Johnson. “But if it’s firm and fast like I have a feeling it’s going to be, the golf course plays way different and way more difficult.”

A win for Johnson, whose 20-under complete final yr broke the Masters document shared by Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth, would put him in elite firm. Only Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Woods have efficiently defended Masters victories.

But world primary Johnson may have his work reduce out for him, particularly once you issue within the compelling video games of his fellow opponents – notably Justin Thomas, new father Jon Rahm and reigning U.S. Open winner Bryson DeChambeau.

Thomas has improved in every of his 5 Masters begins, most just lately a fourth-place end in November, and he has heated up since, together with a win final month at The Players Championship, golf’s unofficial fifth main.

Rahm, who completed contained in the top-10 on the Masters in every of the final three years and even held a share of the halfway lead final November, beforehand stated would go away Augusta National at a second’s discover to be current for the start of his baby.

Thankfully for the Spaniard, his spouse delivered their child boy on Saturday.

‘DECHAMBEAU TAKE TWO’

DeChambeau can be keen for one more crack on the Masters after his try to overpower Augusta National together with his brute pressure in November when he was the pre-tournament favorite was a dud.

DeChambeau, who stated he skilled bouts of dizziness and abdomen pains throughout final yr’s Masters, barely made the reduce however has since picked up his eighth PGA Tour title together with his win on the Arnold Palmer Invitational adopted by a share of third every week later at The Players.

“He’s going to come into Augusta more sinewy than the last time we saw him, less bulked up and hopefully feeling better,” Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee stated of DeChambeau.

“And Bryson DeChambeau take two at the 2021 Masters, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gave us all the excitement that we were expecting in 2020.”

Former champion Spieth, who completed third or higher in 4 of his first 5 Masters begins from 2014, comes into the week driving excessive after a advantageous run of type and contemporary off a triumph on the Texas Open that snapped a virtually four-year winless drought.

Rory McIlroy, who bounced again from a gap 75 final yr to end tied for fifth, is battling swing points however can be half of the dialog heading into Thursday’s first spherical as this marks his seventh try to full the profession Grand Slam of golf’s 4 majors.

“The golf course fits Rory’s game so well. If he can figure out something, he’s got a great chance there, even if he’s not coming in the year playing great,” stated ESPN golf analyst Andy North.

Notably absent from this yr’s Masters can be five-times champion Woods who’s recovering at house after struggling career-threatening leg accidents throughout a one-vehicle crash in February that resulted in a three-week hospital keep.

Unlike final yr’s Masters which was solely performed in entrance of membership members, media, household and shut pals of the gamers, Augusta National has stated it’s going to welcome a restricted quantity of spectators this week.

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