Will participation in the Houston Open help or hinder the Masters contenders?

Houston Open

With the Masters just a few days away, golf fans all over the world are rubbing their hands in anticipation and examining the 2020 US Masters odds ahead of the final major championship of 2020. After all, it’s been over 18 months since we saw Tiger Woods sensationally win his fifth Masters crown at the 2019 edition of the tournament, with the coronavirus pandemic putting paid to the original April dates.
Normally, ahead of a major championship, many of the top players would take a week or two without playing in any tournaments to steel themselves ahead of the challenges that lie ahead, but with the Masters just days away, several top contenders for the Masters decided to play at the Houston Open in Texas, which was ultimately won by Mexican golfer Carlos Ortiz.
Among these were Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, two players who have experience of winning major championships and will be confident of doing well at Augusta National this week. Both men posted respectable results, with Johnson finishing tied for second behind winner Ortiz, and Koepka back a couple of places at tied for fifth.
So, why did Johnson and Koepka compete at the Houston Open, given that their attentions will be firmly fixed on Augusta? Well, the answer will be different for both golfers. For Johnson, he has come so close to winning a few different majors over the last couple of years, without being able to add that elusive second title to go along with his 2016 US Open success. It’s possible the American feels as though momentum is the best way to ensure he goes one better at the Masters this year, after finishing second to Woods last year.
For Koepka, it’s been a challenging time, as injuries and a loss of form have meant he has lost the formidable edge he had over many top golfers throughout the last few years. His participation in Houston was undoubtedly a means towards regaining his sharpness after a barren spell, and in recording a decent result, his confidence will be boosted ahead of his Masters campaign.
Then there is the fact that 2020 has been a strange and different year for golf, for the obvious reason of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the sport. This meant that there was a long hiatus in the golfing calendar due to enforced restrictions. It’s clear that since the restart, many golfers have been trying to play as much as possible, to gain fitness and sharpness, and also to earn prize money which they were not able to do during the lockdown. If this were a normal season, perhaps we wouldn’t have seen Johnson or Koepka in Houston, but the unusual circumstances have played a part.
Neither man has won the Masters before in their respective careers, and 2020 offers a great chance for both to do so. It’ll be interesting to see how both fare in this unique edition of the Masters, which will take place in the autumn for the very first time. In playing at the Houston Open, they may have warmed up nicely, or perhaps worn themselves out.

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