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Zach Johnson heads into his 17h consecutive Masters this week as the annual rite of spring gets set to begin again at the iconic Augusta National Golf Club this week.
This is a tournament very near to the 45-year-old's heart and it's one that, for the first time he will be playing only five months since the golfing world was all here last November. Dustin Johnson won that event by five shots at a record 20-under par and Johnson finished at 2-over in a tie for 51st place.
So, what will it feel like to be back so quickly? Johnson expects to arrive on course Monday coming from the Valero Texas Open.
'I think I am going to like it,” Johnson said last week via email, before missing the cut at the Texas Open. 'Any opportunity to play at Augusta National in the Masters, regardless of date, is special.”
Course conditions and weather were understandably a different challenge than what most players were accustomed to back in November and Johnson knows there was a difference. But he thought the tournament did a great job with all the new factors at hand.
'It played quite different, but it was still ultracompetitive and championship-worthy,” Johnson said. 'It was a warm fall so the Bermuda grass was still popping. There was actually a fair amount of humidity in the air which made the greens somewhat soft. It was gettable yet still challenging. Typically in the spring it can play firmer and faster, weather pending, of course.”
Firmer and faster conditions are what Johnson usually likes to see. The course's distance typically favors the longer hitters anyway, but if conditions are firm then there's more of a premium on accuracy, especially with approach shots into Augusta's ultra-quick greens.
Conditions are just one of the differences in this week's Masters to last November's. Five months ago, there were no fans (or as Augusta calls them patrons) allowed on site. This year will see a return of these patrons - at least in a limited capacity.
Johnson and other players have had to learn to play this past year in front of no fans or only at a handful at a few Tour events. This week's Masters marks the first major championship they will return at since the onset of COVID-19.
Johnson is certainly looking forward to that.
'Playing without fans/patrons has taken some getting used to, I am not necessarily a fan of no fans,” Johnson said. 'There is something to be said about having patrons lining the fairways surrounding the greens, and hearing the deep bellows on the back nine on Sunday.
'I cannot wait to see some semblance of that this spring.”
Most fans - or patrons - can't wait, either.
Garrett Johnston has covered 30 major championships and hosts the podcast 'Beyond the Clubhouse.”