The football season
is creeping every closer to starting our road to normalcy, will be played under significantly modified conditions, has been cancelled for 12 months, is in such limbo, I’m turning my eyes to golf. This time of year would normally be getting ramped up for the final major of the year, the PGA Championship, and the stretch run for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Yet the Year 2020 decided to jackslap those plans back to the days of Mashie Niblicks and Featheries. So where does the Tour stand now?
The Masters scheduled for early April is now November 12-15. The US Open, annually held on Father’s Day weekend, has been moved to September 17-20 (Winged Foot). The PGA Championship which used to held in August but was moved to May starting this year, is still planning on August 6 (Harding Park). This would make it the only Major to be competed in the 2019-2020 season. The British Open, aka Open Championship for you purists, was flat out canceled. And there are no guarantees any of these will still be held, though the return of professional golf has been relatively unmarred by coronavirus outbreaks and positive tests. Having no fans in attendance and a mobile bubble-ish type protocol seems to help. I think a lot of these protocols translate to college football, by the way.
That also means, IF things stay as they are and THEN return to normal in 2021, we will have... PGA Championship - August 2020
US Open - September 2020
Masters - November 2020
Masters - April 2021
PGA Championship - May 2021
US Open - June 2021
British Open - July 2021.
...7 majors in 11 months, with two Masters tourneys in a 6 month span. Sprinkle in the Playoffs and Tour Championship, a Players Championship, some World Golf Championships, and some prime time golf in Hawaii, and you’ve got more good TV golf than anyone could really ask for.
The Tour is about to conduct it’s ninth tournament since the restart, and something like the 28th tournament of the 2019-2020 season. By my count, 5 of those restart events have had a player test positive before, or during, the tournament, with 7 players testing positive in total. This includes Grayson Murray who withdrew Monday from this week’s 3M Open - and yes, he had symptoms. It also includes Georgia alum Harris English, who withdrew from the Rocket Mortgage Classic June 29, yet competed in last week’s Memorial Tournament in Ohio after serving a 10 day quarantine. English and two others returned from quarantine, and played with each other the first two days and as singles on the weekend.
Former Bulldog Keith Mitchell did get to defend his 2019 Honda Classic win in March (he missed the cut), yet Kevin Kisner was denied his chance to repeat at the Dell Technologies Match Play. Classic City Canine Brendon Todd won twice last fall, and was leading the Travelers before a disastrous back nine let Dustin Johnson take the trophy. But each week, the PGA Tour field is replete with former Bulldogs, and we’ve got 8 boys to root for in the Twin Cities for this week’s 3M Open.
Keith Mitchell is 102nd in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) and 86th in FedEx Cup. He’s made 9 cuts with a lone top 10.
Brian Harman is 134th in OWGR yet 61st in FedEx Cup. This is due to a 3rd place finish, and top 25 finishes in half of his 12 made cuts.
Hudson Swafford is 302nd in the world and 156th in FedEx Cup. He’s only made 5 of 9 cuts, so he could use a good finish this week.
Russell Henley is 170th in the world and 109th in FedEx Cup. He does have 2 top 10s, but only 8 made cuts, so it’s been a mixed bag.
Harris English is 126th OWGR, and 26th in FedEx Cup. The world ranking is low due to a bad couple of years, but the high FedEx ranking is due to a strong start to his 2019-20 season, where he had 4 top 6 finishes in his first 5 tourneys. He’s got two straight top 20s since the restart, including a T13 last week at the Memorial (while playing in a weird isolated status due to Tour protocols).
Sepp Straka is 146th in the world, and 65th in FedEx Cup. In only his 2nd full PGA Tour season, Straka is making strides. Yet not making that many cuts - 12 of 25 this year. Then again, he’s got 5 top 25 finishes in those 12 cuts and he’s made just shy of $1 million in prize money thus far.
Bubba Watson is 59th worldwide, and 58th in FedEx Cup. Oh Bubba... if only we could know what’s going through that CBD-laced, Oakley sunglass wrapped, PING visor laden head of yours. The lanky lefty has only 9 made cuts (in 15 starts), but 4 top 25s and 3 of those top 10 finishes. Mercurial? Yep.
Chris Kirk is 259 in OWGR and 200th in FedEx Cup. This from a formerly perennial top 50 in the world player. And also one who went through struggles with anxiety and sobriety, taking a break from professional golf to seek treatment. There are several articles written about the proud Georgia Bulldog, but I would recommend this podcast from No Laying Up. You will get much more than the mental health issues and hear about his 40 acre spread outside Athens, and some fun moments in his pro career. Very much worth 55 minutes of your time.
Some key things to know about the tournament this week:
Tournament: 3M Open
Course: TPC Twin Cities (in Blain, MN just outside of Minneapolis) 7,431 yards, par 71
Defending Champion: Matthew Wolff. The Okie State Cowboy was just a few weeks removed from having won the NCAA Individual Championship and turning pro when he got into the field on a sponsor’s exemption. He made a tricky eagle putt on the final hole to beat fellow rookie Colin Morikawa and former NCAA Champ Bryson DeChambeau.
Fun Fact: Two other golfers (besides Wolff) have won the NCAA Individual Championship and a PGA Tour event in the same year: Ben Crenshaw (Texas) and Tiger Woods (Stanford). Seven Green Jackets between them. No pressure, Matty boy, no pressure.
TV Times: Thursday-Friday, 2:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday 1 p.m.-3 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (CBS).
So that’s where we’re at in this Covid-canceled/postponed/rescheduled/patron-less golf world. Tune in to watch ‘Dawgs chasing little white balls, and as always...