Top-5 takeaways from 2020

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2020 will be remembered forever for the pandemic. But while the lockdown was imposed world wide, players and the Tour took the opportunity to reinvent themselves and here we pick five standout achievements of 2020.

  1. Dustin Johnson’s epic Fall season captivated fans –
Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson with The Masters Trophy
Image: The Ringer

World No.1, Dustin Johnson’s Fall 2020 was a story of dominance not seen since Tiger Woods in his heyday,  attracting fans to watch his sublime performances. His 30 under total at The Northern Trust, followed by Tour Championship and Fedex Cup wins and then fittingly a dominant triumph at Augusta, captivated fans and media attention and was exactly what the PGA Tour needed as it made a comeback. 

When the PGA TOUR re-started in June, Johnson was sitting at 111th on the 2020 FedExCup rankings, his worst since 2016. His 16-month winless streak ended at the $7.4mn Travelers Championship (June 25-28). He followed it two months later with another victory at the $9.5mn Northern Trust, then added the Tour Championship title,  three runners-up finishes and ended the year with a dominating 5 stroke win at the $11.5mn Masters Tournament in November.

Johnson’s 20 under 268 total at Augusta broke the lowest 72-hole score ever recorded at the event and equaled the lowest in relation to par in major history.

He now has 113 weeks as World No 1 and 24 PGA Tour titles to his name, leaving no doubt that he starts 2021 as the dominating player in World Golf. 

Dustin Johnson’s 2020 highlights – 

TournamentFinishPrize Money Earned ($)
Travelers Championship 1st1,332,000
PGA Championship T-2nd 968,000
The Northern Trust1st1,710,000
BMW Championship 2nd 1,026,000
TOUR Championship1st15,000,000
U.S. OpenT-6th 429,951
Houston Open T-2nd 623,000
Masters Tournament1st2,070,000

In total Dustin Johnson collected nearly US$ 24 million or ₹175 crore in just 14 events in 2020.

2. DeChambeau’s physical transformation impacts golf – 

Bryson DeChambeau

Bryson DeChambeau comparison 2017 Vs 2020
Image: GolfTV

As the PGA Tour season resumed back in June, the biggest buzz was being created by Bryson Dechambeau who gained 30 pounds of muscle in the break, going from 195 to 225 pounds in just a few months. 

DeChambeau’s Speed and Driving Distance Ranking on the PGA Tour –

YearClub Head Speed (MPH)PositionDriving Distance (Avg.)Position
2018117,8332305.725
2019118.7435302.5T-34
20201254322.11
2021133.11329.21

Bryson’s physical transformation was controversial but soon gained credence after a series of convincing results.  After the tour resumed, DeChambeau won twice:- the $12.5mn U.S. Open and $7.5mn Rocket Mortgage Classic. DeChambeau’s prize money earnings in 2020 jumped to US$ 7.5mn or ₹55 crore which helped  him finish 2020 at World No.5.

However the interest created by Bryson among media and fans ensured he was the most searched pro golfer on the internet and further advanced the physical aspect of golf to a new level. No other player since Tiger Woods is having a more pronounced effect on the strength and fitness of professional golfers, as De Chambeau.

3. Sophia Popov’s Cinderalla Story – 

Sophia Popov

Sophia Popov with her Women’s British Open title
Image: Golf Digest

In February 2019, Sophia Popov, a 28-year-old German and  alumna of University of Southern California missed gaining a place on the 2019 LPGA Tour by just one stroke at the qualifying school and was close to giving up on her dream of playing professional golf. In 2020, with the LPGA and Symetra tours being impacted by COVID-19, she won three tournaments on the Cactus Tour, a mini-tour based in Arizona. She followed that with a 9th place finish at the LPGA Tour’s Marathon Classic which got her into the Women’s British Open where she scored 70-72-67-68 (277) at Royal Troon to win the biggest major against the best players in the world – a cinderella story which inspired millions of struggling golfers around the world. 

She came into the Open Championship ranked 304th in the world with $228,725, in career earnings. Her winner’s paycheck of nearly US$700,000 helped her climb to 26th and a two year exemption on both the LPGA and LET Tours. 

Popov who came into the final round holding the overnight lead, never faltered in the final group, holding her nerve in the face of challenges by former major winners – displaying the cool focus of a champion. It was no surprise when she and millions of TV viewers around the world broke into tears when she holed the final putt !!  A life altering victory which will be remembered for a long time.

