News & Opinion

A quizzical year calls for a year-end golf quiz

Bernhard Langer at 2020 Masters
At 63, Bernhard Langer continues to defy the aging process, turning back the clock on one of golf’s biggest stages.

Think you've got the answers from a 2020 full of questions? Then show us, but remember: Just as in golf, we're keeping score

Don’t sweat the small stuff but … here are items small and large worth remembering from golf in 2020, the year that keeps on giving:

1) Which Bryson DeChambeau blast in 2020 was most impressive: The launch-monitor reading that showed a 400-yard carry; the 375-yarder in the fairway at Winged Foot’s ninth hole during the U.S. Open’s final round (and it was 13 yards behind Matthew Wolff’s drive); or the 4-iron hit to 12 feet and eagle on the 300-yard, par-4 15th hole during the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open?
a) The 400-yard launch-monitor carry. Golf’s governing bodies and even Happy Gilmore crapped their pants.
b) A 300-yard 4-iron? A 300-yard 4-iron? Oops, I just crapped my pants.
c) The Winged Foot shot, even though DeChambeau hit it 375 after months of weightlifting and adding 40 pounds of muscle while the guy who hit it 388 did no such things.
d) None of the above. DeChambeau’s biggest blast was at the Rocket Mortgage Classic when he reamed out a TV cameraman for focusing on him after a bad shot bunker shot, filming his angry reaction and possibly “damaging my brand.”

2) Which number was more significant in 2020?
a) 59. What Scottie Scheffler posted in the second round at the Northern Trust, joining an exclusive (but ever-less-so) club.
b) 55. Yeah, just ask Alexander Hughes, who had a hole-in-one and two other eagles en route to this score in August during a recreational round at South Lakes GC in Jenks, Okla. FYI, his chip shot for 54 burned the lip at the 18th.
c) 341.1. How many yards South Africa’s Wilco Nienaber averaged per drive on the European Tour.
d) 0. The number of five-year exemptions Sophia Popov received for winning the Women’s British Open because she wasn’t an LPGA member when she won, and the number of spots she earned in the 2021 ANA Inspiration, the LPGA’s first major of the year.

3) What was Bernhard Langer’s greatest achievement in 2020?
a) Becoming the oldest player (at 63) to make a Masters cut, breaking Tommie Aaron’s record by about a month.
b) Shooting 71 to playing competitor Bryson DeChambeau’s 73 in the Masters final round while using six hybrids and two 3-woods for approach shots into par-4 greens.
c) Finishing the Masters at 3 under, one shot better than DeChambeau.
d) Winning the Cologuard Classic, his 41st Champions Tour victory and extending his streak to 14 straight seasons with at least one senior victory.
e) Posting 68, the lowest first-round Masters score of his career.

4. Which best characterizes the reigns of the five players who attained No. 1 in the world golf rankings in 2020?
a) Brooks Koepka (38 weeks, ended Feb. 8): He was The Man at every major last year until he hurt his left knee; now he posts scantily-clad beach videos with his girlfriend and buddies.
b) Rory McIlroy (11 weeks, July 18): Eleven weeks? McIlroy hasn’t won anything, anywhere in more than a year. A very high-ranking administration official (you’ll never guess) demands a recount of how he got to No. 1.
c) Jon Rahm (2 weeks, Aug 1): He got a lot of mileage for the 66-foot putt winning putt at the BMW Championship, which is odd because BMWs aren’t known for good mileage.
d) Justin Thomas (1 week, Aug. 8): Keep trying, li’l fella.
e) Dustin Johnson (17 weeks, now): He’s an intimidating stud after his Masters win. No other player wants to see his name on the leaderboard.

Sophia Popov wins 2020 Women's British Open
Sophia Popov shows at the Women’s British Open, which she entered at No. 304 in the world ranking, that anybody can win in golf.

5. Rank all eight major championships played on the PGA, LPGA and Champions tours in 2020, starting with the most memorable:
a) Masters. The November date was a first, Johnson’s scoring record was astounding and seeing Augusta National in the fall was a much-needed morale boost for us masked shut-ins.
b) U.S. Open. DeChambeau’s long-distance duel with Matthew Wolff made Winged Foot look puny.
c) PGA Championship. Collin Morikawa’s drive onto the 16th green for eagle at Harding Park was the shot of the year and a star-maker.
d) Women’s British Open. Sophia Popov, fresh off the Cactus and Symetra tours and ranked 304th in the world, was a delightful surprise winner at Royal Troon.
e) U.S. Women’s Open. Two Champions Golf Club courses played tough, and A Lim Kim won after heavy rains caused a Monday finish.
f) ANA Inspiration. Mirim Lee pitched in for eagle on the 72nd hole after a temporary blue fence behind the green kept her 5-wood shot from going into the water, then won a three-way playoff at Mission Hills.
g) Uhhh … can’t remember the other two.

6. Whose case of missing balls was most mystifying in 2020?
a) DeChambeau, whose drive left of the Masters’ third green apparently embedded in soft ground and led to a second-round triple bogey. On the plus side, quicksand pits could be a new way to defend par at Augusta National.
b) Harris English, whose opening tee shot in the U.S. Open’s final round caromed off a tree into the left rough. Spectators or alert marshals, had there been any, likely would’ve seen it, but a search party came up empty and English made double bogey, eventually finishing fourth.
c) Rickie Fowler.

7. Which was Dustin Johnson’s most manly move?
a) Shooting 30 under par to win the Northern Trust.
b) Capturing the FedEx Cup and its $15 million bonus.
c) Returning from a COVID-19 bout and an 11-day quarantine in Las Vegas and firing a record 20-under score to win the Masters.
d) Ending an 0-for-4 run with 54-hole leads in major championships.
e) Jabbing an elbow into the side of caddie-brother Austin so he’d quit crying before Dustin putted out on the Masters’ 72nd green.

