Who Will Earn the Green Jacket at The Masters?
Held annually in spring at the world-renowned Augusta National course, The Masters Tournament is the most demanding and prestigious competition in golf, which is why only the most elite of players don the green jacket.
Held annually in spring at the world-renowned Augusta National course, The Masters Tournament is the most demanding and prestigious competition in golf, which is why only the most elite of players don the green jacket. Though last year’s tournament was held in November due to Covid-19 complications, it returns to spring this year. It is important to note that predictions in golf are notoriously difficult due to the large number of contestants and the low likelihood that any given golfer will play four consecutive days of great golf. Nonetheless, here are my 2021 Masters predictions, including who will disappoint and who will wear the green jacket at the weekend’s end.
Dustin Johnson, last year’s winner, is the clear favorite. Simply put, his ball-striking is consistently on point—an incredible asset. With his signature fade off the tee, dialed-in irons, and finesse around greens, Johnson set an all-time course record at the November rendition of the Masters with a total score of 268—a total of 20-under. Though it’s highly unlikely Johnson will break his record, following his solid start to the 2021 season, Johnson will play another great four days at Augusta National.
Collin Morikawa is my dark horse pick to win this year. The 24-year-old is a flat-out player. In the first year of his professional career, he seemed like just another promising rookie with a couple of wins to his name, alongside other prospects including Viktor Hovland or Matthew Wolff. Recently, though, he’s entered the elite tier of golfers—the one to which Koepka, Mcllroy, and Johnson belong—when he shocked the world and won the 2020 PGA championship in just his third major championship outing. To add to his already impressive résumé, he won the WGC-Workday Championship in February. Though he does not hit power drives nor pin-point putts, Morikawa’s sheer accuracy off the tee and on approach shots will set him up well at Augusta National. The course notoriously breaks down players with both demanding course-play and pressure, but if we know one thing, it’s that Morikawa is not afraid of the big moment. If Morikawa’s game is in shape, he should finish within contention for the top 10.
On the opposite end of the big moment, Jordan Spieth might be the modern poster child of cracking under pressure. After winning the 2015 Masters by four strokes, he returned in 2016 with another solid outing at Augusta National—until the 12th hole on Sunday. After securing a five-hole lead with nine holes left to play in the tournament, Spieth collapsed on the back nine, scoring a bogey, bogey, and then a quadruple bogey, ultimately finishing second in the tournament. However, that collapse is long behind him. Though Spieth hasn’t won a tournament since 2017 (largely due to injury), the former green jacket-holder and two-time Masters runner-up is still top of his class. So far in the 2021 season, Spieth had a 15th-place finish at Genesis Open, three top-5 finishes, and a Round of 16 showing at the WGC-Dell Match Play. He’s not at major championship level yet, but he’s ramping up for a great showing. His game would best be described as versatile. Though he doesn’t have an overwhelmingly strong facet to his game, he seems to perform all four categories—driving, approach, around the green, and putting—at an above-average level. On a course such as Augusta National, Spieth’s versatility will serve him well.
As golf’s enigmatic superstar, Bryson DeChambeau is the obvious crowd favorite. He is a nonconformist—the antithesis to how golf was designed to be played—and fans love him for it. He shocked the golfing world when he beefed up 40 pounds last spring, and his change brought great success. His weight gain helped him become the longest driver in PGA history, and he won his first major at the U.S. Open by an impressive six strokes last September. Though he’s a jock off the tee, he’s a mad scientist when it comes to everything else. He has a painstakingly slow pace of play, calculates air-density before hitting, uses an unconventionally rigid putting style, and hits one-length irons. However, DeChambeau is not likely to win the Masters. His search for power off the tees—like all things—has come with a tradeoff: accuracy. Last year in November’s Masters tournament, DeChambeau infamously struggled with driving accuracy, as Augusta National broke his will and left him constantly searching for lost balls. As mentioned before, The Masters is the ultimate test of golf, challenging finesse, mentality, accuracy, touch, and intuition—not brute power or over-analytic play. Though DeChambeau is certainly a skilled and entertaining player, he simply does not play like a green jacket winner.
The Masters Tournament will bring out the best in those who want it, and the worst in those who fear it. Like any event with stakes, there are storylines: Can Johnson defend his Masters title both in spring and fall? Can the 24-year-old Morikawa set up a personal golf dynasty with a win? Can Spieth finally redeem his infamous 2016 blunder? Or can DeChambeau reinvent the way golf is played and perceived? One golfer will write his own story into the Master’s lore next weekend in Augusta.