Nick Rodger: In a year that has been like no other, golf has provided us with some much needed support.

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NICK RODGERRESS

It was the Before Christmas column. What’s left of Christmas now? Look, over there in the corner is Christmas, ripped and crumpled like a ruinous scorecard, littered with bogeys, double-bogeys, three-putts, mishits, shanks, hooks, cuts, duffs, disasters and rubble. It’s all a complex, golf-specific way of saying that 2020 was bloody bad. This Royal & Ancient game, however, has risen from the pandemic to offer us some much-needed cheer in the midst of general misery.

GOLF Comes Out of Darkness

The widespread, agonized wailing was louder than an angle grinder catching the toe of a screeching banshee when the lockdown struck in March and golf courses closed down. Many worried that some clubs would never reopen, already living hand-to-mouth lives, while others would just wither away. Of course, the reverse was real. Golf, a great occupation for this physically distant period, flourished when the constraints were lifted, and clubs got the kind of boost that could have been produced in a Pfizer/BioNtech lab. It will be necessary to build upon the wave of interest in the months ahead. We enjoyed the normalcy that golf gave us like never before in 2020, when many of our soothing, routine pleasures were stripped away.

From the cold, POPOV is coming in

Dream about flying below the radar. When Sophia Popov won the Royal Troon AIG Women’s Open, the workers at the nearby Prestwick flight control center presumably started scanning their computers and equipment to ensure that everything was functioning properly. Rated low 304th in the world and without a status on the LPGA Circuit, after dealing with Lyme disease, Popov was on the verge of leaving golf. Just in time for a practice round, she arrived in Ayrshire, but ended up winning by two strokes. For the ages, it was an entertaining, uplifting tale and one that showed the wonderful unpredictability of golf once more.

IN Tough TIMES PERSEVERANCE

For the tireless commitment and endurance of those who steered the different ships, that we were able to enjoy tournament golf on a variety of fronts spoke volumes. Without the Open, July wasn’t the same, but in November we got a Masters to warm up our winter rather than enjoy the usual spring rite, and in December, the US Women’s Open.

The admirable work of Paul Lawrie, Alan Tait and John Henry offered opportunities for many in Scotland, though Justin Rose’s Ladies Series was a valuable addition to a ravaged women’s calendar, even though many third-class tours were wiped out, the over-50s scene in Europe was dumped and the amateur circuit decimated.

The rescue operation to get the European Tour back up and running, meanwhile, was close to salvaging a shipwreck. Starting in July, organizers managed to stage more than 20 international events under great logistical pressure, 15 of them from scratch, though strict controls, a 3 million-pound health strategy and more bubbles than an explosion in a Prosecco plant kept everything and everything safe. In stormy times, it was a terrific achievement.

BRYSON Offers US FOOD FOR Thought

This golf year, no one made more headlines than Bryson DeChambeau. When he wasn’t pumping his body up here with an exceptional regime, he was pushing more than 400-yard drives away. His incredible, stomach-expanding diet evoked images of him literally lying on his back, opening his mouth and shoving down his throat the contents of an entire supermarket. DeChambeau went from 195 pounds to 240. With the sort of massive feasts once reserved for insane Roman emperors – he ate four eggs, five bacon strips, toast oodles and two protein shakes for breakfast – DeChambeau went from 195 pounds to 240. As the overweight Bryson charged to his first major win at the US Open, the proof was in the pudding – or puddings. When he was humbled amid the hype and hubris, his bold declarations of intent failed at the Masters, however, love him or loathe him, there was no escape from him in 2020.

LIVING SCOTSMEN on both sides of the Pond.

We shared some Scottish-themed silver linings among the coronavirus clouds with Robert MacIntyre and Martin Laird. With a Shriners Open playoff victory, the exiled Glaswegian Laird ended his seven-year slump on the PGA Tour, though MacIntyre had one of 14 first-time victories.

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