As the sun dutifully set last Jan. 1, and the sky changed colors every minute; as we sipped after dinner libations and allowed our black-eyed peas and cabbage to settle while watching the umpteenth college game of the much too long bowl season; as some of us recounted to others our chance encounter with Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and members of his staff after a late night cheesecake run at Juniors in Manhattan just days before Christmas, 2019; none among us could know what the next 12 months would bring.

Never mind the New Year’s resolutions that perhaps were already in jeopardy after but a few hours. Never mind, well everything. Life, including golf at all levels, was about to change, for golfers of all skill levels.

Suddenly, it mattered less whether the weather was too hot, too cold, too wet or too windy; rather, questions abounded as to whether to play at all, and if playing, how to do it as safely as possible. But, we could keep up with the Mad Scientist.

BRYSON WATCH

Mad scientist Bryson DeChambeau, as well as the rest of the PGA Tour, has calendar year 2020 in his rearview mirror. The “Wraparound” PGA Tour season is a Volvik of a different color.

This will be the final installment of Bryson Watch for 2020. Short and sweet: DeChambeau is still working on reaching or surpassing the 150 mph clubhead speed mark. He won’t be the first golfer to do so, but he is the first who plays the Tour for a living. Please note that creates a ball speed of about 220 mph.

Golfworld offered up a list of 101 things that happened to DeChambeau in 2020, and while there is neither room nor need to list all of them, here are a few worth sharing — some of which encompass more than one numerical listing in the 101.

He put on much weight; then, put on yet more weight. He played much Fortnite, whatever that is, and even won a charity tournament. He drove the green on TPC Summerlin’s 382-yard par-4 seventh hole in the second round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

He CARRIED a ball 400 yards in a practice session. He wore a golf shirt with math equations on it that was dubbed the “Optimized Variables Golf Polo.” He was, among other items, labeled a jerk, a unit and the most interesting man in golf.

Finally, and most consistent with the craziness that was 2020, he actually said that Augusta is “a par 67 for me.” The revered course got the last laugh.

Bryson Watch will return no later than April, 2010.

2020 CONTINUED

We couldn’t gather in the locker room post round, but we could social distance our carts in the open air under the shade of the trees to settle bets. Then, we couldn’t do that either.

Players could not ride in pairs on club-owned carts. Masks became mandatory, while touching flagsticks became verboten. Cups were raised, and any shot hitting the cup was deemed to have been holed: Therefore, handicaps plummeted.

Trust levels in everyone associated with a round of golf were challenged. Should I avoid that guy? Where does this girl go when we’re not at the course? Who is social distancing? What about when they are not here with us? Masking? Eschewing the end of round handshake (whose idea was it, anyway?), do we bump fists, elbows or butts? Have you ever heard of a “foot five?”

Reports came: A member, staffer, cart attendant or someone else who visited our course has tested positive. But we were left to figure out who that was, let alone whether or when we might have been in their air space.

All in all, however, the golf course has been a source of outlet for one’s frustration and anxiety. Just being able to socialize on a regular basis has kept some of us from going blotto. It was fun watching the handicap sink, then at first surprising when the rules relaxed, and it slowly normalized.

The need for caution does not end when the ball drops in Times Square at midnight Thursday. It doesn’t end just because we have a vaccine on the way to our upper arms. That said, we have every reason to believe that by this time in 2021, we will have seen the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and the PGA Championship played as scheduled.

Our handicaps will compete their stock market-like corrections. We will search for the answers to all of golf’s mysteries. Sadly, there will still be far too many bowl games.

Have a safe and happy 2021, on and off the course.

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