There are three camps of players affected by the seven-month postponement of the 2020 Masters Tournament from April to this week.
There are those it helped and others it hurt. The form of the third group is about the same as it was in the spring.
Sergio Garcia, who won on the PGA Tour in early October for the first time since the 2017 Masters, would have also been in that group but had to withdraw Monday after a positive COVID-19 test.
Heading the list of those happy to see a postponed Masters was Johnson, the world’s No. 1-ranked player. Johnson missed much of the fall after knee surgery and wasn’t playing to his standards heading into the Masters.
After the three-month PGA Tour break due to the virus, he came back in late June to win the Travelers Championship, finish second in the PGA Championship and win the Northern Trust by 11 shots with a 30-under score. Johnson closed the season by winning the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup, and being named PGA Tour Player of the Year.
In the fall, Johnson did miss two events leading up to Augusta after a positive COVID-19 test, then returned last week to tie for second in Houston.
The three-month pause helped DeChambeau because it allowed him to put on weight and increase his swing speed. After the PGA Tour returned, DeChambeau won the Rocket Mortgage Classic in early July, tied for fourth in at the PGA Championship in August and cruised to a six-shot victory in September in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
He is now the favorite to win the 84th Masters.
In November 2019, Koepka re-injured the left knee he’d had surgery on in September and had to sit out for three months. When he returned in mid-February, less than two months before the scheduled Masters, he played three times, without much success, before the PGA Tour shut down.
As for the 23-year-old Morikawa, he would have still been a rising star if the Masters had been played in April. But he became a major champion when he won the PGA Championship in August at Harding Park. He’ll be making his Masters debut this week as the fourth-ranked player in the world.
Not so welcome change
Both were riding high in mid-March, with the Masters just a month away at the time.
Before the Players Championship was canceled after the first round on March 12, McIlroy had finished in the top five in six consecutive tournaments, including a victory in the HSBC Champions. Since the tour resumed play June 11, McIlroy has had only two top-10 finishes (T-8s in the U.S. Open and the Tour Championship) in 12 starts.
Scott had ended a nearly four-year victory drought on the PGA Tour by winning the Genesis Invitational at Riviera in mid-February. He beat a top-heavy field that featured nine of the top 10 players in the world.
“It’s exciting to think about going back there (the Masters) and having another chance to have another win,” he said in March. “I’ve got a high level of comfort playing there.”
After tying for 32nd in the 2018 Masters, Scott rebounded last year. He opened with 69-68 and was tied for the 36-hole lead. He closed with 72-73 and tied for 18th.
But Scott struggled to continue his strong form after play resumed. Then, before the Zozo Championship on Oct. 22, he was sidelined with a positive COVID-19 test and quarantined for 10 days.
“I think it’s been very challenging for me personally, and I’m not going to sit here and complain about how difficult it’s been,” Scott said on Monday. “I was in good form back then in the spring, and because of all the circumstances, it’s really affected my preparation and my practice, and many things since returning.”
Scott returned at the Houston Open last week, where he tied for 32nd.
“But coming back here this week, since testing positive, last week wasn’t too bad,” the Australian said. “There was a lot of good stuff in there, and hopefully the work that I have done and been able to do the last couple of months will accumulate and I’ll be able to finish the year with a bang here this week. But certainly my form hasn’t been as good since, but it’s been very … everything’s been very inconsistent.”