Ladies and gentlemen… sports are back! After a long hiatus, the PGA Tour finally starts back up again with the Charles Schwab Challenge kicking off the “new,” season. To state the blatantly obvious, this season is going to be significantly different than any other. The stoppage during the first portion of the year might have stalled the momentum for a number of players. Plus, fans aren’t expected to return until closer to when the majors start in the new calendar.
However, golf is not a sport that needs fans to be present. Make no mistake, fans enhance the presentation on television. Nevertheless, many avid golfers are used to playing weekend matches at their country clubs without anyone watching. Getting to hear the banter between players because the fans are not providing noise will add a unique perspective for both the avid golfer, as well as the casual fan.
Also, the new schedule provides some interesting future tournaments. Seeing Augusta National in the fall will be breathtaking. The U.S. Open and Ryder Cup are set up on back to back weekends. Big time golfers will play in lesser tournaments because the schedule is shorter. Every week will feel like a new season because players will not pace themselves for the FedEx Cup. Because the FedEx Cup happens earlier in the schedule, you will see more aggressive golf on Sundays, which every fan will enjoy.
So without further adieu, here is a look at how the new PGA season could play out.
PGA Tour Players Become “Mic’d Up” Permanently Following This Season
If you watched “The Match,” between Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady, you know how cool it was to watch a golf event where the players on the course could be heard. Listening to Phil Mickelson’s description of how he planned on hitting an approach shot was incredible. Even Justin Thomas was in awe, and that’s a top-five player in the world.
There was an element of theater that was added by having the four players “mic’d up.” There was trash talk, there was genuine excitement for their teammates, and more importantly, there was trash talk! It gave The Match the feeling of a sporting event that was catered to more than just the golf fan.
Without fans in attendance, the networks will need something to hook the casual fan in. Based on the success of The Match, assuming golfers become “mic’d up,” while the course lacks fans is an educated guess. When the networks and the PGA see how this is received, the next logical conclusion is that players remain “mic’d up,” after this shortened season.
Imagine this scenario; it’s Sunday at the Masters. Tiger Woods is on the 16th tee, one shot off of the lead. He turns to his caddie to discuss what to do. Instead of the broadcast assuming what he’s thinking, they cut to Tiger telling the viewer how he plans on playing the pressure shot. If that doesn’t pump you up, you’re not a golf fan.
Brooks Koepka Finishes Top Three in All Three Majors During the 2020 Season
If there is anyone set up to dominate the new schedule, it’s Brooks Koepka. Koepka has been animate in the past about the importance he puts, or rather lack thereof, on non-major titles. He’s stated how the difference between majors and non-majors is that when it’s time for majors, Koepka practices for them. Not to mention, Koepka has boisterously stated how majors are sometimes easier for him to win.
On top of his amazing track record in big tournaments, Koepka now has a shortened season on his side. The week-to-week grind of a packed schedule will affect him significantly less. Not only does Koepka not stress about the non-major events, but he’s also one of the best athletes on tour.
Furthermore, the location of the majors will favor his game. The PGA Championship this year is at TPC Harding Park. From the tips, the course measures out at a little under 7,200 yards, which Koepka can make even shorter with his immense length. The U.S. Open is at Winged Foot, which always plays longer than the yardage because of the treacherous rough. The greens are challenging, and the wind makes the course difficult. Koepka has the power to be affected less by the traditional U.S. Open rough, he’s a money putter when it counts, and he has the mental fortitude to battle the course for all four days. Lastly, Koepka has had success at Augusta National in the past, even though he has yet to win the coveted green jacket.
In 2019, Brooks Koepka finished top five in all four majors. He will do even better than that during the shortened 2020 season.
The Masters is the Most-Viewed Golf Event of All Time
This doesn’t feel like a particularly bold prediction, but it definitely reads that way. The Masters have to compete with college football during “moving day,” which is Saturday, for those that might not know. Then, the traditional Sunday round that would only compete with baseball and the end of the NBA regular season will have to go against the NFL for ratings. On paper, it actually looks difficult for the Masters to draw like it normally would.
Having said that, the importance of the Masters, combined with the desperation for normalcy in the sports world, could carry weight even when life has resumed in the fall. “The Match,” was the most-viewed golf event in cable television history, and that was for an exhibition. Granted it did not have competition from the sports world, but it goes to show how the popularity of golf has spiked in recent memory.
The Masters is the event when it comes to golf. The fact that it competes with football on Saturday and Sunday should not deter the starvation that golf fans will have for this event. Plus, the uniqueness of the timing will help. Both college football and the NFL are going to be in the middle of their regular seasons. This is essentially the Super Bowl for golf and the last real event for the shortened season. The viewership will be there, guaranteed.
Tiger Woods Abstains from the Majority of the Season
At this stage in his career, Tiger Woods needs to manage the number of tournaments he plays in. Even in a normal season, he cannot play in as many events as he once could if he wants to be 100 percent for all four major tournaments.
In a shortened season, Tiger Woods should play even less. The packed schedule, combined with the extra travel, is a recipe for disaster for older players. This is one of the years where injury-prone golfers should be conscious of their schedule, and save themselves for the major tournaments.
Tiger most likely does the same. He’ll play in enough tournaments where you notice him throughout the year. However, he will not be playing in as many of the lesser tournaments as the younger guys. Even though the golf season will feature a lot of high profile players playing week to week, Tiger will not be one of them.
Jordan Spieth Bounces Back in 2020
Unlike Tiger Woods, the schedule could not have worked out better for Jordan Spieth. Spieth was lost on the tee during the early stages of the 2020 season, ranking almost last in fairways hit percentage. Even his greens in regulation percentage were low, something he’s normally good at.
Spieth got a break from the game that he desperately needed. He has not been the same since his collapse at the Masters a few years ago. There are tracks in this condensed schedule that favor Spieth’s game. Plus, the majors this year are at courses that require quality play around the greens. Winged Foot has challenging, multi-tiered greens, and Augusta National has some of the fastest greens on tour. Spieth is still one of the better players on tour in terms of one putt percentage, despite having a dreadful season thus far.
When the season returns, Spieth could be in line for a return to glory.
Jon Rahm Wins His First Major
The safest prediction on this list is Rahm winning a major. Jon Rahm was playing the best golf of his career prior to the stoppage of the season due to coronavirus. Rahm had already racked up four Top-10 finishes during the early stages of the season. He was dominant off the tee, second in three-putt avoidance, and top 30 in GIR percentage.
Rahm has the talent to win multiple majors. Off the tee, Rahm has the ability similar to guys like Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy. Rahm has a smooth swing with big-time length, allowing him to hit “score irons,” into greens more often. His putter runs hot and cold, but similar to DJ, his putter has the ability to propel him into unthinkable scores.
Where Rahm needed to sure up his game was between the ears. Any avid golf fan has seen Rahm lose his cool at some point during Rahm’s tenure on tour. It was often his downfall over the course of a four-round tournament.
However, Rahm seems to have corrected that. He’s been more under control in recent memory, and it has helped him ascend up the world rankings over the last 12 months. He appears to be in prime position to cash in on his talents.
Now he gets to capitalize on a shortened season. His youth will help him from week to week, his length and accuracy off the tee will help him during the three majors, and his overall skill should lead to him being a major champion sooner rather than later.
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