20 for 20: The 20 most memorable professional tournaments of 2020
As 2020 comes to a close and we turn the page to 2021, GOLF staffers are taking a minute to reflect on … whatever they want. Welcome to 20 for 20.
To say 2020 has been a strange year would be an understatement, but it’s been an unforgettable one, too. The number of monumental events that shaped this year is shockingly high, and it can be hard to remember even half of them.
The same can be said of golf in 2020 — there has never been a year like this one. It has changed the relationships many of us have with the game, and introduced it to many first timers, too. The pro game has been equally intriguing, so let’s take a look at the most memorable events of the year, ranked.
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20. BMW PGA Championship
Tyrrell Hatton won the BMW PGA Championship by four strokes in early October — his second victory of the year. And while his play was impressive, that was not what made this event so memorable. Instead, the buzz came from what he was wearing.
Hatton played much of the weekend at Wentworth Golf Club wearing a hoodie, which cause quite the stir in the golf world.
“I think it’s a cool thing that people are talking about it, should be open to the idea of creating a more open kind of sport rather than – don’t want it to be kind of snobby,” Hatton said at the time. “I think you need to move on from that. It’s comfortable when you play golf in it and it looks good, then I don’t see an issue.”
19. LPGA Marathon Classic
With her drive in the fairway on the 72nd hole, it looked as though Lydia Ko had the Marathon Classic all but won. Then, the unthinkable happened.
Ko watched as her approach sailed wide onto a cart path, and then took four shots to get down from there, settling for a disastrous double-bogey 7, finishing one shot behind Danielle Kang.
“It’s tough,” Ko said. “Obviously not the finish that I had envisioned.”
The double kept the former World No. 1 from securing her first win since 2018 and handed Kang her second victory in a row after the LPGA Tour restart.
18. Sanderson Farms Championship
Golf didn’t come easily for Sergio Garcia in the years following his Masters win in 2017, but he finally found some form during the fall at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Garcia’s win marked the first time he’d won on the PGA Tour since his two children were born and had an added bit of emotionalism following a family tragedy earlier in the year.
“It’s been tough because I lost two uncles because of Covid,” Garcia said. “It’s been tough for my dad. This one was for him.”
Garcia sealed the victory with a dead-eye 8-iron on the final hole, setting up a tap-in birdie to secure the title.
17. Charles Schwab Series at Ozarks National
After Phil Mickelson turned 50 this summer, he was officially Champions Tour eligible and he made his debut at the Charles Schwab Series at Ozarks National in late August. His first start couldn’t have gone much better as Lefty won by four-strokes in the 54-hole event.
16. TaylorMade Driving Relief
There was no professional golf on TV during a lengthy stretch from March to May, but it made its triumphant return with the TaylorMade Driving Relief Skins Match at historic Seminole Country Club.
The golf was shaky at times, but a chance to see Seminole is not one many wanted to miss. Add in the fact that it was the first live sporting event many of us had seen in nearly two months, and it was indeed a memorable Sunday afternoon. Kudos to Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff for taking part in this charitable endeavor.
15. Scottsdale Open
With the PGA Tour on hiatus, some pro golfers flocked to the unlikeliest of tournaments to keep their competitive juices flowing — the Scottsdale Open. The mini tour event was suddenly the biggest tournament in the world in early May as they welcomed several Tour pros and a host of other talented players to Talking Stick Golf Course.
Our own Alan Shipnuck headed to Arizona to cover the event in person (which you can read more about, here), but other than a few media members, there were no spectators allowed. The only way you could get a glimpse of the event was through a ragtag live stream hosted on Monday Q Info’s Twitter feed, complete with amateur commentors and Q&As during the round.
14. The Northern Trust
Scottie Scheffler was the big story early as he fired a 59 in his second round— the only sub-60 Tour round in 2020 — but it was Dustin Johnson who stole the show from there.
Johnson himself had a chance for a sub-60 round, but he eventually “settled” for a 60 as he closed the round with seven-straight pars, but he lost no momentum heading into the weekend. The World No. 1 fired rounds of 64 and 63 in the final two rounds as he blitzed the field to win by a staggering 11(!) shots at 30 under.
“That’s the type of talent he is — he can absolutely dismantle a golf course when he’s on and lead the field in putting,” said Kevin Kisner, who finished T4 and 13 shots back of Johnson. “When you add those two up, (he’s) pretty much unstoppable.”
It can certainly feel that way sometimes.
13. Puerto Rico Open
It’s always been a matter of when Viktor Hovland would win on Tour rather than if he would win on Tour. He answered that question at the Puerto Rico Open in late February. Hovland birdied the final hole of the opposite-field event to best Josh Teater by a shot, securing his first of two wins on the year.
12. Charles Schwab Challenge
Colonial looked a little different than it normally does during the Charles Schwab Challenge, but players and fans alike were glad to have some semblance of normalcy after a rough spring.
When players arrived in Fort Worth for the Charles Schwab Challenge, they were gearing up for the first event since the Tour was abruptly halted during the Players Championship. Masks and nose swabs made an appearance for the first time, but even with all the extra hoops, it was good to have golf back.
Daniel Berger eventually won the event in a playoff over Collin Morikawa, but the result is less important than what the week represented — a step back toward the life we had before the world came to a halt.
11. The Match II
This event was star-packed and soggy as Tiger Woods teamed up with Peyton Manning to face off against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady. Despite persistent showers and a few technical difficulties, the match exceeded expectations and served as a welcome distraction to the tragedies unfolding around us.
