It might have been held in November without patrons, but the 2020 Masters still served up the same drama and excitement as its predecessors. We sat down with Bernard Gallacher to get his thoughts on the tournament’s big takeaways.
Dustin Johnson won the tournament with a record 20-under-par and by five strokes, which is the highest margin of victory achieved by a Masters champion since Tiger Woods back in 1997. What did you make of his performance?
DJ’s performance confirmed what we already knew – that he’s the best player in the world and has been for a while. His golf was scintillating across the four days – long and straight off the tee, controlled precision iron play, superb putting, and excellent course management.
From day one, you could tell he was in the mood. He shot 65 in the first round and he didn’t take his foot off the pedal. I think it helped him to go under the radar. All the talk was around Rory going for the Grand Slam, Tiger being the defending champion and going for Jack Nicklaus’ record, and Bryson DeChambeau saying Augusta was a par-67 course for him! The fact that DJ doesn’t blow his own trumpet meant he could just go about his business and hit good scores.
He won the Masters by his third round when he established a four-stroke lead. I was so impressed by how he played that round. He would have known that if he avoided a series of disasters and bad strokes on the final day, he’d be fine. There’s very little trouble on the front-9, and DJ will have known that – the back-9, as we know, is where the real trouble is.
Even when his four-shot lead was reduced to two strokes after seven holes, he still looked comfortable. When he walked off that seventh green having dropped another stroke, he then nailed his drive up the par-5 eighth, and his second shot landed in the middle of the green. After that, nobody was going to catch him.
Dustin Johnson hugged his brother and caddy Austin and gave a very emotional TV interview. How nice was it to see how much it meant to him?
It was very moving. His brother couldn’t stop crying, and DJ kept the tears back for the TV interview. You could see how much it meant to him and how much the Masters means to the Americans – it’s the one tournament they all want to win and means more to them than the US Open nowadays.
I think his interview showed how important it was for DJ to get over the line because he’s served his apprenticeship as far as majors are concerned. He’s led the US Open at Pebble Beach and shot 81 in the last round; he’s hit it out of bounds at the 14th at Royal St George’s when he was in a good position to win. He also had to suffer the indignity of not knowing whether he’d be penalised at Oakmont in 2016. The fact he keeps finishing so high up the leaderboard at majors and has now won the Masters shows what a fantastic mentality he’s got.
His father says he’s never seen DJ lose his temper in his life, and you can see this temperament in how he plays. He takes everything in his stride, but beneath the surface is a steely competitor who knows it’s time to win more majors.
His interview also said to me how hard he works. He plays a lot of tournaments that other golfers don’t, including the Houston Open the week before the Masters. This hard work goes under the radar sometimes, but it’s paying off for him as he’s in control of his swing and is always up there with the likes of DeChambeau when it comes to distance.
Sungjae-Im and Cameron Smith both finished at 15-under and can be pleased with their performances. What did you enjoy the most about their respective displays?
I enjoyed some of the lucky breaks that Cameron Smith was getting! He hit it into the trees three times, and each time he was in trouble, he attempted these ambitious shots that came off and ended up with three birdies.
Especially at the seventh – he was in the trees down the left, and the pin was just over the bunkers. Somehow he managed to hit the ball out of there, and it landed stone dead! DJ must have been thinking it was Smith’s day, not his. But in general, Smith can be pleased with how he played.
Im is a very interesting golfer. He’s only 22 years old, he’s got a wonderful temperament, and he drove really well off the tee. He hit down the middle most of the week and was so consistent.
Im and Smith just couldn’t catch DJ because he was playing a different game to them. The eighth was their golden chance, but DJ nailed his tee shot past the bunker, and that was that.
But overall, I was pleased they finished tied second. They both played very well, and it wouldn’t have been fair had one golfer finished above the other.
We spoke before the tournament about Rory McIlroy and how we felt that this tournament might be perfect for him. He fell out of contention early on, but he recovered and scored 66, 67, and 69 in the subsequent rounds. Will this give him confidence going into next year’s Masters that he can finally get over the line and complete his Grand Slam?
Rory’s problem is that he’s won these other majors very quickly, early on in his career. He had his chance in 2011 when he blew up with an 80 in the final round after leading, and he’s struggled to get back into that position ever since.
But I think he’ll take great solace from the fact that his three rounds after the opening round were brilliant. At one point, I thought, ‘you never know’ – if DJ had started to drop off and Rory was up against the likes of Im and Smith, it would have been interesting to see what would have happened.
It wasn’t to be, but it’s not long until the next Masters – it’s the next major on the calendar! Come April, Rory will have a better idea of how to play that course. He’ll know when to go for it and when not to go for it. Rory putted well this week – his stats were very high, and he can take a lot of positives from his performance.
Bryson DeChambeau was the pre-tournament favourite but his putting wasn’t up to scratch. He’s come out and said he felt “dizzy” throughout the Masters and found it difficult to see. What do you make of those comments?
