As the pieces of an upturned 2020 golf season continue to shift, Jack Nicklaus believes the latest plans could end up benefiting the current world No. 1.
Like so many other Masters winners, Nicklaus is accustomed to spending the first full week of April driving down Magnolia Lane and dining on the latest menu from the reigning champion. But those plans were scrapped because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and have now been penciled in for mid-November. Nicklaus was originally pessimistic about Augusta National's ability to reschedule the Masters, but in speaking with "Morning Drive" on Wednesday, he expressed a sentiment likely shared by many golf fans.
"I didn't expect the Masters to even be played. I didn't think it could be adjusted to it," Nicklaus said. "But to be played in November is obviously better than no Masters."
Nicklaus knows the quirks of Augusta National better than anyone, given his collection of six green jackets. While he expects the course to play differently in the fall, he still expects it to present a fair test for the 96-player field that was finalized earlier this week.
"The golf course will be especially overseeded, unless they decide to wait until after the Masters to overseed it," he said. "So the playing conditions will be different. Obviously it won't have any flowers. But the greens will be fine, and the Masters will be good."
The postponed Masters is just one piece of a revised schedule, one that now includes the PGA Championship in August and the U.S. Open slated for mid-September. In Nicklaus' view, the changes could prove beneficial for Rory McIlroy as he looks to slip into an elusive green jacket.
"He seems to play better in the fall," Nicklaus said. "As you know, he's won the Tour Championship a couple times. Played in Atlanta, very similar conditions. I think this scheduling will be to Rory's favor."
This year will be McIlroy's sixth attempt to round out the final leg of the career Grand Slam, having finished inside the top 10 in four of his first five tries. McIlroy returned to world No. 1 earlier this year after a nearly five-year absence, and he has three career wins in the month of November, including his most recent triumph at last year's WGC-HSBC Champions.