2020 was one hell of a year. We saw both tragedy and triumph as COVID-19 affected all aspects of life and shaped a year unlike any other.
For many of us, one of the few constants we had was golf.
Due to the nature of the game we love (outdoors, easily socially distant) and some 'good' timing with when the pandemic hit, golf provided an outlet. A way to stay active, a way to get outside, a way to do something "normal" while so much of life was markedly abnormal.
In that regard, 2020 was a great year for golf. The game saw an influx of interest and new blood; the most since the early days of Tiger-mania according to experts. This is a net positive for the game, and a trend we hope continues into the new year.
So with that, let's take a look back at some of our favorite stories from 2020.
Golf News Stories of 2020
Kobe Bryant and 8 others (including his daughter, Gianna) tragically lost their lives in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020.
The NBA legend was beloved by many, so it is no surprise that fans and PGA tour players alike showed their respect for Bryant any way they could.
From the Waste Management Phoenix Open to Riviera and beyond, players donned jerseys, customize shoes and more to keep Kobe's memory alive.
On February 4th the USGA released the findings of a nearly two-year study examining the impact of ever-increasing distances in the game of golf.
The verdict? Ever-increasing distances are going to be a problem.
Premier Golf League
The Premier Golf League generated a lot of interest and hot debate in the early months of 2020.
The PGL aims to take on the PGA Tour with a league of superstar golfers seeking big paydays ($240 million in prizes). The blueprint for the PGL is a league with 48 players divided into 12 teams. Teams will compete in 18 no-cut, 54-hole events.
With the popularity of exhibitions like The Match it seems like there is certainly an appetite for more golf on TV. We look forward to seeing what 2021 has in store for the PGL.
Rory's Hot Start
Golf's pandemic lockdown could not have come at a worse time for Rory McIlroy. Just as the tour was hitting pause, Rory was coming off of a very hot hand.
Between October 2019 and March 2020, Rory won once at the World Golf Championships HSBC Champions, and notched top five finishes in seven consecutive PGA Tour appearances.
When the tour returned in June, Rory's game had cooled down and his consistency in achieving top 5 finishes was gone.
COVID-19 Golf Protocol
As we mentioned earlier, golf was one of the few activities we could still enjoy during the early days of the pandemic.
Courses and players had to make some slight adjustments for safety, but most players were not complaining. 4 foot gimmies? No bunker rakes? Walking only? What's not to love.
Dustin Johnson had an incredible 2020. We all know his spectacular season culminated in winning the 2020 Masters, but there were many more achievements along the way. Here are the highlights:
- Won the Masters
- Broke or tied nine different records at the Masters.
- Finished T-2 at the PGA Championship
- Only player to finish in the top 10 in all three majors
- Finished in the top two in six of his last seven tournaments.
- 2020 PGA Tour Player of the Year
- 2020 FedEx Cup Champion
- Finished the season at World No. 1
A historic season by a player firmly in his prime. Will he grab another major or two in 2021? We wouldn’t bet against this guy.
Bryson DeChambeau couldn't escape the headlines in 2020.
After bulking up nearly 40lbs to engineer faster swing speeds, the 3,000 calorie days and never-ending protein shakes finally paid off when he won the Rocket Mortgage Classic, then dominated Winged Foot for a U.S. Open Championship victory.
He may have gotten ahead of himself when he declared he'd be playing August as a par 67 (he finished T34), but it's clear that Bryson is on to something and will be a major contender heading into 2021.
The Last Dance
For five weeks between April 19th and May 17th, sports fans everywhere were captivated by The Last Dance, an ESPN documentary about the career of Michael Jordan and his final season with the Chicago Bulls.
The entire documentary was outstanding but it was an extra treat for golf fans to see Michael Jordan's love for the game of golf. MJ caught the bug early in his career and he’d golf as often as possible. Even before games.
Open Championship Canceled
On April 6, 2020 The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews announced it cancelled the 149th Open Championship due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The cancellation marked the fourth time in it's 150 year history that the Open Championship would not be played.
The Match 2
In late May, after professional sports grinded to a halt, The Match 2 provided us with a live sporting event when we needed it most.
