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