Golf's biggest questions for 2020 Part 1

What answers await in the New Year ahead?

The curtain is about to set on 2019 and 2020 beckons a number of key questions to be answered. The momentum gained from one year does not automatically transfer to the new year ahead. Those who moved up the ladder realize all too well movement is indeed a two-way street. 

Like time and tide — golf does not stand still. 

Questions for 2020 Pt1 - golf does not stand still
Tiger Woods wins his fifth Masters titles (Matt Slocum/AP)

What is Tiger’s encore in 2020?

When Tiger Woods slipped into his 5th green jacket last April it culminated the biggest comeback in golf since the return of Ben Hogan from his near tragic car accident in February, 1949. Woods had gone through numerous different surgeries and his off-course affairs had derailed a career that saw his last major win back in 2008.

The bulk of 2019 featured Woods unable to build upon his success at Augusta but a return to form did happen late in the year in Japan when Tiger garnered his record tying 82nd PGA Tour title. Capping off the year was his 3-0 play and captaincy of Team USA in an epic come-from-behind win against a ramped up international squad.

Woods turns 44 on December 30 and all eyes will be watching to see what kind of encore performance the 15-time major champion can carry out in 2020?


Can Rory finally win 5th major and is green jacket beckoning?

The new year brings both optimism and concern for Rory McIlroy. His consistent play throughout 2019 was clearly present but his disappearance during major events is something prompting concern. It’s hard to conceive but the world number two player has not a major championship since August of 2014. That’s over five years ago!

The upside is that the Ulsterman is 30 years old and heading into what should be the prime years of his career. McIlroy is fully aware of the significance majors have in the ultimate overview of one’s career. 

Questions for 2020 Pt1 - golf does not stand still
Rory McIlroy at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

McIlroy can clearly alter the conversation in adding a 5th major in 2020. And, best of all, should that happen at The Masters he would become just the 6th person to join the ultimate golf fraternity — those having won the career Grand Slam

Rory’s story in 2020 is a simple one. Go beyond where he was in 2014 and reach another level. The talent is clearly present – the issue is whether the mental resolve is up to the task.


Can Europe maintain dominance in Ryder Cup or will USA hold serve on home soil?

Now that the President’s Cup is in the rear view mirror, the real interest will come in September when Europe and the USA clash for possession of the cherished Ryder Cup trophy. The USA was looking to make considerable headway in 2018 when the matches were played in Paris. The beatdown inflicted by Europe was utterly thorough.

The matches go to Whistling Straits in Wisconsin — a layout familiar to the teams in having hosed three PGA Championships but never once claiming an American name.  

The pressure will once again be on the USA – holding serve on home turf is a must. Europe has won 9 of the last 12 and 4 of the last 5. The teams have clearly changed with a greater emphasis on a new generation emerging on both squads. The stakes are high and the emotions clearly at razor’s edge for the 43rd renewal.

Questions for 2020 Pt1 - golf does not stand still
European captain Padraig Harrington (David Davies/PA)


Is South Korean women dominance a foregone conclusion?

Over the last 20 years the focal point for women’s professional golf has been the sheer dominance of players from South Korea. Four of the present top seven and 11 of the top 25 come from the country. When the Solheim Cup Matches were played last year the Europe emerged victorious over the USA, it’s fair to say that if one were to combine Europe and the USA together the team from South Korea would emerge with the win. 

The competitive bar has clearly been raised but other players from other countries have seen fit to pick up the pace and make a challenge far more likely in 2020. Nelly Korda and Danielle Kang, both from America, have positioned themselves in the mix.

The discipline, along with an insatiable work ethic, lies at the heart of the competitive landscape that players face from within the country itself.  While there have been glimpses from plaers from other countries the South Korean juggernaut remains, thus far, intact.



The distance golf balls travel – any action likely by R&A / USGA?

For the last several years the USGA and R&A have put forward a comprehensive outreach effort seeking comments on the impact the modern golf ball travels. In 1992, the average drive on the PGA Tour was 260.52. By 2018 that figure had skyrocketed to 295.29 – a gain of 13%. The impact has meant lengthening of key courses for the biggest of events, more water used to keep the playing areas green and a corresponding increase in the time it takes to complete a round because of the added yardage.

Image by bedrck from Pixabay
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The athleticism of players at the highest of levels has clearly accelerated causing elite players to swing clubs faster and more accurately.swing clubs faster. Curbing the golf ball has been advocated by a number of leading golf figures — most notably Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

To date, the USGA & R&A have been loathe in doing anything? Will something meaningful happen in 2020? Could a rollback prompt the major stakeholders — notably golf ball companies — from taking legal steps to preserve their market share? Does bifurcation between what the tour professionals play and what average players play hurt or help the sport? The role distance plays has clearly supplanted accuracy and the issue is whether the two joint rules making bodes will do anything of consequence to bring such forces back into alignment.


Part 2

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