8. What was golf’s most unlikely scenario?
a) Shane Lowry birdied the par-3 No. 12 during the Masters’ final round and beat Tiger Woods, the man with whom he was paired, by eight strokes on that hole.
b) A guy from Norway won two PGA Tour titles. Viktor Hovland sank clutch putts on the final greens to win the Puerto Rico Open and the Mayakoba Golf Classic.
c) A Tiger Woods 1996 trading card from Sports Illustrated for Kids sold at auction for $26,400, or about what Sports Illustrated, an obsolete monthly magazine, would be worth now at auction.
d) Playing in the Genesis Invitational two weeks after the death of basketball star Kobe Bryant, Woods hit his approach shot on the first green at Riviera Country Club to 24 feet 8 inches – the two jersey numbers Bryant wore during his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Even Woods later noted the coincidence.
e) Just hours after Hideki Matsuyama shot 63 in the opening round of the Players Championship, the event was canceled as concerns about the not-yet-fully-understood coronavirus blew up.

9. Who uttered golf’s line of the year?
a) “I think I look pretty good in green.” – Dustin Johnson, after winning the Masters
b) “When I’ve been in this position, I’ve capitalized. He’s only won one.” – Brooks Koepka, on his chances of catching Johnson, the 54-hole PGA Championship leader
c) “You’re right. I’m two short of a six-pack.” – Koepka, posting a photo of his four major-championship trophies on Twitter in response to DeChambeau’s poking Koepka about his own newly muscled-up physique
d) “I’m thinking of it as a par-67 course for me.” – DeChambeau, about Augusta National, where his 2-under finish was 18 over par by his measure
e) “I’ve seen Patrick Reed improve his lie, up close and personal, four times now.” – Peter Kostis, ex-CBS analyst, told the podcast “No Laying Up”

10. What was Tom Brady’s highlight from “The Match: Champions for Charity,” the fund-raiser in which he was paired with Phil Mickelson against Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning?
a) Holing a shot from 150 yards after taking a penalty drop earlier on the seventh hole.
b) Having his microphone pack fly off during the shot.
c) Splitting his pants when he reached down to retrieve his ball from the cup after his hole-out.
d) Crowing, “Shut your mouth, Chuck!” to TV analyst Charles Barkley, who’d been mercilessly trashing Brady for the first six holes.

Phil Mickelson at 2020 Saudi International
Now that he’s 50, Phil Mickelson sees the sand starting to slip through the hourglass on the PGA Tour, but he has had a blast playing against the old guys.

11. What grade does Phil Mickelson deserve for his play in 2020?
a) A legit A. He went 2-for-2 on the Champions Tour and had two top-3 finishes on the PGA Tour. Not bad for a 50-year-old.
b) A solid B. Playing against the seniors is like stealing for Mickelson. He had two chances to win real events but got outplayed in the final round by Nick Taylor – Nick Taylor! – at Pebble Beach and Justin Thomas in Memphis.
c) An average C. Mickelson closed with 74 at Pebble when he had a chance to win. It was windy, but c’mon, man. What happened to his iron game? He ranked 177th in greens hit in regulation. No wonder he always looked frustrated.
d) A deserving D. Mickelson was out of the FedEx Cup playoffs after two rounds, missing the cut at Northern Trust. Take away his two good weeks and it was an ugly year. He missed cuts in seven of the other 14 events and had only one other top-25 finish (a tie for 24th).

12. What was the oddest thing you’d all but forgotten about 2020?
a) Masters runner-up Cameron Smith became the first player to post all four rounds in the 60s at Augusta National. Please step back, Mr. Hogan and Mr. Nicklaus.
b) Adam Scott won the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, making up for the 2005 Nissan Open he won there that didn’t count as an official victory after it was shortened to 36 holes by rain.
c) Dustin Johnson, the obvious Player of the Year for the 2020 calendar, curiously shot 80-80 at the Memorial.
d) The PGA Tour played tournaments in back-to-back weeks at Muirfield Village Golf Club when the Workday Charity Open was inserted to make up for the COVID-19 shutdown that shuttered 10 weeks.
e) Tiger Woods was denied a pizza during the Farmers Insurance Open pro-am. The concession stand near the 13th tee wasn’t permitted to serve the pizzas until a routine health inspection was done, even if Tiger Woods wanted one, which he did. “We were looking for anything; we were starving,” Woods said of his pro-am team.

13. What was the least-likely venue on a tour schedule in 2020?
a) Latinoamerica Tour: Trump National Doral.
b) Mackenzie (formerly Canadian) Tour: Brainerd, Minn.
c) Latinoamerica Tour: Auburn University Golf Club.
d) Champions Tour: Marrakech, Morocco.

The correct answers (according to me):
1. d (Lighten up, Francis.)
2. c (341.1 yards. Anybody home, governing bodies?)
3. b (Watch and learn, kid.)
4. e
5. a, b, c, f, d, e
6. c
7. c (Sorry, Austin, but he beat COVID-19 and Augusta National.)
8. a (You’ll never see Woods make another 10.)
9. c (Rock crushes scissors; Koepka crushes DeChambeau.)
10. d (Brady becomes the first to silence Barkley.)
11. c (Because we’re feeling charitable, Phil.)
12. e (Give the man the pizza, Governor!)
13. a (Trump wins, with no recount.)

Sign up to receive the Morning Read newsletter, along with Where To Golf Next and The Equipment Insider.