Masters early starters keep anxious eye on weather

Early starters Bryson DeChambeau and Tiger Woods had an anxious eye on the weather ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 84th Masters on Thursday.

Pre-tournament favourite and US Open champion DeChambeau was due to get his bid for back-to-back major titles under way at 0733 local time (1233GMT) alongside Spain’s Jon Rahm and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen.

Woods was scheduled to tee off 22 minutes later alongside Open champion Shane Lowry and US Amateur champion Andy Ogletree, with both groups starting from the 10th tee due to the lack of daylight.

A weather forecast including the possibility of heavy rain and isolated thunderstorms was not ideal but not unexpected either, given the Covid-19 pandemic forced what is traditionally the year’s first major to be postponed from April until November.

After an 11-year wait, Woods won his 15th major championship and fifth Masters title at Augusta National in April last year, the 44-year-old finishing a shot ahead of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele.

Almost 600 days later, Woods will attempt to defy the odds once more but the delay has done him few favours, the world number 33 managing a best of tied 37th in six events since the restart, the most recent of which was a tie for 72nd in a 78-man field in his defence of the Zozo Championship.

“I’ve (either) driven it well or hit my irons poorly,” Woods said. “Or I’ve put the ball-striking together and I haven’t putted well. I haven’t put all the pieces together and hopefully that will be this week.”

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods

Remarkably Woods has not been the centre of attention in the build-up due to the big-hitting exploits of DeChambeau, who powered his way to a six-shot victory in the US Open in September.

“I can hit it as far as I want to, but it comes down to putting and chipping out here,” admitted the world number six, who shared the lead after an opening 66 last year before fading to 29th.

“I will say that I’m trying to look at it as I’m still an underdog to the field. Anybody can win this week. There’s a lot of unbelievable players out there.”

Rory McIlroy, who needs to win the Masters to complete the career grand slam, was due to start his campaign from the first tee at noon local time (1700GMT) in the company of world number one Dustin Johnson and Patrick Cantlay.