Nick Rodger: Hopefully a jam-packed year holds a lot in store for golf.


Nick Rodger Nick Rodger

THINGS can only get better. And again then? I do have my doubts about the coming year, with the kind of inherent pessimism that would make Private Frazer from Dad’s Army look like a bright beacon of positive thought.

If 2020 was an annus horribilis, 2021 may be an annus awfulis of equivalent blood. Yesterday, as I shuffled, jumped and shook across an ice-covered sidewalk with about as much patience and trust as Captain Hook trying to apply a soothing salve to an especially sensitive spot, that’s what I muttered and cursed to myself.

The past few months have been downright treacherous, but with the PGA Tour season resuming this week, during a potentially jam-packed year of majors, team matches and an Olympic assignment, golf is preparing to square its shoulders and regain full momentum.

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That’s the issue here, to be there or not to be there,

With its wildly fluctuating fortunes, match play golf has always been a beautifully tempting show, captivating and fascinating. For instance, how many of you have ever led by two strokes, only to find your opponent reeling off a few powerful eights and claiming victory?

The 2021 calendar – weather permitting – will include a variety of match play tournaments, from the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup to the Walker Cup and Curtis Cup, apart from the unfortunate hacking at our level. It remains to be seen if fans will be in attendance.

In particular, the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup draw on spectator energy like nothing else in golf. Raw emotion is wanted. Suddenly, players who could have been kept back for much of the year are bursting out of their straitjackets. As a whole, golf does the same. We can make no promises in these tumultuous times, however.

For example, organizers of The Masters have postponed advance ticket sales for the April event, while the different tours will proceed with caution and restricted guests. As far away as one of Bryson DeChambeau’s rake rides, the thought of being behind the ropes again in the thousands always sounds. Hopefully, even though they are more quiet than turbulent, the different tournaments will proceed unimpeded in 2021.

As he sits out next year’s Open at St. George’s, Paul Lawrie is aiming at St. Andrews.


Besides stuff like death, taxes and even a landslide on the Rest And Be Grateful in heavy rain, another assurance of life is the issue of ardent golf enthusiasts, “Will Tiger Woods win another major?”

In 2019, when Tiger won Major No. 15 at Augusta, it heralded his attack on the record of 18 wins by Jack Nicklaus. Or we thought so. It was Woods’ miraculous performance, but miracles don’t occur very often. Woods enters 2021 as a 45-year-old. Just five men have won a major at 45 or older in the history of golf. Every now and then, you can beat Old Man Par, but Auld Faither Time can be a harder adversary to overcome.

Only adding to his 82 Tour wins, forgetting to win a major would take a Herculean effort for a man whose body continues to creak and groan like a galleon at sea.

In a pandemic-plagued 2019 that saw him post one top-10 finish and drop from sixth in the world to 41st, Woods played only nine times. This is an age of young stars that are fast-rising. In 2019, Matt Wolff, Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa all turned pro and are now in the world’s top-15, with six wins, including a major, among them. Woods may not win again, but the interest in him will always be sky-high, everywhere he plays. That is another of the certainties of life.

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The R&A and USGA’s Distance Insights Report, a thick book of data, statistical analysis, graphs, pie charts and tables, makes the Brexit trade deal document look about as intellectually taxing as the Mr. Men books by comparison.

In March, the game’s guardians will release an update on the thorny issue of batting distances, which they described last year as “detrimental to the long-term future of the game.”

Is the update going to disclose a critical measure? Could the bifurcation – various amateur and pro equipment rules


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