Sobel: Which Stars Could Benefit the Most from Golf’s Revised 2020 Schedule?

Credit:

Cliff Hawkins, Getty Images. Pictured: Bryson DeChambeau

Assuming the professional golf schedule remains much like it was announced Monday – and yes, that is a major assumption right now – there are certain players licking their chops, while others are cursing the COVID-19 pandemic even more than they already were.

With three major championships, the FedEx Cup playoffs and the Ryder Cup each scheduled to start and finish in a 101-day span beginning Aug. 6 and ending Nov. 15, this year’s most important events will consist of a furious race to determine the winners.

When the schedule was condensed last year, streamlining all four majors into a four-month period, there was concern from some PGA TOUR pros that an in-form competitor could more easily contend at each of them, while an out-of-form player would find it tougher to challenge at any of them.

That logic is only magnified this year, with so many tourneys squeezed into such a short time frame.

Let’s take a look at three players this new schedule might help and three others it might hurt.


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HELP

Justin Thomas

Of his 12 career PGA TOUR titles, eight of them have come in August or later, despite the fact that he traditionally makes fewer starts during the final five months of each year than the first seven. Is there any rationale behind this record? If there is, it’s probably more mental than anything else.

As talented as just about anyone in the world, Thomas has proven that when he needs to play catch-up and knock a late-year tourney off his list of goals, he owns the desire and ability to do so.

Bryson DeChambeau

On a smaller scale than Thomas, three of DeChambeau’s five career titles have occurred in the final five months of the year, as he won in Aug., Sept. and Nov., all in 2018.

That’s only part of the reason he’s listed here, though. DeChambeau works as hard as anyone in the game. He previously admitted that gaining 20-25 pounds of muscle in the offseason added length off the tee, but hindered his short game.

The extended current break should offer him plenty of time to refine everything he’s been working on, ready to return with some form in a few months.

Sungjae Im

Think about it: With a fast-paced, hectic schedule which shouldn’t allow for many opportunities to take time off, this could play right into the hands of a player who doesn’t take any time off anyway.

Im is the game’s quintessential ironman right now, plying his craft every single week there’s a tournament. And of course, he’s not just reliable, either; the recent Honda Classic winner is a ball-striking machine of the highest order.

HURT

Tiger Woods

Sorry, guys, but you knew this was coming. If there’s anyone who values his downtime these days, it’s the reigning Masters champion. The 44-year-old has told us myriad times that his surgically repaired body needs breaks, that he’s simply not capable of playing a busy schedule anymore – a point only enforced by his recent decision to skip both the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship.

With the U.S. Open and Ryder Cup scheduled for back-to-back weeks in September, we already have to wonder what kind of impact he might have in the latter.

Jason Day

Following the same rationale, Day owns a notoriously balky back that limits his practice time and requires more weeks away from competitive events than others.

That won’t be possible under the impending schedule, which could mean his year-long run of mediocre performances might continue when tournaments do start back up again.

Phil Mickelson

OK, so maybe you weren’t exactly on-board with backing a 50-year-old Mickelson at Augusta National this November anyway, but one statistic should have us fading Lefty even more than we already were: Of his 44 career PGA TOUR titles, only eight have come in August or later on the calendar. That’s the same number as Thomas, who owns 32 fewer victories.

There’s little coincidence, as Mickelson tends to play his best golf on the West Coast in the early months of each year and takes more time off during the latter part of each year. If you were hoping for a fourth Masters title or that elusive U.S. Open win, though, the altered schedule shouldn’t serve to benefit him.

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