Rozner: Win or lose, this Masters all about DeChambeau
Not since Tiger Woods ripped apart Augusta National in 1997 has there been such a lengthy narrative centered around one man heading into the Masters.
It is all about Bryson DeChambeau, how far, fast and straight he's hitting it, and whether the folks wearing green jackets can do anything to limit him going forward.
When the Masters attempted to "Tiger-proof" the course by lengthening several holes, it had little effect as Woods went on to win four more times at Augusta.
When they saw Woods hitting wedge into 11 and 15, and using so many short irons into par-4s, they knew they had to make changes, but there's only so much property and DeChambeau in a practice round Monday had mostly short irons in hand. He hit a single 6-iron and one 7-iron into the par-5s.
No. 18, for example, is a tight driving hole, but DeChambeau is flying the bunkers where it opens up into a fairway 100 yards wide, leaving him lob wedge into the green, hitting from where you'd normally find patrons.
With no fans on the course this week, it means holes like 13 will be wide open for DeChambeau, but the BMW at Olympia Fields (50th place) and the U.S. Open at Winged Foot (first) are reminders that DeChambeau still has to chip and putt well or length isn't going to matter.
If he does play well around the greens, he could win by a touchdown.
"It always come down to wedge play and putting," DeChambeau said. "If I didn't do that at the U.S. Open, I don't win."
In a recent GOLF Magazine podcast, former champ Jordan Spieth made a frightening declaration.
"I remember talking to Justin (Thomas) and Rory (McIlroy) about this at lunch one day," Spieth said. "We were watching the telecast and they were showing Bryson. I was like, 'This guy has to lose the Masters to not win the Masters.' "
DeChambeau is as long compared to the field as Woods was 23 years ago, and Augusta hasn't had a chance yet to adjust.
"His fairway on 9 goes from the scoreboard of 1, 90 yards left of the fairway, to the bunkers off No. 7," Spieth chuckled. "I mean, it's a thousand yards wide.
"I wouldn't be surprised if they start to put in more trees. They have a whole nursery of giant trees next door that they can (use). It's wild how quickly they can do that and make it look like it's been in there for 50 years.
"It's gonna be really interesting to see that tactic and to see how other (courses) do it."
DeChambeau is the favorite at 7-1, which is Woods territory from his best years and a ridiculous number. He's followed by Dustin Johnson (9-1) and Jon Rahm (10-1), the No. 1 and 2 players in the world, both of whom are in very good form and a serious threat.
Brooks Koepka was 30-1 a month ago, but after shooting 65-65 in Houston over the weekend and appearing to be healthy for the first time in 15 months, Koepka has dropped to 17-1 and is the player to watch assuming health. But the hook lies and large elevation changes are going to test his left hip and left knee.
Two-time winner Bubba Watson at 42 years old and 30-1 is probably worth a small ticket given how he's looked the last few months.
But there are so many unknowns with the Masters in November.
With no fans, the young guys won't fear the roars.
It might get chilly and it's going to rain, which makes the course longer, but also removes some of the fairway roll the bombers normally get.
The grass around the greens is stickier, the rye spotty and the Bermuda more prevalent. Into the grain around the greens is tough with a lob wedge, but bump-and-run is no lock when it's wet.
And bad weather expands the pool of candidates.
Zach Johnson has always been one of the shorter hitters on Tour, but he won majors in terrible conditions at St. Andrews and at Augusta, traditionally courses for the longest hitters.
Johnson chose to lay up on every par-5 at the 2007 Masters while Woods attempted to go for every par-5. Johnson went 11-under on 16 par-5s, while Woods played them at 9-under for the week -- and Johnson beat Woods by 2 strokes.
It has never been more difficult to find form or make sense of the results than it has been in 2020. In most years, you want to stay inside the Top 15 of the Official World Golf Rankings when it comes to majors, but this year anything seems possible.
So, take your pick.
The 2018 winner, Patrick Reed, is 30-1 and loves the course. He defeated McIlroy (12-1) that year in the final group, but McIlroy -- if he's right -- has every shot for every course. He's a highball hitter and three of his four major victories have come on soft golf courses.
But he hasn't won a major in six years and the greens at Augusta tend to cause him problems. More than that, McIlroy struggles with the left miss and a left miss at Augusta is very punishing.
Like Woods and Jack Nicklaus, Thomas (12-1) has the upright swing, ability to pick it clean and high ball flight perfect for Augusta. He should be the selection, but his Sundays in 2020 leave you wondering a bit.
Woods (35-1) has not played well and hasn't looked healthy since the Presidents Cup a year ago. There is no reason to consider him, other than him being a five-time winner and his name is Tiger Woods.
If forced to choose, I would look at Rahm or Koepka, but if you were terrified of what DeChambeau might do to this course, there's no one in golf who would blame you.