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Stephen Gallacher column: Augusta was different animal – but you can’t take away from Dustin Johnson’s storming Masters win

Tiger Woods helps Masters champion Dustin Johnson with his green jacket after his victory at the Masters in 2020.
Tiger Woods helps Masters champion Dustin Johnson with his green jacket after his victory at the Masters in 2020.

Dustin Johnson’s record-breaking Masters win on Sunday was excellent.

To shoot 20 under par over four rounds in a major is top-drawer stuff, however you look at it, and he is a worthy and deserving champion.

But I couldn’t help but notice the difference between Augusta last week and how it plays during its usual time of April.

Historically, players who shape the ball left to right have found the course hard going as it normally plays hard and fast.

But thunderstorms on the eve of the tournament totally changed the game. It was so soft, the greens did not run fast and your ball held on the green.

Augusta is traditionally a fierce challenge, but I felt as if I was watching target golf at times. It was akin to watching a darts player. Wherever the dart lands, it usually stays there.

I take nothing away from Johnson at all.

He played awesome golf all week and showed not only is he world number one, but that he is beginning to stretch away from the chasing pack.

It was an important victory for him, too, as he has been leader in four other majors going into the final round and not managed to close out victory – so I expect donning the green jacket will be extra sweet for him.

He was unflappable in his driving and putting, but also in his attitude. That, I thinks, has been the biggest evolution in his game in the last 12 months.

Dustin Johnson tees off on the 12th tee during the final round of the Masters. Many a round has come unstuck at Amen Corner, but not the unflappable Johnson’s.

To have Tiger Woods, last year’s winner, putting the blazer on would have been special for him.

Tiger had an interesting week. After the first round, I found myself wondering if he was capable of another fairytale win, but as the tournament progressed he looked uncomfortable at times.

I hope I’m wrong, but he looked in pain at times and certainly seemed to be walking gingerly at points.

He showed what a champion he still is, though, especially in his final round.

Who thought they would see the day Tiger would rack up 10 on a par 3? To his credit he took it in his stride and went on a birdie blitz afterwards, which simply reinforced just how good he is.

Tiger Woods looked to be struggling at times.

While Dustin celebrated his win, poor Bryson DeChambeau was left with egg on his face after a disappointing week.

I couldn’t believe what I heard when he said Augusta was playing like a par 67 for him due to the tools he had in his arsenal and how well he was hitting the ball.

I think of Tiger, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus and never once have I heard them make a boast like that on the eve of a tournament. Afterwards when they have won it? Perhaps, but never before and Bryson was left to eat his words.

It was car crash TV at times and Jon Rahm summed it up best when he was asked if he had helped look for Bryson’s ball.

His response was “which one?”

DeChambeau is a guy who revels in doing things his way and he is undoubtedly a talented player.

Bryson DeChambeau searching for his ball at 13.

His well-documented transformation and success this year is great for the game and he has clearly been good for golf and brought eyeballs to the product.

But maybe he’ll think twice about talking up his chances when he returns in April.

McIlroy haunted by first-round hoodoo

It is no secret Rory McIlroy is desperate to tick the Masters off his list to complete his set of majors, but it is clear his chances of victory are being hampered by his first round.

I saw an amazing statistic where Rory, since 2015, is 28 over par for the first round in majors and 61 under for rounds two, three and four.

The pattern continued at Augusta, where he started with a three-over-par 75, his worst first round in 12 starts at the course before rallying with rounds of 66, 67 and 69 to finish 11 under.

It reminded me of a quote so many great players have used where “you can’t win a tournament on day one, but you can play your way out of it”.

If that statistic is public knowledge you can be sure Rory knows it too. I know when it comes to the Masters in particular it is the one major he now craves ahead of all the rest.

I don’t know if he is putting himself under pressure, or so wound-up by the prospect, but I am sure he will spend the next few months reflecting on it.

The good thing is he won’t have long to wait as he will be back there in April for another crack at it.

Solheim switch adds to fine fixture list

The decision to move the Solheim Cup to even years from 2024 is 100% the right call.

Covid-19 led to the Ryder Cup being delayed 12 months and it makes for quite a fixture list of events to look forward to next year. We’ll have the Euros, the Olympics, the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup.

But, when I think of the two golfing events, they are both deserving of being in the limelight on their own.

The 2019 Solheim Cup match at Gleneagles was a magical event with a memorable finish and we should be giving the women’s game the spotlight it deserves.

The match has grown in importance and popularity in recent years and we should be celebrating the fact.

The added bonus is that we’ll see back-to-back Solheim Cup matches in 2023 and 2024. That will really stoke the level of competition among the players.

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