5 reasons why golf will be even better in 2020 than it was in 2019
It’s no secret 2019 was a doozy of a golf year. But we’re optimists here at GOLF, and as we flip the calendar to 2020 we’d like to believe the year ahead is going to outdo even the last one. Here are five reasons we’re fired up for pro golf in the new year.
1. TIGER IS BACK — LIKE, ALL THE WAY BACK!
Look, last year’s Masters will go down as one of the biggest moments in golf history — I’m not here to tell you the 2020 edition will somehow outdo that. But let’s think of what 2020 could hold for Tiger Woods. The man just turned 44, which means time allegedly isn’t on his side. But he just looked unbeatable at the Presidents Cup, impressive at the Hero World Challenge and in complete control at the Zozo Championship. In 2020 we’ll watch him defend his Masters title, seek out record-breaking win No. 83 and continue the chase for 18 major titles. Somehow, none of these seem like impossible tasks. Add onto that the possibility of Tiger playing his way into the Olympics and/or the Ryder Cup and we’re talking about an all-time year for Woods-watching.
2. THE U.S. IS LOOKING FOR RYDER CUP REVENGE
Remember a couple of weeks ago, when we were reminded how fun it is to watch passionate team match-play golf? Well, that was just the Presidents Cup, and it was happening most of the way around the world. The Ryder Cup is coming to Wisconsin in September and the American side is in desperate need of revenge after a 17.5-10.5 trouncing at the hands of Europe in Paris in 2018. The intrigue of who will make the U.S. team is always worth the price of admission, and the performance of the Internationals in Melbourne should remind us that in this format, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. We’ve got a big circle around Whistling Straits on our calendar.
3. NELLY KORDA IS GUNNING FOR THE TOP
Fans of American women’s golf have been on the lookout for their next breakout star, and in 2019 Nelly Korda staked a compelling claim to that title. She began 2019 with a win in Australia and never looked back, winning three times and racking up top finishes as she jumped from No. 23 in the world to a year-end rank of No. 3. Oh yeah, and she’s just 21 years old. In 2020, Korda will be gunning for the top spot in the Rolex Rankings, but she’ll have her work cut out for her. While S.H. Park (6.77 points) is within striking distance of Korda (6.53), Jin Young Ko has established herself as the unquestioned No. 1 player in the world with 9.45 points. No American has reached the top of the rankings since Stacy Lewis in 2014; watching the best in the world battle it out for that coveted title will be worth the price of admission.
4. IT’S ON BETWEEN BROOKS AND RORY
By the end of 2019, two players had separated themselves from the rest of the PGA Tour. Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy traded blows all year long, with Koepka winning the lion’s share until the season-ending Tour Championship, where McIlroy stared him down and took home $15 million in the process. Koepka’s still holding on to the top spot in the World Ranking — and has made it clear he’s not interested in any action in his rearview mirror — but McIlroy is very much interested in chasing down the man ahead of him. Here’s hoping for more weekend showdowns in 2020. Of course, there are a few other players who might have something to say about this, like misters Rahm, Thomas, Johnson or Woods. But Brooks-Rory feels, for now, like the main event.
5. IT’S AN OLYMPIC YEAR!
This may be me, a lifelong Olympics nerd, speaking on behalf of the game of golf, but this feels like the year we begin to feel proper Olympic cheer. Apathy and Zika kept top players away from Rio four years back; besides Olympics grinch Adam Scott, it sounds like the world’s best will be gunning for Tokyo this summer. Qualifying for the U.S. men’s team — only four golfers deep — will be as hard as anything in the sport, save for perhaps the South Korean women’s team. Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, etc., who’s getting left out?
Of course, it’s hard for me to write about the Olympics without a mention that it remains a damn shame there’s no team, or match play, or mixed-gender element to the action in Tokyo, and that having another 72-hole stroke-play event seems like a mega-miss, but there will be time for that. It’s the start of a new year, after all. Not a bogey on the scorecard yet.