As 2021 comes to an end, I decided to take a look back at the year that was on the PGA TOUR.
But first, let’s take a look at the game of golf overall. As we know, golf has exploded over the past two years mainly due to the COVID pandemic. Golf rounds were up 40% across the board in 2021. New golfers have taken up the game in record numbers, with women golfers seeing the most significant growth. It’s great to see so many new people coming to the game. And they are staying, which has led to record revenue both at on-course and off-course facilities (i.e., Top Golf). Let’s hope this trend continues!
In 2021, the PGA TOUR enjoyed a spike in popularity. Television numbers were up; social media engagements and traditional media impressions were up; and best of all, charity numbers remained steady. If you follow the game, you understand the impact these charitable dollars generated by professional golf have on the communities that host these tournaments.
It is part of the TOUR’s DNA, and even though the sport is navigating in the unknown pandemic waters, the mission has never wavered. Each year, the PGA TOUR donates more money to charity than all of the other major sports COMBINED!
Now, back to regular programming. The past year on the PGA TOUR was a breakout year for several players. A 50-something won a major. COVID caused some interesting problems for one player in particular. An American won Gold in Tokyo, and a three-time major champion won for the first time since 2017. Let’s take a look:
- Harris English won the first tournament of the 2021 calendar year—the Sentry Tournament of Champions—and then won again at the Travelers, marking his first multi-win season, helping put him on his first Ryder Cup team.
- Brooks Koepka battled back from a knee injury to win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
- Colin Morikawa proved he is the best of the group of “young guns,” winning a WGC event and the Open Championship, his second major.
- After not winning on TOUR since the Open Championship in 2017, Jordan Speith was back in the winner’s circle at the Valero Texas Open.
- Hideki Matsuyama became the first Japanese-born (male) player to win a major championship when he captured the Masters in April. He also won on home soil at the ZOZO Championship.
- At the PGA Championship on Kiawah Island in May, 50-year-old Phil Mickelson became the oldest winner of a major championship in golf history. Who saw that one coming?!
- At the Memorial, Jon Rahm held a commanding six-shot lead heading into the final round when he got word that he had tested positive for COVID and was forced to withdraw. That opened the door for Patrick Cantlay to win the event in a playoff.
- Two weeks after the virus snatched victory away from Jon Rahm at the Memorial, he won the US Open. Rather fitting, don’t you think?
- Abraham Anser became the first Mexican-born player to win a WGC event when he took home the title at the FEDEX St. Jude in Memphis.
- Lucas Glover won for the first time in 10 years at the John Deere Classic, which qualified him for the Open Championship the following week. Talk about perseverance!
- Xander Schauffele won gold in Tokyo, making it a USA sweep as Nelly Korda won on the women’s side.
- Tony Finau finally got his elusive second PGA TOUR win at the FEDEX Cup’s Northern Trust Open.
- And finally, Patrick Cantlay, and many believe in part because of his victory at The Memorial, won the season-ending FEDEX Cup and Player of the Year.
It was an outstanding year for the PGA TOUR and golf in general. Going into 2022, the PGA TOUR is on very solid ground, with a new strategic alliance with the DP World Tour (formerly known as the European Tour), a new nine-year television contract, and record money up for grabs to the tune of $838 million. While the players may be excited about all that money, the real winners are us, the golf fans, and of course, the charity.
Cheers to a record-breaking 2022!