Turbulent 2020 brought unprecedented challenges to the golfing world but there is renewed optimism for more normal playing in 2021. ANDRE HUISAMEN highlights five big aspects to look forward to.
144 days! That’s how long Dustin Johnson will be donning the Green Jacket following his victory at the ‘November Masters’ last year. The lengthy postponement of the 2020 event was indeed one of the big concerns in the game amid the Covid-19 pandemic. But, the new year promises a more traditional time slot for Augusta. Johnson’s title defence begins on 8 April, when competitors are again likely to roam the famous course in front of empty galleries.
In 2020 there was no lifting of the famous Claret Jug following the cancellation of the Open Championship for the first time since World War II. The R&A confirmed that Royal St George’s in Kent will still go ahead as venue for the 149th edition of the Open where the best of the best in golf will challenge for the coveted trophy once again. As the only Major not to go ahead last year, this year’s event will add some spice, especially in anticipation of the 150-year milestone at St Andrews in 2022.
The biggest disappointment of last year arguably came with the postponement of the Ryder Cup. It was inevitable that the event would be moved due to the importance of crowd involvement, and now we are set for a cracking buildup to one of the great rivalries in sport. Whistling Straits in Wisconsin will be the setting where, hopefully, thousands of vocal American and European spectators will gather. The event is scheduled to take place from 24-26 September.
Traditional Nedbank Golf Challenge
On the local front, the cancellation of the 2020 Nedbank Golf Challenge was a big blow for passionate South African golf fans. The Sunshine Tour and GolfRSA did an excellent job to resume the local schedule and managed to safely accommodate the ‘Summer Swing’ of the European Tour with three world-class events. But, Africa’s Major remains the heartbeat of excitement for golf in this country and its absence was felt last year. If all goes well in South Africa and further Covid-19 spreading is significantly combated, Sun City should once again welcome the best European Tour players at the end of the year.
Return of patrons
All in all, like most other sports, golf feels insufficient and empty without the presence of spectators. No matter where the professionals are playing, from Augusta to St Andrews, Pebble Beach to Dubai, Wentworth to the Gary Player Country Club, golf isn’t the same without fans. A lot has happened over the past 12 months and the global strides made to overcome the challenges of the pandemic are encouraging. None of the above-mentioned events will be relevant without the involvement of large crowds and their return is of the utmost importance for the game this year.