Smith file photo- a brilliant week
In one of the more clinical golfing displays in recent times, 36-year-old Dustin Johnson has won the 2020 Masters, producing a tournament record winning score of 20 under in the process.
Johnson won by five over joint second placegetters Cameron Smith of Australia and Korean Sungjae Im and while a five shot victory might sound like a walk in the park for the world number one the early stages of the round gave him reason to be wary of his chasers.
Beginning the day with a four shots lead over Im, Smith and Mexican Abraham Ancer, it was Smith who quickly closed the gap with birdies at his second and third holes and when Johnson struggled to par the near obligatory birdie hole, the second, it was game on.
Johnson would though hole a 14-footer at the 3rd and it was a case of normal transmission resumed for the moment at least.
Smith or Im were not about to go away however and as Ancer struggled with the occasion and dropped off, the chasing pair took advantage of bogeys at the 4th and 5th by the leader, Smith recovering from a bogey at the 5th himself to make the turn in 33 and was at that point just two behind.
Im, who was playing in the final group with Johnson and Ancer, was four behind Johnson at the turn and was struggling to make any ground on the leader and when Smith missed a par saving putt from 10 feet at the 11th he too was battling to keep pace.
Smith was unable to birdie the 13th and when Johnson put together three consecutive birdies from the 13th he had moved to 20 under and had the luxury of a five shot lead with three to play. He was not about to let any of that disappear and played the last three holes in superb fashion, especially for one with such a lead.
His five shot margin remained intact and it was left to Im and Smith to fight out second place. Im, playing in his very first Masters Tournament, birdied the 13th and 15th to get to 15 under and was able to hold on to share the runner-up place with Smith.
For Johnson, however, it continues a stunning run of form of late during which he has been inside the top three finishers in six of his last seven starts this season and finished 6th in the other. The win will further cement his place atop the world ranking taking him nearly three points clear of Jon Rahm.
Johnson set an all-time scoring record of 20 under par for the event, bettering the previous set by Tiger Woods (1997) and Jordan Spieth (2015).
Smith further highlighted his capacity to match it with the best of players. He indicated during the week that when he plays his best he knows in his own mind that he can contend with anyone. It is doing that more often that is now his goal.
His four rounds in the 60’s was the first time any player in the history of the event has achieved such a feat, further highlighting the impressive nature of his week.
“That’s really cool,” said Smith referring to establishing that milestone. “I had no idea starting today that I needed to do that. I honestly can’t believe it but I have just got to put it down to my scrambling and digging deep.”
Smith will improve in the revised world rankings to 27th and earns a cheque for US$1,242,00 or close to A$1.7 million but very importantly he gains the self-belief necessary to again contend in major championships in the years ahead. At the age of just 27 there would appear to be a lot more opportunities to come.
“I wouldn’t say I brought my best stuff,” added Smith. “I struggled with my driving and long stuff this week but obviously my scrambling, my chipping and putting was unreal, probably the best its ever been. So a lot of good stuff but also a lot of stuff to work on.
“I love this place I badly want to win the event and feel like it brings the best out in my game.”
Smith and caddy Matt Tritton today
22 year old, Im, moves inside the top 20 to 18th, the highest standing he has had in the game and he continues to impress on the PGA Tour after being named rookie of the Year in 2019 and Player of the Year during his Korn Ferry Tour career prior.
The joints runners-up finished three shots clear of 4th placed Justin Thomas with another shot back to South African Dylan Frittelli and Rory McIlroy.
Of the other Australians to make the cut, Marc Leishman reversed some of his recent indifferent form when his last round of 68 moved him to a share of 13th place while Adam Scott was 34th.