The 2020 coronavirus pandemic put the sports world on hold for months, and through shrewd management and flexibility, the PGA Tour has been a paragon of excellence during an extraordinarily difficult time.
Now, the Tour’s signature event, The Masters, is set to go off this week, seven months removed from its typical April start. In a sense, it feels like a return to normalcy, but it will feel anything besides normal without its passionate fans in attendance. The two other recent majors, August’s PGA Championship and September’s U.S. Open set the par high for the Augusta National Committee, who believes it is up to the task.
Missing from this edition is Chilean star Joaquin Niemann and 2017 Masters Champion Sergio Garcia, who both tested positive for COVID-19. Still in the field, however, is defending champion Tiger Woods, who snapped a shocking major drought, and reignited his quest to unseat Jack Nicklaus as the all-time king of majors.
The exclusive field is stacked yet again, and the event promises to be enthralling. Here is our top 20 for the final major of 2020:
20. Phil Mickelson
Yes, he’s 50 now and has been bad at anything that isn’t the Champions Tour, but if there was a major for him to make another run, it would be this one, where he has won three times (2004, 2006, 2010) and finished in the top 5 on 11 other occasions.
In his last seven PGA Tour starts Phil Mickelson has just one finish of BETTER than 71st, but we just cannot count out a man who knows Augusta so intimately when Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer seem to get on the first page of the leaderboard at some point every year.
If Phil comes even remotely close to hitting fairways, something he has been epically, woefully, and embarrassingly poor at as of late, he is likely to contend. Everything else in his game can still compete with the best in the world.
World Rank: 64th
Odds to Win: 125-1
Odds Top 5: 16-1
Odds Top 10: 8-1
Last Six: MC, 76, MC, 44, MC, 71
19. Jordan Spieth
Augusta National Golf Club has a reputation for needing considerable experience to navigate with any sort of competency. Apparently, Jordan Spieth is the exception of the rule, finishing runner-up to Bubba Watson in his first attempt (2014), winning in his second, and posting a T2 in 2016, holding a five-shot back-nine lead before THE disaster: his quadruple-bogey on the 12th hole that essentially surrendered the green jacket to Danny Willett.
In his next three Masters starts, he went T11-3-T21 respectively. Yes, he is stuck in the slump that won’t end, shockingly winless since he took the 2017 Open Championship. The former world No. 1 is now the world No. 80, and in eight starts since the PGA Championship has four missed cuts, two finishes in the 70s, and nothing better than a T38.
Still, Augusta is an intuitive course, and even with his mental game a mess, he obviously has a special feel for it. A Spieth return to glory could really be a nice feel-good story to end a brutal 2020.
World Rank: 80th
Odds to Win: 70-1
Odds Top 5: 11-1
Odds Top 10: 5-1
Last Six: MC, 41, 38, MC, MC, MC
18. Louis Oosthuizen
Louis Oosthuizen’s results at Augusta have been all over: he missed the cut in his first three attempts, and then made a playoff, which he lost due to Bubba Watson brilliance, and has three other finishes inside the top 20.
The 38-year-old South African seems to have an extra gear at these majors, and got himself into contention at the recent U.S. Open, taking solo-third.
Oosthuizen, who once carded an albatross in this event, has finished in the top three of a major six times, with one win and two playoff losses.
World Rank: 19th
Odds to Win: 60-1
Odds Top 5: 9-1
Odds Top 10: 4-1
Last Six: 48, 19, 3, 25, 13, 33
17. Tony Finau
At the most recent Masters, the powerful Utah native got himself into the final Saturday pairing with Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari.
Tony Finau then proceeded to do what he always seems to do: finish high in the standings, but not quite closing the deal. He finished T4, one of seven top-10s in his last ten major starts.
As frustrating as banking on him can be, he has knocked on the door enough times where someone eventually HAS to answer. Since his lone Tour victory at the opposite-field 2016 Puerto Rico Open, Finau has six runner-ups and 33 top 10s. This just defies probability at this point.
World Rank: 17th
Odds to Win: 33-1
Odds Top 5: 6-1
Odds Top 10: 3-1
Last Six: 24, 11, 8, 14, 5, MC
16. Patrick Reed
There might not be a player in the field who would benefit more from fans not being in attendance than Patrick Reed, who is a frequent subject and boos and heckling. The 2018 Masters winner also took February’s WGC-Mexico Championship, and has tallied seven other top-15s since.
The 30-year-old won a college championship at nearby Augusta University, and has won at least one tournament in seven of the past eight years. This past season, he finished 11th on Tour in strokes gained: total, birdie average, scoring average, and was 12th in strokes gained: putting.
World Rank: 11th
Odds to Win: 30-1
Odds Top 5: 6-1
Odds Top 10: 3-1
Last Six: 14, 3, 13, 7, 40, 49
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