No one was anticipating a year like 2020. But what about 2021? Three GOLF senior writers offer predictions on what we might see in pro golf this year.
Rolling the dice (with cameras everywhere)
Whether or not you gamble, you can bet on this: Live wagering on golf is set to change the way you track your favorite players. No more sitting, waiting and hoping for a highlight. Customized content — that’s what’s coming. You determine what you watch and when. Just a twinkling of an idea two years ago, when the Tour green-lighted gambling on its events, the concept was first tested at the 2019 Masters and again at the curtailed 2020 Players, only to be fine-tuned further at the 2020 Masters, with the slickest streaming ever offered of every shot by every player.
But make no mistake as to the long-term target market. Live wagering on action as it happens is a multi-billion-dollar biz. To tap its full potential, coverage has to keep up. Few tournaments have the wherewithal to mimic what they do at Augusta, but look for big events to try to emulate the Masters: the majors, the Players, the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the Ryder Cup. What you want to see, when you want to see it. You don’t have to wager to count that as a win. — Josh Sens
The ruling bodies bite back
The 2020 season is destined to be remembered for the Great Distance Chase, during which birdies and bogeys took a backseat to clubhead speed miles per hour and calories consumed. It was undeniably entertaining to watch Bryson DeChambeau reshape our notion of how the game can be played, and he pushed everyone from Rory McIlroy to Matt Wolff to Tony Finau to Dustin Johnson to keep up.
But the explosion of 350-plus-yard drives threw into sharp relief just how thoroughly modern athletes — with their optimized gear, swing technique, training methods and diets — have overwhelmed the game’s ancient playing fields. And so I predict 2021 will be when the ruling bodies bite back, in a long-overdue bid to restore balance to a game that should be a mix of power and finesse, and art and science.
A slightly deadened ball would be a massive step and take years to figure out … and possibly litigate. But a maximum length on driver shafts (46″?) or clubhead size (250 cc?) would be an easy fix. It’s time. — Alan Shipnuck
Adoring galleries will (slowly) roar once again
You could make the case that the most important PGA Tour event played in 2020 was the Houston Open at the Memorial Park Golf Course, five miles from City Hall. For one thing, it was played on a true muni. Public golf is where it’s at now more than ever. Also, the Houston Open, one of the Tour’s oldest stops, showed you can have fans on hand without a Tour stop becoming a Covid-19 super-spreader event.
Every organizer of every 2021 event on the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour took notice of what Houston did. Three thousand fans in and out of the gates every day, without a hitch. There will be more of that in 2021 — events with limited numbers of spectators. Those spectators will wear masks. They will have their temperature checked at the gate. They will keep two club lengths from others. As a Covid-19 vaccine becomes more available as the year goes on, 3,000 could double in size, as long as each spectator has proof of inoculation. Normal will make a comeback, gradually. — Michael Bamberger
SOURCE: GOLF NEWS
By Todd Kelly | January 3, 2021 12:39 pm
It’s time. We have finally put 2020 in our rearview mirrors and turned the calendar to 2021.
After a few weeks off, golf returns to action this week.
For the PGA Tour, it’s the continuation of its super season of 50 events, which will include six major championships. For the PGA Tour Champions, it’s the second half of a combined season. There was no 2020 Charles Schwab Cup champion after the tour decided to merge ’20 and ’21 into one season. For the LPGA, a brand new season will start in 2021.
Over the next few months, many college golf programs are likely to return to action after a hit-and-miss fall where some teams played and some teams – and even some whole conferences, like the ACC, Big 10 and Pac-12 – didn’t.
The American Junior Golf Association managed to stage more than 100 events in 2020 and has already released its 2021 schedule (though COVID protocols remain in place for the time being).
Here’s a closer look at when tournament play, on all levels, will return in 2021.
Sentry Tournament Of Champions
KAPALUA RESORT, PLANTATION COURSE
The PGA Tour kicks off 2021 in Maui, where Justin Thomas is the defending champion. Normally, it’s a winner’s only field, but because so many events were lost last season, golfers who advanced to the 2020 Tour Championship became eligible, which is how players like Abraham Ancer, Tony Finau, Lanto Griffin and Scottie Scheffler, among others, got into the field
Diamond Resorts Tournament Of Champions
FOUR SEASONS GOLF AND SPORTS CLUB, LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA
The LPGA had a strong close to 2020 with the U.S. Women’s Open and the CME Group Tour Championship concluding six days apart in December. After a short offseason, the 2021 season tees off at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. Players will then get another month of down time until the Gainbridge Championship, the next stop on a 34-event schedule that includes record-setting purses, is played in late February.
Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
ABU DHABI GOLF CLUB, ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
The European Tour kicks off late January with the first of three events in the Middle East. Lee Westwood is the defending champion at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy have committed to play in 2021. For Thomas, it will mark his debut in the Middle East.
PGA Tour Champions
Mitsubishi Electric Championship At Hualalai
HUALĀLAI GOLF COURSE, KA’UPULEHU-KONA, HAWAII
Four Seasons Resort Hualālai along the Kona-Kohala coast on the island of Hawaii has finished a significant renovation to its 24-year-old Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. Hualālai is host of the 54-hole Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the first event of the over-50 tour’s 2021 season. The resort has been the site of that event since 1997. Miguel Angel Jimenez is the defending champion.
Korn Ferry Tour
LECOM Suncoast Classic
LAKEWOOD NATIONAL GOLF COURSE (COMMANDER), LAKEWOOD RANCH, FLORIDA
The Korn Ferry Tour gets going in late February, its first event since the Orange County National Championship in Florida in October. Andrew Novak is the defending champion of the event. It’s the first of 23 KFT events in 2021.
SEWAILO GOLF CLUB, TUCSON, ARIZONA
There are two major men’s college golf events to kick off 2021. One of them is the 40th Arizona Intercollegiate. It takes place in Tucson on the home course for the host Arizona Wildcats.
NORTH RANCH COUNTRY CLUB, WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CALIFORNIA
Hosted by defending champion Pepperdine, the Southwestern Invitational is a loaded men’s tournament that will also feature Stanford, the reigning NCAA champ, as well as Arizona State, Augusta University, Cal, East Tennessee State, Georgia Tech, Pepperdine, San Diego State, San Jose State, SMU, USC and UCLA. Golf Channel will have coverage of all three days.
UCF Women’s Challenge
JAN. 31-FEB 2
EAGLE CREEK GOLF CLUB, ORLANDO
The first major women’s college golf tournament in 2021 will take place across the country in Orlando. The University of Central Florida will host.
Note: This list does not include early-season dual matches or smaller-division events.
The amateur circuit wastes no time getting going in 2021 with a women’s event already underway and a men’s event teeing off on Thursday.
Orlando International Women’s Amateur
ORANGE COUNTY NATIONAL, ORLANDO, FLORIDA
New Year’s Invitational
ST. PETERSBURG COUNTRY CLUB, ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA
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