It might be tempting to just throw 2020 into the bin and start afresh in January. But even the darkest hour gives way to the light eventually. As a result, there's always good to be found and excellence to be feted. Golf is no exception, so here are our standout golfing people (and moments) of the year.
Less is more, they say. Unless you're Bryson James Aldrich DeChambeau. With a name that long, it's perhaps no surprise that, actually, more is more in his world.
Many of us put on a pound or ten during 2020's first lockdown as we committed to our wine and chocolate reps. Bryson hit the weights and put on 20 pounds or so. Of pure muscle. He also put 18.8 yards on his average drive so he can routinely hit his tee shots 321.3 yards.
To put that into context, it would take Usain Bolt about half a minute to run so far, if he didn't have to dodge bunkers and water hazards, that is. And, lest we forget, that's Bryson's average distance. Sometimes, he hits the ball waaaay longer. All of that helped him to, in his own words, “just drive it all the way up past those bunkers and have a nice little flip wedge in there” to the green on enough occasions to win a maiden major (the US Open) this year.
This poured further fuel on the old debate about technology versus tradition that has dogged golf since the game stopped being played exclusively by bored Scottish shepherds. And Bryson also added to pro golf's other big issue – slow play. More is definitely more with the man, including the amount of time he takes over every...single...shot. All of which makes Bryson the perfect poster boy for 2020. He's been groundbreaking, unforgettable and in need of improvement.
Image Credit : golf365.com
Image Credit: projects.newsday.com
Bryson DeChambeau learned how to overcome golf's obstacles (sand, water et al) through hard work. Germany's Sophia Popov faced down much tougher tests on the way to winning the 2020 AIG Women's Open at Royal Troon. It was her first ever pro tour victory, for starters. She'd also battled back from losing her tour card.
But all of that paled in comparison to her biggest fight of all – against the Lyme disease that took three years to be diagnosed. Small wonder she almost quit the sport on numerous occasions, only to find a way to keep doing what she loved and – as her maiden major victory proved once and for all – what she excelled at.
So when she says the following...
“No one is going to tell you ahead of time, there's no schedule for life. Your dreams can come true at some point. You just need to believe in them and don't quit.”
...she knows what she's talking about.
As does Brendon Todd.
“Golf beats you up,” he said – and we all know that to be true. His next quote will also induce a shudder of recognition in more than a few of us: “I went to a tournament and I considered hitting a short iron off the tee on a par 5 because I knew I was going to hit my driver out of bounds right, and sure enough I teed it up in the ground, I hit it 50 yards right out of bounds.”
When the game is your livelihood, your major reason for existence, and it beats you up to such an extent that you make the cut just twice in 36 events and drop outside the world's top 2,000, isn't it time to call it a day? Brendon Todd thought so. He seriously considered buying into a Georgia pizza franchise, only to decide to give pro golf one more year.
Back-to-back wins on the PGA Tour followed and he went into 2020's post-season events ranked 42 in the world. Sophia never quit and neither did Brendon.
Look at them both now.
Image Credits (Right): Golf World Jeff Gross
Image Credits (Left): Steven B Morton, Assoicated press
A perfect illustration of nominative determinism, Cameron Champ is also one of only four golfers on the US tour with Black heritage. 2020 has been a year like no other for so many reasons, the ongoing issue of racial injustice in the USA being a major one. 'Sport and politics don't mix' is a statement for the ages. It's also a false one. The two are intimately intertwined and, in the case of boycotts for example, one drives the other.
But when Cameron wore a black shoe on one foot and a white one on the other, with the words 'Jacob Blake' and 'BLM' marked out for all to see, he would have been braced for an avalanche of criticism from those who like their sports stars quiet and compliant.
His justification was simple. And pure.
“It’s a situation where people don’t want to talk about it, which I get, but at the same time it’s reality. It’s what we live in. Without dialogue, without talking about it, nothing is going to happen. ”It's been a year of extremes, but Cameron's words should remind us all of the fundamental decency that still drives us, the human race.
Golf is staid, they reckon. It resists all change and demands uniformity. Maybe ,or maybe not. How else to explain Matthew Wolff's swing? Or Erik van Rooyen's singular style – wearing joggers at last year's Open Championship and now one of our stylish Ryder Red belts in 2020. And not forgetting Tyler Hatton winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth...in a hoodie.
Life moves on, the world keeps changing and, slowly but surely, golf moves with it. For the worst sometimes, but like the shining examples above, mostly for the best. And that, in this year like no other, is quite the achievement.