Stories of the year
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Biggest golf stories of 2020

A look at some of the game's top newsmakers in a year that played out like no other season

Stories of the year
Well, we made it.

The year 2020 started typically as in any other: full of expectation. By no stretch of the imagination, though, did we ever expect a year in which golf would take a three-month hiatus due to a pandemic, the Grand Slam would be more like the Triple Crown and the Masters would be played in November.

There was no British Open, but there was plenty of Bryson DeChambeau to talk about. There was no Ryder Cup, but there were plenty of COVID-19 storylines. And the year's majors still managed to delight, even if they were bunched together in the second half of the year. Collin Morikawa, DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson dominated the men's majors in their own respective ways, and Sophia Popov, Mirim Lee and A Lim Kim were unlikely winners of the women's majors.

Yes, somehow golf managed to get through the year. Here is a look at 2020's top stories as compiled by Morning Read.

 (Photo Illustration: Morning Read)
Davis Love III in at CBS; Gary McCord, Peter Kostis out
Near the end of 2019, CBS announced that longtime golf analysts Gary McCord and Peter Kostis would not be included in the network's plans for 2020. Major champion Davis Love III was being added, along with noted instructor Mark Immelman, as CBS intended to pursue a younger audience. Morning Read contributor John Hawkins needed only three telecasts to deem The Eye's broadcasts as having lost their way.

> Read: If you like vanilla, you'll love CBS' new lineup
 (Photo: GolfFile | Ken Murray)
PGA Tour pulls plug on Players Championship
In mid-March, the entire country was just beginning to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. There were more questions than answers. The PGA Tour's Players Championship week typified the uncertainty. On Monday, the Players was all systems go, but around the country events of all forms were starting to err on the side of caution and shutting down. Late on Thursday morning, while players were well into the first round, the Tour announced that all non-essential personnel would be banned for the remainder of the tournament, starting on Friday. By early evening, the ban was expanded to include fans. And then at bedtime, the Tour canceled the remainder of the Players, along with any other PGA Tour-related event for three weeks. The shutdown would last three months.

> Read: PGA Tour reverses itself, cancels Players Championship
 (Photo: GolfFile | Fran Caffrey)
GOATs put on a pandemic show
In what now can be considered the early months of the pandemic, a quartet of golf and footballs GOATs — Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady — paired up for "The Match," an 18-hole charity event at Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla. Woods and Manning teamed for the victory, but the real winners were coronavirus relief — $20 million was raised — and television viewers. The golf was not always stellar, but the interplay of the various personalities raised this exhibition into consideration as MEE: most entertaining ever.

> Read: PGA Tour, NFL icons raise bar for hit-and-giggle golf
 (Photo: Turner Sports)
PGA Tour returns after 3-month hiatus
Not since the first round of the Players Championship nearly three months earlier had a competitive shot been struck on the PGA Tour. So, imagine the buildup for the rather pedestrian Charles Schwab Challenge, which was held at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. The tournament had the look of a major championship as the world's top five and 15 of the top 20 were on hand. The only thing missing other than the galleries was Tiger Woods. Ultimately, Daniel Berger defeated Collin Morikawa in a playoff, while Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Rose were among a foursome that finished a shot back.

> Read: 2020 Colonial: It's this season's 1st major
 (Photo: GolfFile | Ken Murray)
What has become of Tiger Woods?
Sure, Tiger Woods won the 2019 Masters, but for all intent and purpose, he's becoming a ceremonial player, as Morning Read contributor Mike Purkey surmises. Woods, 44, begrudgingly and cryptically agrees. "Aging is not fun," he said at the Memorial. “Early on in my career, I thought it was fantastic because I was getting better and better and better, and now I'm just trying to hold on.” And even that continues to make him a compelling story. 

> Read: The new Tiger Woods: Rarely seen, cryptically heard
 (Photo: Scott Halleran)
Collin Morikawa emerges on grand stage
By lifting the Wanamaker Trophy for winning the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in August, Collin Morikawa, 23, solidified himself as one of the PGA Tour's ascending young stars. Morikawa joined the PGA Tour in June 2019 and made the cut in his first 22 starts, three shy of Tiger Woods' 25-cut streak to start his career. Morikawa already has three victories, but the PGA was his finest work. Morikawa shot 65-64 on the weekend, including what CBS analyst Frank Nobilo described as "the shot of his life" during the final round, a drive that faded around the corner at the 294-yard, par-4 16th hole and stopped 7 feet, 1 inch shy of being an ace. 

> Read: 2020 PGA Championship: Collin Morikawa wins a thriller
 (Photo: GolfFile | Ken Murray)
From looper to major winner in a month
When the British Women's Open began on Aug. 20, there was no plausible reason to consider Sophia Popov as a contender. Popov, 28, who was born in the United States and holds dual citizenship in Germany, ranked No. 304 in the world, had never won a tournament on a major professional tour and actually carried another player's bag just three weeks earlier. Yet for one week at Scotland's Royal Troon Golf Club, everything came together for Popov. She slept on the 54-hole lead, survived a bogey on the final round's first hole to shoot 68 and won by two strokes.

