Covering golf, at every level and on every tour, in 2020 was unlike anything our writers have experienced. Through the end of the year, our staff is looking back on what will forever stand out from the season of COVID – a season during which every aspect of the game we love was impacted by a global pandemic. Read the whole series here.
It’s the sportswriter’s yoke to occasionally revisit old dispatches and wince — at opinions that now seem wrong-headed, at criticism that feels unwarranted, sometimes even at praise one might rather rescind. Then there are columns that suggest an entirely different era, one disembodied from a subsequent reality. Picture a pedestrian captain’s log entry from the Titanic dated April 13, 1912.
As 2020 finally shows itself to the door, I went back and reread my first column of the year. Its subject was the wish list most golfers maintain, the catalog of courses each of us aims to experience before we are forever toes up. Like much else in this aberrant year, that list has been a dream deferred for many of us.
Barely two months after that column was published, golf and the wider world pitched into the ongoing convulsions of coronavirus. In the U.S., there were a little more than 1,600 cases of COVID-19 and 40 known deaths by March 12, the day on which the Players Championship was abruptly canceled after one round. Today there are almost 19 million cases nationwide and more than 325,000 dead, yet professional golf continues amid a new and disquieting normal.
Others have documented the excruciatingly painful human toll of this pandemic and the supplementary cost of executive indifference. Looking at the golf landscape in these waning days of this annus horribilis, what seems most remarkable is not what was lost — the game’s oldest major championship, for one, which in the previous 150 years had been stymied only by world wars — but rather what was salvaged.
Before dawn broke the day after the Players was X’d out, what had been scheduled as a brief appearance on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” (RIP) turned into an impromptu three-hour live show as the other dominoes began to topple: four weeks immediately wiped from all six circuits under the PGA Tour umbrella, followed quickly by Augusta National’s postponement of the Masters.
The events of that morning foretold a season to be endured rather than enjoyed, something with which we would make do but never relish. What we can look back on amounts to something more.
The news-making events that preceded the shutdown now seem so distant as to require many more page flips on the calendar. Patrick Reed siccing his lawyer on Brandel Chamblee for his blistering criticism of Reed’s bunker excavations in the Bahamas. The USGA and R&A releasing their joint Distance Insights Report, which will eventually be seen as the first shot in a war for the future of the game. Dustin Johnson confirming that he would skip the Tokyo Olympics to focus on the FedEx Cup, potentially setting himself up for the rare feat of passing on the same Games two years in a row. That Johnson went on to win the FedEx Cup was considerably less impressive than the fact that a FedEx Cup was completed at all, or that we have embarked on a new season, even if it looks and feels wretchedly familiar.
Through the bleakest days of 2020, Bryson and Brooks combined to keep the Twitter fires burning and entertain fans. The made-for-TV specials usually dismissed as McNugget golf suddenly seemed like a banquet for malnourished viewers. And more people than we’ve seen in years chose to enjoy golf’s built-in social distancing and actually play, few moreso than the commander-in-chief charged with managing a pandemic run amok.
Most of us felt keenly our own melancholy benchmarks along the way: trips not taken, rounds not played, friends and family not seen on the tee. At 3:15 p.m. on April 8, a friend texted me a photograph from the parking lot at T-Bonz steakhouse in Augusta, Georgia. It would have been Masters Thursday and that lot would normally have been a rollicking party scene. Instead it was utterly deserted. Two days earlier, the R&A had canceled the Open Championship, which prompted a morose realization that I will celebrate my 50th birthday not as I had hoped — during the 150th Open in St. Andrews – but in the rather less majestic precincts of southern England at Royal St. George’s.
That I might be able — medical science willing — to celebrate that birthday at all is reason enough for gratitude during a year when so many others have been denied the privilege.
As for that wish list of courses documented in my opening salvo of 2020 — Fishers Island, Chicago Golf Club, The Country Club, to name only a few — I checked off exactly zero of them. “Most all of us have more great courses remaining to be played than years in which to do it. All we can hope is that the wish list we draft a year from now measures progress against today’s,” I wrote optimistically in January. This last column of 2020 comes with the hard-earned understanding that it hasn’t been a year in which progress ought to be measured against courses played or scores logged, but rather in simply learning to appreciate anew life’s small mercies that are too often taken for granted.
Thanks for reading along through the bad times. Here’s to better days ahead.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/29/eamon-lynch-2020-in-review-covid/