I can believe him when he said he didn’t feel 100%. Anyone who works out as often and as intensely as he does is not always going to feel great.
He looks like a weightlifter, and he doesn’t hide the fact he drinks a lot of protein shakes in order to put on weight and hit the ball further. I don’t know if many nutritionists or dietitians would advocate this approach, but he seems to think it’s good for his game.
But he was under the cosh from the minute he stepped onto the course. He started at the 10th and he was struggling, and when he got to the 13th, his tee shot was off line, but he felt compelled to go for it. He pulled his shot into the bushes and had to take a drop, and from that moment, you could sense the pressure he was under.
Things clearly weren’t going to plan for him – he was getting 2-over par on a par-5, but he’d have been looking to score eagles there. Then there was the moment when he lost the ball on the third and couldn’t find it, because there were no spectators to show him where it had landed. Everything conspired against him, and he was lucky to make the cut.
He’ll take stock of what happened and continue to work on his game, and he’s still a great player. But he’s got to realise that it’s always better to hit the fairway – even though he was quite happy to hit the rough and get the ball on the green at the US Open, this is a risky move. DJ, on the other hand, has given up some length to hit the fairway. I think DeChambeau should do the same.
Tommy Fleetwood finished 19th and seemed to struggle with the pace of Augusta’s greens. Were you expecting a bit more from him?
It was clear from watching the Masters that Tommy Fleetwood isn’t the same putter as he was two years ago. He’s still a good driver and a brave player, but he’s not putting like he was at the 2018 Ryder Cup. He misses a few putts now, and I think it gets to him.
He never really got himself into contention, and the only consolation for him is that he finished inside the top 20, which means he’ll be invited back to Augusta next year. He would’ve been hoping for better than that, but that’s how it goes.
Tiger Woods showed he’s human with the 10 at Amen Corner! He had some shaky moments but finished strongly with five birdies in six holes. How would you assess his performance?
Tiger started strongly and was swinging well. After his first round 68, I thought this could well be Tiger’s week once again. He didn’t seem to be under a lot of pressure and talked a good game, so the omens were good for him.
I think what hampered Tiger – which he wouldn’t have foreseen – was the fading light stopping play, which meant he ended up playing 27 holes two days in a row. He was playing more golf than he’s used to. That undoubtedly took its toll on him, and it showed . He looked weary as a result, especially during the third round.
By the time he got to the final round, he was making mistakes he wouldn’t normally make, as shown by the incredible moment at Amen Corner. I couldn’t believe what I was watching, and nor could Nick Faldo on commentary! It was almost scary to watch.
To Tiger’s credit, though, he pulled himself together and finished with a respectable score. And he seemed happy when he presented the Green Jacket to DJ, even though deep down he’ll have been hurting a bit. He has been awarded this jacket five times, so I don’t think he’s got too much to be dejected about!
Tiger’s only really interested in playing the majors at this stage in his career, and he’ll come back. There’s no question about that.
Sky did a great job of broadcasting the Masters and creating plenty of excitement for the viewers watching at home. What did you make of the analysis and insights we got from Ewen Murray, Butch Harmon, and the rest?
Sky’s coverage across the four days was superb, and I’m sure I’m not alone in saying it helped brighten up our lives. Ewen Murray, Butch Harmon, and the rest of the commentary team did an excellent job as usual. I know there weren’t any patrons, but Sky’s pundits more than made up for that through their insightful analysis.
It was particularly intriguing to hear what Butch had to say because, of course, he changed Dustin Johnson’s swing. He made him a left to right player who hit the fairway more often instead of being long right to left.
Butch has passed on his responsibilities to his son Claude Harmon III, who travels and works with DJ and is with him on the practice ground before he goes onto the course.
It was great listening to Butch talking about DJ’s swing and how he’s a nice guy who looks after his brother and parents financially. He painted a very compassionate picture of DJ, and we saw this side of him at the Masters.
We spoke before the Masters about how the weather could affect play. How did it compare to what you expected?
We didn’t see the azaleas or rhododendrons that we normally do. The colours were obviously much more autumnal than usual, but Augusta still looked picturesque.
The one detail I noticed more than anything was that some of the bunkers were filling up with falling leaves and pine needles. This was unusual to see at Augusta, because the organisers pride themselves on making the course pristine. I think one or two of the club members will have been wincing when they saw some of the bunkers!
The course played longer and softer because of the Autumn weather and the fact it was damp in the mornings. But it was a fascinating spectacle, and thankfully the weather didn’t adversely affect play.
Lastly, how did you find a Masters without spectators?
The players realised the importance of the event and were able to create their own atmosphere in the absence of patrons.
They realised that it was still the Masters at Augusta, and you got a sense that they were still under pressure. Even though it may have seemed like a practice round to those watching at home, the players didn’t treat it like that.