It’s time to get the crystal ball out and look ahead to the golfing year, which promises to be exciting with both a Ryder Cup and Olympics in the mix. Here are my predictions for 2020:
n It’s sixth-time lucky for Rory McIlroy as he joins Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as a member of the career Grand Slam club by slipping into a Green Jacket for the first time. Oozing with the confidence he started building up towards the end of his 2019 campaign, McIlroy produces a polished performance to come out on top in the season’s opening major. Twelve months after his sensational return to winning ways in the game’s biggest events, Tiger Woods delivers a stout title defence, but McIlroy is not to be denied as he finally exorcises his demons from 2011 at the Georgia venue.
US PGA Championship
n Justin Thomas claims the title for the second time in four years, using his brilliant wedge game to devastating effect as he storms to victory at Harding Park in San Francisco. The American holds off Spaniard Jon Rahm to get his hands back on the Wanamaker Trophy as both players step up their challenge to become world No 1 for the first time.
n In the event’s first visit to Winged Foot since Colin Montgomerie let the title slip from his grasp in 2006, Xander Schauffele becomes a first-time major winner. The ever-improving American holds off compatriot and two-time champion Brooks Koepka as Woods suffers a rare disappointment in 2020 by missing the cut, as he did at the same venue after two rounds of 76 14 years ago.
n England’s drought in the event finally ends as Tommy Fleetwood becomes the first player from south of the Border to claim the Claret Jug since Nick Faldo did the trick at Muirfield in 1992. Fleetwood’s success at Royal St George’s comes 12 months after he finished runner-up to Shane Lowry, who produces another strong display in the event to cement his place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team in September.
n Woods makes up for the disappointment of being unable to increase his tally of 15 majors during the year by adding a gold medal to his CV. Feeding off his success in the Zozo Championship on his previous visit to Japan, the 44-year-old denies Justin Rose a successful title defence as the Englishman has to settle for bronze on this occasion, with home player Hideki Matsuyama picking up the silver.
n Due to the terrain at Whistling Straits, it’s a tough week for both players and spectators, but the trophy stays in European hands after a hard-earned win for Padraig Harrington’s team. The Americans give a much better account of themselves on the banks of Lake Michigan than in France in 2018, but the visitors are inspired again by the Moliwood pairing of Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood. A rejuvenated Henrik Stenson is also a star performer for Harrington as he comes out on top against “Cheesehead” Steve Stricker.
n Aboyne’s Shannon McWilliam makes the Great Britain & Ireland team for the second match running and is joined on this occasion at Conwy in North Wales by Broomieknowe teenager, Hannah Darling. However, it’s a repeat of the 2019 Walker Cup over on the Wirral as the Americans, led by three-time Curtis Cup player Sarah LeBrun Ingram, produce a strong second-day performance to retain the trophy.
n Backing up a successful 2019 campaign, it’s another strong season for Scots on the circuit, with three titles falling to players flying the Saltire. One is a breakthrough success for last season’s Rookie of the Year, Bob MacIntyre, as the Oban left-hander goes from strength to strength while it is title triumph number four and two respectively for Richie Ramsay and Scott Jamieson during another campaign that sees Scots contending at the top of the leaderboard almost every week.
Ladies European Tour
n The circuit’s first campaign under the LPGA umbrella also proves fruitful for the Scottish contingent. In a non-Solheim Cup year, Catriona Matthew, pictured below left, re-discovers some of her old spark while Carly Booth kicks on after her return to winning ways last season. An increased number of events also helps bring out the best in the likes of Kylie Henry, Michele Thomson and Kelsey MacDonald after being hindered by prolonged periods of in activity in recent seasons on the circuit.
n Ewen Ferguson becomes the seventh Scot in three seasons to secure a step up to the European Tour while it is also an instant bounce back for Liam Johnston, who adds to his brace of victories on the second-tier circuit in 2018, as he also finishes in the top 20 – a change for this year after previously being the top 15 – in the Road to Mallorca Rankings.
n Twelve months after claiming the Rookie of the Year title, Paul Lawrie tops the Order of Merit on the over-50s circuit following a stellar season. The Aberdonian adds two titles to his Scottish Seniors Open win at Craigielaw in 2019 and also makes his presence felt in the Senior Open Championship at Sunningdale in July.
n The main focus is off the course due to the roll-out of the new Scottish Golf App and the new World Handicap System, both of which prove headaches for chief executive Andrew McKinlay. However, Sandy Scott flourishes as the new men’s Scottish No 1, while the likes of McWilliam, Darling, Chloe Goadby and Grace Crawford continue to make good progress in the women’s game.