Pete Cowen: I hope 2021 isn’t a re-run of 2020!

With the upheaval of the schedules causing a lot of head scratching, 2020 was a poor year on the golf course from my point of view, regarding the players I coach. I was only allowed to work at two tournaments in Europe – the Scottish Open and the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. So, it was difficult for me to get to the players. It’s a confidence matter and a lot of players get a boost just from me being around.

Matthew Fitzpatrick is pretty independent but he’s got a strong team around him now. Mike Walker has done a great job with his swing, not just recently but over the years he’s been there along with myself for Matt. Steve Robinson and Edoardo Molinari are working with him on a statistical level and he’s getting something out of that in terms of identifying what his strengths and weaknesses are out on the course. He’s a great putter and Phil Kenyon does a good job for him with the short stick, and he’s got his fitness guys with him a lot, too.

Also having Billy Foster on the bag is a massive benefit. The pair have been together now for 18 months and the two have certainly clicked. The DP World Tour Championship was the first win they’ve had together – and it was a big one. To play the last hole as he would have wanted to, with a one-shot lead, was quite impressive. Although you don’t want to leave a tricky three-foot putt to win a tournament, Matt was not the least bit phased as his mind is one of his biggest assets.

They allowed around 1,500 or so corporate guests into the event, which made the atmosphere a little bit better, rather than it just being the dignitaries, players and caddies, which, being honest, has been horrible to see all year.

From the American side of things, both Gary Woodland and Brooks Koepka were injured for most of the campaign, so those two haven’t played well. Henrik Stenson took a lot of time off and only played 9 or 10 times all year; Ian Poulter played reasonably well on the occasions he played. So, it’s been an indifferent season, but the players who will go to the Middle East this month will all be looking forward to playing. There’ll be a different feel to the events with no fans and no stands. Certainly, playing the 18th on the Majlis, looking straight towards the clubhouse, will be a different experience for everyone. The three big tournaments that kick off 2021 in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi Arabia also mark the re-start of Ryder Cup qualification, so players will be aiming to make a fast start. With the strength of the fields, a win for any European player would put them right in the mix to make the Team – especially Abu Dhabi where there are more Race to Dubai points available with it being a Rolex Series event.

NO CROWDS AT THE MASTERS

The Masters in November was difficult to gauge in any historical context because the course was so soft and the greens were very receptive, so despite them tucking some pins away, the scoring was still very low. In April we will see massively different conditions, so it’ll be strange for players to go from how it played in November to then tee it up in the next Major championship on the same course, just a few months later and have the course play considerably differently.

I think the tournament I’m looking forward to the most this year will be the DP World Tour Championship. Matt winning the event last month certainly saved our season, as it was the equivalent of three wins in one. The tournament’s prizemoney has increased further in 2021, so I can imagine it will attract all the big names. I just hope one of my lads can lift the trophy and bank that $3 million first prize.

TOUR ALLIANCE CHANGES

The ‘Strategic Alliance’ between the European and PGA Tours will be interesting to follow but I don’t think there’ll be much to go off in 2021. I think that by 2022 they intend to have perhaps 3 or 4 of the European Tour events carrying PGA Tour FedExCup points, which will help the European Tour massively. It might not attract a lot of the Americans over to Europe and beyond – some will play, for sure, depending on the scheduling, but the top Europeans on the PGA Tour will play in order to give their standings on that Tour a boost without having to commit to playing another week somewhere in the States.

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