‘Twas the column before Christmas. Well, what’s left of Christmas. Look, there’s the festive season lying over there, ripped and crumpled in the corner, like a ruinous scorecard riddled with bogeys, double-bogeys, three-putts, mishits, shanks, hooks, slices, duffs, debris and disasters. All of which is an elaborate, golf—themed way of saying 2020 has been bloomin’ awful. Amid the general wretchedness, though, this Royal & Ancient game rose from the pandemic and gave us some much-needed cheer.


When lockdown kicked in back in March, and golf courses were closed, the widespread, agonised wailing was noisier than an angle grinder catching the toe of a shrieking banshee. Many feared some clubs, already eking out a hand-to-mouth existence, would never re-open while others would simply wither on the vine. The opposite happened, of course. When restrictions were lifted, golf, a perfect pursuit for these physically-distanced times, thrived and clubs got the kind of shot in the arm that could’ve been developed in the Pfizer/BioNtech laboratory. Building on the surge of interest will be important in the months ahead. In 2020, when many of our comforting, routine pleasures were seized away, we cherished the normality that golf afforded us like never before.


Talk about flying in under the radar. When Sophia Popov won the AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon, those manning the air traffic control centre at nearby Prestwick probably started dunting their computers and contraptions to make sure things were working properly. A lowly 304th in the world, and with no status on the LPGA Tour, Popov had been on the brink of quitting golf after struggling with Lyme disease. She arrived in Ayrshire just in time for one practice round but she ended up winning by two shots. It was a thrilling, uplifting story for the ages and one that highlighted, yet again, golf’s wonderful unpredictability.


That we got to enjoy tournament golf on a whole raft of fronts spoke volumes for the tireless efforts and resilience of those steering the various ships. July just wasn’t the same without The Open but we got a Masters in November to warm our winter instead of rejoicing in its traditional rite of spring and a US Women’s Open in December. 

While many third-tier tours were wiped out, the over-50s scene in Europe was binned and the amateur circuit decimated, the admirable work of Paul Lawrie, Alan Tait and John Henry provided playing opportunities to many in Scotland while Justin Rose’s Ladies Series was a valued addition to a ravaged women’s schedule.

The salvage operation to get the main European Tour up-and-running, meanwhile, was akin to raising a maritime wreck. Under hefty, logistical duress, organisers managed to pack in over 20 international events from July, with 15 formed from scratch, while strict measures, a £3m health strategy and more bubbles than an explosion at a Prosecco plant kept all and sundry safe and secure. It was a terrific effort in tumultuous times.


Nobody generated more headlines in the golfing year than Bryson DeChambeau. If he wasn’t beefing up his body with an extraordinary regime here then he was booming away drives in excess of 400 yards there. His eye-popping, stomach-busting diet, meanwhile, evoked visions of him simply lying on his back, opening his mouth and allowing the contents of an entire supermarket to be shovelled down his throat. With the kind of vast feasts that used to be the reserve of insane Roman emperors – he would have four eggs, five slabs of bacon, reams of toast and two protein shakes for breakfast – DeChambeau went from 195lbs to 240. The proof was in the pudding – or puddings – as bulked up Bryson romped to a maiden major win in the US Open. His bold statements of intent came unstuck at the Masters as he was humbled amid the hype and hubris but, love him or loathe him, there was no getting away from him in 2020.


In Robert MacIntyre and Martin Laird, we got to enjoy some some tartan-tinged silver linings amid the clouds of coronavirus. Glasgow exile Laird ended his seven-year drought on the PGA Tour with a play-off win in the Shriners Open while MacIntyre was one of 14 first-time winners on the European Tour. Laird was 351st in the world prior to his victory but he thrust himself back into the spotlight with the fourth PGA Tour title of his career. To have such a haul on the world’s most formidable circuit is a mighty achievement which should never be underestimated. MacIntyre, meanwhile, took a while to get going in a difficult year but a breakthrough win in Cyprus, which took him to the brink of the world’s top-50, showed just what a brilliant talent he is.

Let’s hope there are more bright days to come for MacIntyre, Laird and all our golfing Scots. And for the rest of us? Well, as Vera Lynn sang, ‘it’s a lovely day tomorrow’. So, keep positive, stay safe and Merry Christmas to you all.