> Read: Sophia Popov goes from caddie to LPGA major champion
 (Photo: R&A)
Bryson DeChambeau powers way to U.S. Open title
Throughout 2020, Bryson DeChambeau created a buzz. First, it was his Hulk-esque transformation through the addition of 40 pounds of body mass. Then, it was how his physique and new training regime translated into prodigious drives as he began to dismantle how certain holes were designed to be played. But a question remained: Could he win a major? Before the U.S. Open, he only had one win in 2020, and his only major finish was a T-4 at the PGA Championship. In early September, DeChambeau quelled his critics by making a mockery of a traditionally rugged Winged Foot Golf Club and winning the U.S. Open. In winning his first major championship, DeChambeau, 27, overcame a two-shot, 54-hole deficit to shoot a final-round 67 (the only under-par final round) and win by six strokes. 

> Read: 2020 U.S. Open: It's Bryson DeChambeau by a long shot
 (Photo: USGA | Robert Beck)
Mirim Lee comes up clutch
There might not be a more dramatic way to win a tournament than a player holing out to break a tie. Mirim Lee's finish at the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., certainly had a similar flair. On the 18th hole of the final round, the South Korean chipped in from off the green to force a playoff with American Nelly Korda and Canadian Brooke Henderson. Lee then made birdie on the first playoff hole to win her first major title and fourth LPGA title, her first since 2017.

> Read: There's more to come for Nelly Korda
 (Photo: GolfFile | Ken Murray)
The making of Bryson DeChambeau
Ever since Bryson DeChambeau won the NCAA Championship and the U.S. Amateur in 2015 to become only the fifth player to win both titles in the same year, he has been viewed as being a little eccentric. Maybe it is because he uses irons and wedges that are the same length. Or perhaps it was how he analyzes a golf course like studying for a chemical engineering exam. Five PGA Tour wins through 2019 and a No. 5 world ranking in 2018 were additional signs of his immense talent.

In 2020, DeChambeau emerged as a different-looking man. By the summer, he had added 40 pounds of weight and muscle since the end of the 2019 season, while also improving his flexibility. His transformation had him driving the ball ridiculous lengths (he won the tour driving title with a 322.1 average). The early thought was that we was going to be unbeatable. And his first four finishes post-pandemic were noteworthy: T-3, T-6, T-8, win. Then he sputtered, and the skeptics of his approach grew.

In September, at the U.S. Open, DeChambeau methodically carved apart a Winged Foot Golf Club layout that traditionally had been considered impenetrable in previous U.S. Opens. A final-round 67 rallied him from two strokes back after 54 holes to winning by six strokes. His winning score was 11 shots better than Geoff Ogilvy’s total in the 2006 U.S. Open and 13 strokes better than Hale Irwin from 1974’s “Massacre at Winged Foot.”

> Read: With Bryson DeChambeau it's paralysis by analysis
 (Photo: GolfFile | Scott Halleran)
Change in air at Golf Channel
Since its inception in 1995, Golf Channel has become a staple of most golfers' weekly viewing diets. The cable network evolved to a point at which it might have become bloated, Morning Read contributor John Hawkins contends, and, as a result, the channel's website will be trimmed substantially. Viewers might not see any drop in the on-air coverage starting in 2021, but any time there is a reduction of approximately 400 staffers and the website is integrated into the parent company's online operation, there is bound to be a negative residual effect. 

> Read: Changes at Golf Channel could get a fuzzy reception
 (Photo: Jessica Danser | Golf Channel)
Dustin Johnson lets game, emotions flow
Dustin Johnson never has been one to exude much emotion. As a result, he is sometimes characterized as aloof or lacking in competitive drive. What never has been called into question is Johnson's talent, which has led him to win 24 times on the PGA Tour, including this year's Tour Championship. In an almost surreal setting — the Masters being played at Augusta National Golf Club in November, in front of no spectators — Johnson once again displayed why he is considered the game's best player. He shot a Masters-record 20-under 268 to win the green jacket by five strokes. During the awards ceremony and post-tournament interviews, Johnson unabashedly let his emotions flow. With tears in his eyes, Johnson struggled to articulate just how much his second major meant. “It’s an incredible feeling," Johnson said. "Dreaming about winning the Masters as a kid and having Tiger [Woods] put the green jacket on you; it still feels like a dream.”

> Read: 2020 Masters: Dustin Johnson wins green jacket in style
 (Photo: GolfFile | Scott Halleran)
Welcome to America
Hello, America. If, before the U.S. Women's Open, you had not heard of A Lim Kim, then you probably were not alone. By the following Monday, Kim at least had you asking "Who?" Kim, 25, of South Korea, made her American debut in grand fashion. She made birdie on the final three holes at Champions Golf Club in Houston to win the 75th U.S. Women's Open by a stroke over fellow South Korean Jin Young Ko and American Amy Olson.

Many might not have heard of the 28-year-old Olson, either. Though she had squandered a chance to win the 2018 Evian Championship by making a double bogey on the 72nd hole to lose by a stroke, she never had won on the LPGA. Olson led after the opening round and was notified after the third round that her father-in-law had unexpectedly died. She held a two-stroke lead with five holes to play in Monday's final round, but Kim's late heroics edged Olson.

> Read: A Lim Kim pulls off a stunner
 (Photo: Simon Bruty | USGA)
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