From Justin Thomas’ commentary to Tom Brady ripping his pants, there were plenty of memorable moments at Medalist Golf Club and Phil Mickelson’s constant commentary was the cherry on top of a really neat event.
10. BMW Championship
No. 1 vs. No. 2 — what more could you want? That’s exactly what golf fans got at the BMW Championship as Jon Rahm dueled with Dustin Johnson, culminating in a dramatic playoff finish.
Rahm’s dramatic win over Johnson — in the midst of Olympia Fields playing “like a U.S. Open,” — cemented Rahm’s second win in a five-week stretch. However, Johnson ultimately got the last laugh as he won the following week’s Tour Championship to wrap up a cool $15 million in FedEx Cup bonus money.
9. U.S. Women’s Open
Players got it all in Houston as the weather ranged from the mid 80s to the mid 40s. Mix in a healthy dose of rain and it made for a fun week at Champions Golf Club.
A Lim Kim eventually emerged victorious at the U.S. Women’s Open as she birdied the final three holes to secure a one-shot win over grief-stricken Amy Olson and World No. 1 Jin Young Ko. The win was Kim’s first on American soil and earned her an invite to compete on the LPGA Tour.
The bananas finish from a mask-clad champion in extreme weather was perhaps a fitting end to the unprecedented 2020 major season.
8. The Masters
Augusta National was disappointingly absent of roars in 2020. With the pandemic still raging, the powers that be made the call to contest the event without fans in the new November slot on the schedule.
The absence of fans didn’t seem to bother Dustin Johnson too much though as he dominated from start to finish, claiming his first-career green jacket in the process. The win was Johnson’s final in a wildly successful 2020 campaign where he won four times and returned to World No. 1.
7. ANA Inspiration
The talk of the week at the ANA Inspiration was a massive wall situated behind the island 18th green. Usually a corporate hospitality area, the structure was replaced by a sponsor-plugging wall that ultimately helped determine the outcome.
When Mirim Lee’s approach into the 72nd hole bounded over the green, the big blue wall saved it from a watery end. Lee then chipped in to force a playoff, which she won over Nelly Korda and Brooke Henderson.
“It was always going to come down to that wall,” said Jessica Korda, older sister of Nelly.
6. Workday Charity Classic
In the first week of a double-header at Muirfield Village, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas gave us one of the most memorable duels of the year. The two traded dramatic long putts in a playoff — which in normal times would have sent fans into a frenzy — before Morikawa claimed his second Tour victory.
“Throughout the playoff, I got a lot more comfortable, especially after that playoff in Colonial,” Morikawa said. “I felt a lot more comfortable now, but I felt way more comfortable after making that birdie putt on the first playoff hole. That was huge. I had to make it after he made it.”
The summer only got better from there for the young star.
5. PNC Championship
While the PNC Championship is typically an afterthought, this year it was one of the most intriguing events on the schedule. That’s because Tiger Woods entered with his 11-year-old Charlie.
The duo didn’t win the event in the end, but getting to see Tiger in dad-mode was quite the treat.
“I don’t think words can describe it,” Tiger said. “Just the fact that we were able to have this experience together, Charlie and I, they are memories for a lifetime.”
Maybe it will become a yearly tradition for the duo? Time will tell.
4. U.S. Open
No golfer was talked about more in 2020 than Bryson DeChambeau. His obsessive bulk-up process in a search for more distance was one of the most intriguing storylines of the year, and it culminated in his dominant win at the U.S. Open.
As other players faltered on the difficult Winged Foot setup, DeChambeau beat the course into submission. He finished at six under for the week. No other players broke par.
The win put an emphatic exclamation point on a wild year for DeChambeau, and acted as a proof of concept of his unusual process.
“It’s definitely validating,” DeChambeau said. “I’ve got to figure out a lot more. I am excited to be in this position, for sure. There’s no better place to be.”
3. PGA Championship
The first men’s major in the Covid era was a fun one. Collin Morikawa eventually prevailed, but at one point on Sunday there were seven players tied for the lead.
Morikawa eventually broke away from the pack as he holed a clutch chip on the 14th and then fired a towering drive on the 16th within 10 feet of the pin, setting up an emphatic eagle to all but seal the win.
“I’m on cloud nine right now,” Morikawa said Sunday evening. “It’s hard to think about what this championship means.”
2. Women’s Open Championship
But then she got into the LPGA’s Drive On Championship, finished ninth and all of the sudden was in the Open. Once she set foot on European soil, Popov looked unstoppable.
Contesting heavy winds throughout the week, Popov was able to shoot seven under, including a superb 68 in the final round for her first win on any major tour.
“It feels amazing. There’s a lot of hard work behind it, and a lot of struggles that I went through the last six years,” Popov said in the aftermath of her unlikely win. “I’m glad I stuck with it. I almost quit playing last year.”
Good thing she didn’t.
1. Players Championship
Although no champion was crowned, the 2020 Players Championship will never be forgotten. As the coronavirus took hold in the U.S., the PGA Tour was in the midst of staging its premier event of the year.
Players got through one round of the event, but with the rest of the sports world coming to a screeching halt all around them, the Tour had no choice but to cancel the rest of the event and put further operations on pause.
“We’re obviously incredibly disappointed to suspend the PGA Tour’s season for our players and our fans,” said PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. “I’ve said all along, the health and safety of everyone associated with this organization is our No. 1 priority.”
The Tour eventually returned two months later, but nothing has been the same since that fateful week in March. Who knows if it will ever really be the same.