News & Opinion

2020 Masters: Will Augusta National yield a record winning score?

The Masters
Hideki Matsuyama earns his place near the top of a leaderboard that would turn bright red by the end of the day for the 1st round of the Masters.

The 18-under 270 mark, shared by Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth, could be tested at Augusta National as Hawk & Purk take sides

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Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Given the soft conditions and lack of wind that led to such low scoring in the first round of the Masters, will someone set a tournament scoring record this week?

The current mark of 18-under 270 is shared by Tiger Woods (1997) and Jordan Spieth (2015), and by any logical assessment, that number will remain standing come Sunday evening. Augusta National cannot possibly play any easier than it did Thursday. A revised weather forecast indicates that the rain is behind us, so after a rough start to the week, Mother Nature looks like she’ll be making some birdies. The greenjackets will flick the switch on their underground drainage system, and just like that, everything will return to normal.

So many golf tournaments look like a 100-yard dash at the start, then slow to a scoring crawl by the weekend. Pins will be tucked, pressure will grab a front-row seat, and guys who looked unbeatable before the cut will wake up to a whole new world of reality. Woods destroyed the old ballyard back in ’97. It took 18 years for someone to match that standard, which Spieth never would have done if he hadn’t chipped and putted like some prodigal illusionist.

Eighteen under is a mighty task at any major. After all the months of hand-wringing over how far the golf ball travels nowadays, the fellas in the emerald blazers aren’t about to let anyone spray graffiti on the walls of their cathedral. A statement will be made. So will lots and lots of bogeys.

Purk’s take: If there’s a year that the Masters winner will get to 19 under – or better – it’s this one. Clearly, Augusta National is not the same course in November that everyone is accustomed to seeing in April. Even before the .60 inch of rain fell Thursday morning, players reported that fairways and greens were considerably softer than normal. And that also means green speeds aren’t up to Masters standards.

And although Augusta National is outfitted with SubAir from head to toe, conditions aren’t likely to change appreciably overnight or even over a couple of nights. Give the best players in the world softer greens at holing speed, and the gates that usually would open for patrons will have birdies flooding through instead.

Getting to 20 under for the week would mean an average of 5-under 67 a day, and is entirely doable. It won’t be a surprise at all to see a number of scores in the 63-64 neighborhood. While the players praise and respect Augusta National, they won’t in the least fear it this week. The grande dame is not exactly toothless, but she doesn’t have much of a bite.

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