4. PGA Tour jumps in TV ratings –

Although COVID-19 put a halt to world sports, golf was the first sport to restart. thanks to Tour’s strict health guidelines. The PGA Tour came to a halt in mid-march during THE PLAYERS Championship and returned with the Travelers in late June, although without spectators.

The first event to allow spectators was the $7 million Houston Open (Nov.5-8), but limited the number to 2000 per day.

The impact of no fans at the venues was a gain in TV viewership ranging up to 60%. Here are the numbers: 

TournamentViewershipNetworkIncrease +/ Decrease - from 2019
Charles Schwab Challenge 3.091mn CBS+50%
The Masters5.59mnCBS-48%
PGA Championship5.1mnCBS+3%
The Masters Day 1 and 22.2mnESPN+50%
PGA Championship1.91mnESPN+60%
BMW Championship3.44mnNBC+9%
U.S. Open481,000ESPN-45%
Memorial Tournament 1.47mnNBC+40%

As per CBS reports with the return of golf in June 2020, the  final round of the $7.5 million Charles Schwab Challenge (June 11-14) was the tournament’s most-watched final round in 16 years. The final round averaged just over 3 million viewers an increase of 50% from 2019, with a final round peaking at 3.88 million viewers. Streaming coverage of the event on GOLF Digital was up 420% vs. 2019 and 546% dating back to 2016.

The Masters in Fall, which saw Dustin Johnson emerge victorious, saw a decline of 48% compared to the Tiger Woods fifth green jacket show in 2019. The event saw a low rating, because of factors like its move from April to November which saw 12 NFL games scheduled opposite it on the final day. The Masters’ final round was still America’s most-watched golf broadcast of 2020, ahead of the PGA Championship final round in August, which delivered an average viewership of 5.15 million. 

The successful rescheduling of the PGA and European Tours and the majors,  along with the ability of the tours to manage their sponsorships and TV commitments will always be remembered as one of the biggest triumphs for the sport during the year of the pandemic. 

5. Celebrities Play for Charity –

Golf Tournaments have always been successful in charity fundraising but in 2020 a few celebrity charity matches captured global attention. Here’s a quick recap of the biggest and the best.

In India too, 1983 Cricket World Cup winning team’s captain Kapil Dev, ex-cricketer Murali Karthik, Arjuna Awardee pro golfers, Shubhankar Sharma and Gaganjeet Bhullar got together in early July for the Champions for Charity match at the Delhi Golf Club which raised ₹50 lacs for Covid Relief. 

Charity Impact of the tournaments – 

  1. Taylormade Driving Relief (May 17th, 2020) – 
Taylormade Driving Relief

Taylormade Driving Relief

           Location: Seminole Golf Club (Juno Beach, Florida)

           Players: Rory McIlroy & Dustin Johnson V Rickie Fowler & Matthew Wolff

           Total Amount Raised: $5.5 million

           Reach: 2.35 million average viewers 

2. The Match: Champions for Charity (May 24th, 2020) –

Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods

Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods
Image: GolfWeek

          Location: Medalist Golf Club (Hobe Sound, Florida)

          Players: Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning V Phil Mickleson & Tom Brady

          Total Amount Raised: $20 million

          Reach: 5.8 million

3. Champions for a Cause-Charity Golf Match (July 11, 2020) –

Champions for Charity

Gaganjeet Bhullar, Kapil Dev Vs Murali Kartik & Shubhankar Sharma
Champions for Charity

           Location: Delhi Golf Club (New Delhi, India)

          Players: Kapil Dev & Gaganjeet Bhullar V Murali Karthik & Shubhankar Sharma

         Total Amount Raised: 50 lakhs

         Reach: Match Highlights on Eurosport

4. The Match III: Champions for Change (Nov. 27th, 2020) –

Phil Mickelson, Charles Barkeley, Peyton Manning and Stephen Curry

Phil Mickelson, Charles Barkeley, Peyton Manning and Stephen Curry
Image: Inscriber Mag

          Location: The Stone Canyon Club (Oro Valley, Arizona)

         Players: Phil Mickelson & Charles Barkley V Peyton Manning & Stephen Curry

         Total Amount Raised: $5.4 million + 3.5 million meals to Feeding America

         Reach: 1.02 million

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