Golf | Fast conditions set to pose supreme challenge

Reigning US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, whose power-driving game could benefit from long rolls on many holes, says he will focus on his irons into notoriously undulating Augusta greens

Augusta National has served a warning to the world’s greatest golfers with firm and fast conditions like some have never seen ahead of Thursday’s start of the 85th Masters.

Five months after Dustin Johnson shattered the course record with a 20-under par 268 in rain-softened conditions, the Masters is back in its typical April setting and serving up lightning-fast greens with firm fairways to roll balls into danger.

“With firm greens, this golf course needs to be respected, three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson said. “And I think it has been a long time since it has had to be respected.”

Reigning US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, whose power-driving game could benefit from long rolls on many holes, says he will focus on his irons into notoriously undulating Augusta greens.

Have never seen

“I’ve never seen it this fast, this quick, this early, but I certainly love the challenge,” DeChambeau said.

“We had a hole location on 17… if you just got it past the hole, it would roll off the front of the green. Literally it moves a dimple and it’s gone.”

Spain’s Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters winner, makes his 22nd start at Augusta National and he’s seen nothing like this.

“The greens are probably the fastest and firmest I’ve seen them on a Monday or Tuesday forever,” he said. “If we get lucky and the weather stays nice, it’s going to be a challenging Masters.

Impossible positions

“The way it’s playing right now, there are some holes, some pin positions… some of them are almost impossible to get to.”

Storylines abound, with Johnson trying to join Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus as the only back-to-back Masters winners.

“With it firm and fast, it’s just a really hard golf course,” Johnson said. “Any hole at any time can jump out and get you.”

Second-ranked Justin Thomas, who can overtake Johnson for world number one with a victory, comes off a win in last month’s Players Championship.

The 2017 PGA Championship winner has improved every year he has played. After finishing fourth in last year’s COVID-19 delayed event, there’s not much room left without a green jacket.

“I know I can play this place well,” Thomas said. “I feel like it’s a place that I’m going to win at some point, at least I hope, and I feel like I can do it multiple times.”

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy will try to complete a career Grand Slam with a Masters victory.

“Going to be a huge premium on accuracy, landing your golf ball on your numbers and being precise with your iron play,” McIlroy said. “The ball is not stopping so you’re inevitably going to miss a few greens and scrambling is going to be key, too.”

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