ATLANTA, GEORGIA | Now it starts all over again.
After an offseason that lasted three days, a new PGA Tour season begins this week at the Safeway Open in Napa, California, kicking off a 50-event schedule that will feature six – yes, six – major championships plus the Olympics and the Ryder Cup.
Not only is the 2020-21 season the biggest in terms of actual tournaments slotted into the schedule, it may be the most peculiar considering the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which left a three-month hole in the season that ended Monday at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
In one sense, the new season is what this past season was to have been with the Olympics in Japan and Whistling Straits hosting the Ryder Cup for the first time. It looks and will feel different, at least until early 2021 when it’s possible the rhythm of the tour schedule will be more familiar.
The next two-plus months not only start a new season they feature two major championships, both of which are slotted in unfamiliar spots.
The U.S. Open at Winged Foot next week is setting up to be a classically rugged edition of the national championship. The last time the U.S. Open was played there, Geoff Ogilvy won with a 5-over-par total and preliminary reports from Winged Foot suggest an above-par score could win again.
If the U.S. Open in September is odd, the Masters in mid-November is downright strange. Not only does the weather tend to be cooler in Augusta that time of the year, the course is likely to play softer. The famous dogwood and azalea blossoms of springtime will be replaced by more rustic, fall tones while the absence of patrons will dramatically change the look and feel of the Masters.
How often will the top players tee it up between now and the end of the year?
They’ll be at the two major championships for sure and it’s likely the two Asian events that have been moved to the United States – the C.J. Cup at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas and the Zozo Championship at Sherwood Country Club near Los Angeles – will have powerhouse fields with many of the top 20 players in the world playing both.
It starts this week in the California wine country where Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth are in the field with the U.S. Open looming like the New York City skyline on the horizon.
Ron Green Jr.