The prospect of an exciting 2020 golf season is high.
The European Tour was in Abu Dhabi last week. Current world No. 1-ranked Brooks Koepka was in the field, as well as other top players, but it was a former No. 1, Lee Westwood, who walked away with the trophy. The 46-year-old Englishman recorded his 25th European Tour victory. This means he has now won in four different decades, and has a total of 43 victories on five different continents.
Another oldie but goodie, Spaniard Miguel Ángel Jiménez, outdueled Fred Couples and rookie Ernie Els to win the Champions Tour in Hualalai, HI. This was Els’s first outing with the “old guys,” and I’m expecting to see big things from him this year.
Jordan Spieth’s year will also be an important one. When Spieth left the University of Texas after his sophomore year and joined the professional ranks, he played like he couldn’t be beaten, and, in rapid succession, added three major championships to his mantle. If Spieth were able to add the PGA Championship title to his resumé, he would become the sixth player in history to win all four major titles. Who knows? Perhaps Spieth will win at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco in May.
Another top player has a chance to grab his career Grand Slam. Rory McIlroy only needs a Masters title to enter the exclusive club. And when June rolls around, Phil Mickelson will have his chance to enter too at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Westchester County.
In 2006, the U.S. Open hardware was all but handed to Mickelson before he imploded on the 72nd hole. In Mickelson’s career, he has finished second six times in the national championship.
The final major championship in 2020 will be played at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent, England not far from the Cliffs of Dover. Royal St. George’s Golf Club is no stranger to the Open Championship, having hosted it 13 times dating back to 1894, when it became the first venue outside of Scotland to host the tournament. Northern Irishman Darren Clarke was the most recent player to win there, in 2011, and was a very popular winner.
A big change made to last year’s professional schedule and beyond is that all major championships are completed by mid-July, with the playing of the Open Championship. However, in 2020, there are two big events scheduled after that: the Summer Olympic Games and the Ryder Cup.
Golf will be a recognized sport in the Olympics for the third time in history this July and August. Competition will take place in the golf-crazed country of Japan. I know Tiger Woods is working extra hard to be on that team, but he needs to be ranked in the Top 4 among U.S. players to make the cut. He’s currently in the fourth spot, but will need to hold onto it by the end of the season.
The Ryder Cup takes place in September at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. There have been 20 Ryder Cups since 1979. The U.S. has won six played on home soil, while European has won five times.
I’d also like to tie up a few loose ends, wishing the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, a very happy 80th birthday, and wish my good friend and the talented sportswriter Mark Herrmann congratulations on being named one of this year’s Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame inductees. He’s always had a soft spot for golf, and not only has he covered the game at the professional level, he’s studied the talent at the grassroots level across Long Island.