13 things that happened in golf in 2020 that you might not remember
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Tony Finau was one of several PGA Tour pros who took time to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant afte the NBA Hall of Famer's death in January.
Like most things in 2020, golf could not escape the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic overshadowed so much of what that happened during the year that otherwise would have been big news. Indeed, there were several stories and moments that, if not for the coronavirus, would have taken on greater import for fans and players alike. They ranged from the comedic to the controversial, historic to heartbreaking. To help jog your memory, here are 13 things that happened in 2020 that you might have forgotten occurred in the first place.
The time Xander Schauffele almost won … twice.
In the first PGA Tour event of 2020, all that stood between Xander Schauffele and victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions was a two-putt from 40 feet on the 72nd hole. However, he inexplicably blew his first putt eight feet by and missed the one coming back, too. Falling into a three-way playoff with Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed, Schauffele was then bounced on the first extra hole at Kapalua. “I should have won the tournament,” Schauffele said afterward. “I know it. Everyone knows it.” Six months later, in the tour’s first tournament after it resumed its season, Schauffele was tied for the lead on the 71st hole of the Charles Schwab Challenge and had less than three feet for par to remain atop the leader board only to suffer a brutal, 360-degree lip-out. Schauffele ended up tying for third. Surprisingly, the No. 7 player in the world never did end up winning in 2020.
Schauffele was trying to defend his title at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, but let it slip away.
Getting the Hall call
There was never a doubt Tiger Woods would be elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame. But it turns out he’ll be headed there a little earlier than previously expected. In January, WGHOF officials announced changes to its eligibility requirements and a revamping of its voting categories. Most notable among them: Dropping the age requirement from 50 to 45. Woods, perhaps not coincidentally, turns 45 on Dec. 30 of this year. And in March, Woods was announced as one of four who will be inducted as part of the Class of 2021, joined by Marion Hollins, Susie Maxwell Berning and Tim Finchem.
The inevitable came true when Tiger was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in March.
Golf mourns the loss of a legend
No one will forget the tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the seven others killed in a helicopter crash outside Los Angeles in late January. That includes the world of golf. In the weeks that followed, several players paid tribute to the Lakers legend. At the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Justin Thomas wore a jersey from Bryant’s high school alma mater on the 16th hole, Tony Finau sported specially designed shoes and the PGA Tour cut the hole on the 16th 24 paces on and eight paces from the left edge for the final round, a nod to the two numbers Bryant wore in his career. Two weeks later, with the tour in L.A. for the Genesis Invitational, there were more tributes. Though Bryant didn’t have the type of relationship with golf that Michael Jordan and other basketball greats do, the outpouring was a testament to the transcendence of his legacy.
PGA Tour announces new television deal
The biggest accomplishment on PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan’s watch—prior to navigating through the pandemic—was landing a lucrative new television deal that could be worth upwards of $7 billion over nine years. The money wasn’t the only news. While the tour remains partnered with CBS, NBC and Golf Channel, it marked the first time it landed a domestic digital rights deal with PGA Tour Live streaming on the ESPN+ platform.
Davis Love III’s rough year
First, Love’s house in St. Simons Island, Ga., burned down in March. Though he and his wife Rob escaped injury, the loss was understandably devastating. Then in July, Love’s short-lived career as a golf analyst for CBS Sports, which had only begun in October 2019, came to an end when he parted ways with the network after both parties realized it wasn’t working out. And when he returned to playing at the PGA Championship in August, he aggravated his neck enough that ended up sidelining him on PGA Tour Champions. Put another way, 2021 can’t come soon enough.
Beyond COVID-19, Love had to deal with a fire that destroyed his home in March and the end of his brief stint as a TV commentator at CBS in July.
Hitting the road
When the tour resumed its season in June, there were plenty of new normals to adjust to. One unexpected one, at least for some players: Driving from tournament to tournament, rather than dealing with crowded airports and flights. Which is exactly what C.T. Pan and Viktor Hovland, among a few others, did to maintain their own bubble as much as they could. In some ways, it was a throwback to the early days of the tour. Only with nicer rides.
U.S. gets six Ryder Cup captain’s picks
Before the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits was even postponed until September 2021, the PGA of America announced in June that captain Steve Stricker would get two extra captain’s picks—up from four to six—because of the compromised selection process. Given the current standings, and with Tiger Woods outside the top 12, that could make for some difficult choices by Stricker following the 2021 Tour Championship.
Montana Pritchard/PGA of America
Stricker has to wait until 2021 to captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team, but he'll get to make six captain's picks to round out his lineup.
Dustin Johnson struggled, really
It was a career year for DJ in 2020, having won the Masters after also claiming the FedEx Cup. But it didn’t come without a few stumbles. In July, there were the back-to-back 80s at the Memorial. Then a 78-WD from the 3M Open because of a balky back. Remember that? Neither does Dustin, probably.
What a way to go out
Daniel Summerhays, who earned nearly $9 million in eight years and 215 winless starts on the PGA Tour, announced his retirement and plans to teach and coach golf at his alma mater, Davis High School in Kaysville, Utah. But it was how the 36-year-old went out, playing his final tournament on his home course in his hometown with his brother David on the bag and shooting a final-round 62 in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Utah Championship that stood out. Summerhays managed to erase a six-stroke deficit and force a playoff. He didn’t win, but that didn’t really matter. “Best round I’ve ever seen,” his brother Boyd, said. “You’ve got to be proud.” Indeed.
After announcing he was retiring as a out pro, Summerhays nearly went out and won his final start in his native Utah.
Bryson breaks his driver
The Distance King was also the game’s Content King in 2020 and one of the more amusing moments (at least to everyone else) in a sea of them came when DeChambeau’s driver snapped when he leaned on it to pick up a tee after belting another bomb during the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park. You know, mass equals density times volume, and all. Or something.
Even if breaking 60 isn’t quite as rare an accomplishment as it once was, whenever there’s a #59Watch it’s notable. For all that 2020 took away, it did give us Scottie Scheffler shooting a 59 at TPC Boston during the second round of The Northern Trust. Incredibly, Dustin Johnson, who was 11 under through 11 holes, had a chance to join before, ahem, settling for a 60. But when Scheffler, 24, broke the barrier it was the first time since the John Deere Classic in 2010 that two players shot 60 or lower on the same day. Scheffler was also the second youngest to shoot a 59 on the PGA Tour.
Bones back on the bag
By all accounts, Jim (Bones) Mackay is enjoying his work as an on-course reporter for Golf Channel/NBC. But with CBS handling the bulk of the coverage of the PGA Tour after the COVID restart, Mackay had time to return to his roots as a caddie. In July, he moonlighted with Matt Fitzpatrick, looping for him at the two tournaments at Muirfield Village. Then, when Justin Thomas’ bagman, Jimmy Johnson, was sidelined due to health issues for about a month in late summer, Mackay stepped in once more. In their first tournament together, the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, Thomas won. Mackay stayed on the bag through the FedEx Cup Playoffs before Johnson returned at the U.S. Open in September. Mackay grabbed one more bag later in the fall, working for Jimmy Walker at the Masters in November.
Mackay wound up stepping in as a temporary caddie for three players in 2020, including Justin Thomas at the PGA Campionship.
U.S. Amateur blunder
Do you know how you don’t want to be remembered losing the U.S. Amateur? By having your caddie lean down in a bunker and mistakenly testing the sand several times with his hand on the final hole of a match. Do you know how you do want to be remembered for handling it? The way Argentina's Segundo Oliva Pinto did, standing up for his caddie afterward and saying it was a brain freeze that can happen to anyone.