JOHN COCKAYNE: A year of fascinating not-so-trivial Masters trivia
It has been a year of ifs and maybes and, from a golf perspective, could become a gold mine of a year for trivia buffs everywhere.
If the Masters is played at all in 2021, then maybe it will be in April. If it is and Dustin Johnson does not successfully defend his title, then at six months he will have had the shortest reign of a champion in Masters history.
Of course, the White House is set to have a new incumbent in Joe Biden, although it might take an eviction order and the involvement of the National Guard to clear the way for his move in. This change is important, because January 2021 will see this house and the office of president occupied by someone with predictable cognitive functions for the first time in four years.
The first thing President Biden might do is institute a proper programme to deal with Covid-19. Maybe this will put the US into serious lockdown mode and we shall not see Johnson defending his title before April 2022.
If this proves to be the scenario, then Johnson’s 17 month reign will be noteworthy in a trivia sense, but it will not eclipse the current longest-term holder of this title — Byron Nelson. Nelson’s reign, caused by the hiatus due to World War 2, lasted from 1942 until 1946. In second place is Tiger Woods and his occupation of the title “Masters champion” stands at 19 months.
Shane Lowry is still the “Champion Golfer of the Year”, 16 months and counting since his triumph in Ireland in the Open Championship in 2019. This already makes him the holder of third position in the list for the longest reigning champion since the turn of the 20th century behind Messrs Vardon and Burton.
Harry Vardon won what would prove to be the last of his six Open titles in 1914 at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland and due to the intervention of the Great War, did not have to return the Claret Jug until 1920.
Dick Burton won the title at Saint Andrews in 1939 and was unable to defend his title until 1946, after the conclusion of hostilities in World War 2, where he finished 12th at St Andrews.
Combined with Brexit, various other political uncertainties, such as the possible break-up of the UK and an early Scottish breakaway, are in the mix. If Scottish devolution goes through and they can rebuild Hadrian’s Wall quickly enough, there may never be another Open Championship at all and Shane Lowry will become the permanent holder of the title.
For those of you taking these musings seriously, I would suggest that you need to get out more, but I would add a caveat, before you do, in that there is actually a precedent to all of this in the form of Lionel Herbert. Herbert won the last version of the PGA Championship as a match-play event in 1957, which sees him as the undisputed, undefeated, reigning champion for 62 years and still counting.
We hear it time and again that if we do not rein in the unsporting machinations of the likes of Bryson DeChambeau, their activities will spawn a shoal of act-alikes and their ilk will render all of our golf courses obsolete overnight.
Maybe we should just relax a little, because at the very next Major after DeChambeau’s US Open victory, the highly fancied and all-conquering “mad scientist” was reined in by a 63-year-old veteran from the Champions Tour. The old timer not only beat him on the final day at the Masters by two strokes, but also finished one ahead overall at -3 for the tournament.
OK, the senior was Bernhard Langer, a two-time winner of this event and I hope DeChambeau is not put off by this minor setback and continues to tinker and experiment — if nothing else it will be fun to watch.
At the recent Joburg Open on the European Tour a youngster, Wilco Nienaber, shot 63 in an opening round, which was sprinkled with huge tee shots, one of which travelled 439 yards. All of this makes DeChambeau look rather like a pea shooter and would suggest that he needs even more time bulking up in the gym.
It was remarkable that the four Majors were played at all and that the tournaments were all highly entertaining. Two first-time Major winners went into the record books with a double first in Johnson’s performance in winning the Masters. The first came in Johnson’s record low winning score and by becoming the first incumbent at No 1 in the world rankings to achieve this feat.
Australian Cameron Smith became the first player to break 70 in all four rounds of a Masters. This is a momentous achievement, but one that left Smith tied second and five strokes adrift of Dustin Johnsons’ record winning total of 20 under par.
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