Remember in early March when The Players Championship was one of the last significant professional sporting events to be canceled following a Thursday round that ended with a 63 from Hideki Matsuyama? He never got a chance to follow up that and neither did anyone else. Thus began nearly 100 days without professional golf. A time that was full of watching old major championships, contemplating the future and creating as many pieces of shoulder content as readers could handle.
It was manageable at first, but at some point, it began to wear down the psyche. It’s fun to look back on old Tiger Woods wins, but it’s a lot more fun to watch whatever he’s doing in the present day.
And then golf came back. From the first week in June until early December, we got 26 events, including the entire FedEx Cup Playoffs and three major championships. The entire thing started to teeter when players started withdrawing from the Travelers Championship just three weeks into the festivities, but from then until now, the entire process has gone as smoothly as anyone could have imagined.
That’s a testament to the big organizations in golf — the PGA Tour, Augusta National Golf Club, PGA of America and the USGA — as well as the players, caddies and everyone else involved in the sport. It was also a joyful time for fans in a sea of sadness. The major championships absolutely rocked, and so many intriguing storylines developed as the year wore on.
I wanted to look at five things I was grateful for as a result of the second half of golf being played in 2020, none of which would have taken place if things were still on hold. Let’s start with where the year essentially ended.
1. The D.J. destruction: The numbers are astonishing. After missing the cut at the Charles Schwab Challenge in his first event back, Johnson won three of his next 12 events and finished second or third in four others. His margin in Official World Golf Rankings points over No. 4 Rory McIlroy is wider than McIlroy’s margin over No. 64 Joel Dahmen. He has made over $23 million and is No. 1 in strokes gained since the restart by nearly half a shot per round. And all of that tells only about half the story. It’s been a pleasure to watch, write and talk about the way D.J. is obliterating everyone in his sphere right now, and you could certainly make the argument (though there’s plenty of competition) that this is the best golf anyone has played since Tiger Woods was destroying worlds in the mid-2000s.
2. Bryson mania: Some people got sick of the Bryson DeChambeau hysteria this summer, but I personally could not possibly get enough of what Bryson was selling. His schtick can get tiresome, but when it’s coupled with U.S. Open wins, it sort of enhances (in the best and worst ways) what he’s doing. It sounds like hyperbole right now, but I think we’ll look back at his destruction of Winged Foot as an inflection point in golf history as to when the game changed in a big way. I’m grateful we got that in a year when we just as easily could have missed it.
3. Elite finishes: I’m not sure we’ve gotten two better finishes from top-10 talent in the world in any season in the last five years than we did at the Workday Charity Open and BMW Championship. Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa trading putts that defied belief in the former, and Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson doing the same in the latter. I was watching both from home and hollered quite loudly when all four of their putts went down.
4. Morikawa’s rise: Collin Morikawa’s PGA Championship was a microcosm of the youth movement. He drove the ball astoundingly well, cared not for the pressure surrounding him and upended some of the best players of the last 10 years en route to his first major win. In smaller ways, it’s what Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff accomplished as well, and I’m glad we got the back half of this year to see what that trio is (and others in their world are) truly capable of going into 2021.
5. The Masters: It was odd. It lacked some juice on the weekend. But man, I had a hell of a time being there, and I’ll never forget what will probably go down as the strangest major of the last century, if not ever. And while it won’t go down as the most dramatic or best Masters, I’m very glad that it happened because now D.J. has a more appropriate number of major championship trophies considering his talent level.