This charity match between teams Woods-Manning and Mickelson-Brady proved to be both more competitive and entertaining than the first installment of The Match between Woods and Mickelson. After the initial rain delay it was a blast to watch 4 hall of famers in their respective sports talk trash, make shots and raise $20 million for COVID-19 relief.
This Moment at the BMW Championship
Brooks vs. Rory
Brooks Koepka is known for speaking his mind so it's no shock that he often finds himself trading barbs with others in the golf world. There was Bryson, Brandel Chamblee, and Reed, but our favorite spat of the year was with Rory.
Earlier this year, when asked about what he thinks about his chances of a historic three-peat at the PGA Championship, Brooks replied, “I like my chances...When I’ve been in this position before, I’ve capitalized. I don’t know, (Johnson)’s only won one. I’m playing good. I don’t know, we’ll see.”
After being asked about Brook's quote, Rory came to DJ's defense by saying,"...sort of hard to knock a guy that’s got 21 wins on the PGA Tour, which is three times what Brooks has.”
Finally, Brooks decided to go for the jugular and reply to Rory with the statistically accurate, yet completely ruthless statement, "He hasn't won a major since I've been on the PGA Tour".
Love him or hate him, Brooks keeps things interesting.
Just as "Caddyshack" was turning 40 years old this year, Michael O'Keefe, who played Danny Noonan in the classic golf film, wrote an open letter to golf.com. The subject? O'Keefe wanted to reprise is role as caddy and loop for a golfer at the 120th U.S. Open Championship at Winged Foot.
O'Keefe's wish came true when NY PGA Professional Danny Balin let him on the bag for the Monday and Tuesday practice rounds. Turns out, O’Keefe’s no slouch himself.
Winged Foot Gets Tamed
Championship golf returned to New York this year for the 120th U.S. Open Championship at Winged Foot Golf Club.
As with any U.S. Open, the course conditions were expected to be tough - thick rough, narrow fairways and fast greens were expected to torment the field.
When it was all said and done, however, Bryson DeChambeau dominated the course with his distance and went on to win his first major championship. As it turns out, the rough is less of a factor when you're blasting tee shots and hitting out of the thick stuff with a 9 iron.
Phil Goes Back to Back
Phil Mickelson turned 50 this year so, naturally, back in January he was asked about his plans for the Champions Tour.
At the time Phil joked, “When I stop hitting bombs I'll play the Champions Tour, but I'm hitting some crazy bombs right now.”
That all changed as the season unfolded, though. While Phil was indeed hitting bombs, his overall play was poor and he made his Champions Tour debut in August at Ozarks National. He won he debut then won again in his second Champions Tour appearance at the Dominion Energy Charity Classic.
Phil is sure to make the Champion's Tour more interesting. We’ll definitely be watching and it looks like we’re not alone as Golf Channel reported ratings increases of 150-300% during Phil’s debut.
When the November Masters Tournament was announced in April, golf fans everywhere were relieved and excited. Relieved because it meant the Masters would not be canceled, and excited because we would get to see Augusta National in autumn.
Every Masters has been played April, aside from two years where it was played in March. The tournament, with Augusta National's beautiful landscapes and flowers, is typically how we ease into the spring - which is what made the announcement so special.
The Match 3
Phil! Peyton! Steph! SIR CHARLES! The Match 3 was every bit as star-studded and entertaining as the previous installments.
On the path to a 4 and 3 victory by Phil and Barkley, the whole crew provided the great stories, trash talk, and common-man erratic shots we've come to love about The Match.
Tiger & Charlie
The final golf story of 2020 came at the PNC Championship where Charlie and Tiger woods competed in the two man scramble.
The event sparked a lot of interest not only because Tiger was playing (his tournament starts are becoming fewer and further in between) but because Charlie is 11 years old, and when you consider how young Tiger was when he was introduced to the world, it makes this kind of thing even more special.
The whole tournament was fun to watch. Charlie clearly loves to both play golf and mess with Justin Thomas - and he got to do both at the event.
And the best part of it all? This amazing approach shot and putt for eagle.
It's safe to say 2020 was a unique year in the world of golf. We look forward to seeing what comes our way in 2021.
Did we miss any major headlines? Let us know it the comments!