HONG KONG: In a year dominated by the coronavirus off the course and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson on it, here are some of golf’s talking points of 2020:
After Bryson DeChambeau, bulked up by protein shakes and weightlifting during lockdown, blasted 350 yard-plus drives to dismantle the feared Winged Foot and win the US Open in September, concerns turned to what he might do to Augusta National at the virus-delayed Masters in November.
But the traditionalists needn’t have worried.
Despite DeChambeau’s pre-tournament claims that he would play Augusta’s par-72 layout as a “par 67,” he only squeezed through to the weekend right on the cut line after rounds of 70 and 74, including a triple-bogey seven on the Friday after a lost ball.
DeChambeau ended up playing his final round alongside two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer who, at the age of 63, humbled the big-hitter 36 years his junior by two strokes on the day, and one stroke for the week.
DeChambeau hasn’t been seen on a course since.
If DeChambeau thought he was having a bad week at Augusta, spare a thought for defending champion Tiger Woods.
The 15-time major-winner carded a septuple bogey 10 at the short par-three 12th in the final round after dunking his ball in Rae’s Creek three times.
Playing partner and Open champion Shane Lowry, enjoying a round with his childhood hero for the first time, could hardly believe what was unfolding.
“To watch him do that was a bit like, ‘Oh my God’,” confessed Lowry.
Woods then went on a tear, rattling in birdies at five of the remaining six holes. “He basically hit every shot stiff. It was incredible to watch him.” said the Irishman.
Quite a few more “Oh my God” moments.
The stop-start year did Rickie Fowler no favors.
One of golf’s “Mr. Nice Guys,” the American this month dropped out of world’s top 50 for the first time since his rookie season in 2009.
Fowler failed to register a top-10 after the June resumption, but nothing summed up his abject year more than a tiny putt on the sixth hole of his second round of the US PGA Championship in August.
Four inches for a tap-in par, easy right? But no. His putter struck only thin air and the whiff cost him a bogey. He missed the cut by one, in a major. Ouch.
Fowler will, like many, be glad to see the back of 2020.
Paul Lawrie retired from the European Tour in October at his home Scottish Open, with no fans and little fanfare.
Lawrie’s sole major win, the 1999 Open Champion at Carnoustie, is forever remembered for Jean Van de Velde’s water-wading antics that blew a three-shot lead at the last.
But the 51-year-old has never let the lack of recognition bother him, and was typically modest as he hung up his clubs.
“To have played 620 events is not a bad innings, considering I turned pro with a five handicap and didn’t think I’d play any,” said Lawrie.
“I haven’t been a great player. But I’ve been decent. And that’s all you can ask for.”
The first tee announcer at the Honda Classic in February committed the verbal equivalent of a three-putt when introducing former world No. 1 Luke Donald.
First he managed to turn Donald’s home town in England, Hemel Hempstead, into a tongue-twister by horribly mispronouncing it. Then he told the crowds at the pre-shutdown event that Donald had won the tournament in 2016 instead of 2006.
But the worst was yet to come as he cried: “On the tee, Luke McDonald!”
You had one job…
Three days later, player-turned-commentator Paul Azinger was labelled as “embarrassing” after saying Tommy Fleetwood had choked in the Honda Classic final round as he missed out on the chance of a first PGA Tour win.
“You can win all you want on the European Tour,” said former US Ryder Cup captain Azinger. “But you have to win on the PGA Tour.”
Fellow Englishman Ian Poulter led the backlash. “Paul, please do not condescend or disrespect the @EuropeanTour and our players like that,” he tweeted.
“We have slapped your arse in Ryder Cup for so long … seriously that was embarrassing.