Assessing Potential Winners of Best Male Golfer at the 2021 ESPYS
If you asked anyone who will win Best Athlete, Men’s Golf at the ESPYS anytime from 2000-2010, the obvious answer would’ve been Tiger Woods. Woods was the number one golfer for nearly the entire decade.
Since then, we’ve seen 13 players, including Woods, hold that number one spot. Some golfers dominate the game for a year, then take a backseat to other elite players. The parity in golf almost makes it more enjoyable to watch.
Woods obviously won’t be winning it in 2021, but four nominees have a strong case. Let’s look at all four and come away with a prediction for who will win the 2021 ESPYS Award for Best Athlete in Men’s Golf.
Known as “The Scientist,” Bryson DeChambeau uses a calculated approach to his game. His biggest asset is his power. He leads the PGA Tour this season in average driving distance with 323.5 yards.
It was a great start to the 2020-2021 season for DeChambeau. He won the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club. DeChambeau sat at -3, two shots back going into the final round. He shot a three-under, 67 in the final round to finish the U.S. Open at -6. He was the only player to shoot under par for the tournament, with Matthew Wolff finishing at E par with second place.
His score is especially impressive considering how tough of a course Winged Foot is. The last time the course hosted a U.S. Open, Geoff Ogilvy won with a score of +5.
DeChambeau only made two more starts in 2020. He finished eighth in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. DeChambeau also finished a disappointing 34th in the 2020 Masters.
He didn’t get off to the best start in 2021. He finished seventh at Sentry Tournament of Championships but followed that up with a missed cut and a 22nd place finish.
Once March hit, DeChambeau found his groove, and he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
No stopping Bryson at Bay Hill. ?— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) March 7, 2021
With a final-round 71, Bryson DeChambeau wins the Arnold Palmer Invitational by one shot for his eighth PGA Tour Title. pic.twitter.com/Q7fh42Xae2
DeChambeau was just one of three players to shoot under par in the final round. He won the tournament by one stroke over Lee Westwood.
DeChambeau finished third the following week at THE PLAYERS Championship.
After another disappointing performance at the Masters, DeChambeau scored his third top 10 in four starts with a ninth-place finish at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Unfortunately, his season has hit a rough patch since then. In his last four starts, his best finish is 18th. DeChambeau was in contention at the 2021 U.S. Open, but he absolutely imploded on the back nine in the final round. He shot a back nine 44 to go from -5 to +3. He finished the tournament tied for 26th.
He ranks sixth in the Official World Golf Rankings. At age 27, there’s still plenty of time for DeChambeau to reach number one.
Once known as just a long driver, Dustin Johnson evolved his game over the last five years to become one of the best golfers in the world. Johnson entered the season number one in the Official World Golf Rankings.
He also entered 2021 atop our Golf Power Rankings.
After winning the FedEx Cup in the 2019-2020 season, Johnson had a ton of momentum. He carried that into the start of his 2020-2021 season. He finished sixth in the U.S. Open.
Johnson took nearly two months off before returning to the PGA Tour in early November. He finished second in the Vivant Houston Open. Johnson shot a final round 65 but came up two shots short of winner Carlos Ortiz.
Just a week later, Johnson dominated the 2020 Masters to win his second career major. Johnson was in a tie for the lead at -9 after two rounds but fired a seven-under 65 to take a four-shot lead going into the final round. He shot four-under in the final round to win the tournament by five strokes. Johnson’s 20-under-par was a Masters record.
That win instantly thrust him into GOAT contention.
He began 2021 with an 11th at the Sentry Tournament of Championships and eighth at The Genesis Invitational. He also won the Saudi International on the European Tour. Unfortunately, Johnson’s season really took a nosedive after that.
In his next six starts, Johnson had just one finish inside the top 40. He missed the cut at both the Masters and PGA Championship. His lone good finish was a 13th at the RBC Heritage.
It’s been getting better for Johnson lately. He scored his first top 10 in four months with a 10th in the Palmetto Championships. He followed that up with a 19th in the U.S. Open.
That finish combined with Jon Rahm winning the U.S. Open allowed Rahm to overtake Johnson in the Official World Golf Rankings. This is the first time since August 22, 2020, that Johnson isn’t number one in the world.
Johnson is 17th in the FedEx Cup Standings. A few good finishes over the next month should move him into the top 10.
Hideki Matsuyama is one of those golfers that is always in contention in majors but just can’t seem to breakthrough. Entering the 2020-2021 season, Matsuyama had seven top 10 finishes in majors.
His season didn’t exactly start out great. He finished 17th, 21st, and 28th in his first four starts. Matsuyama also missed a cut in that stretch. He got into a rhythm at the end of 2020 with a second-place finish in the Vivant Houston Open after firing a final round 63. Matsuyama finished 13th in the 2020 Masters.
Unfortunately, he regressed early in 2021. He finished inside the top 20 just once in his first five starts. The results improved slightly with a 15th in the WGC-Workday Championship and an 18th in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Entering the 2021 Masters, there weren’t many expectations for Matsuyama. He shot -4 in his first two rounds, sitting three shots behind leader Justin Rose. However, Matsuyama went off in the third round. He shot a bogey-free seven-under 65 to open a four-shot lead. He recorded five birdies and one eagle on the round.
Despite bogeying three of his last four holes, Matsuyama won the Masters by one stroke over Will Zalatoris. He became the first Japanese player to win the tournament.
BREAKING: Hideki Matsuyama becomes first male Japanese player to win the Masters in nail-biting finish https://t.co/yHLDZNjGPs— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 11, 2021
Matsuyama hasn’t been able to build any momentum off his Masters victory. In four starts since the win, he finished 39th, 23rd, 62nd, and 26th. It really is surprising that he hasn’t at least scored a top 10 finish since then.
Even with all those subpar finishes, Matsuyama sits 16th in the FedEx Cup Standings. However, his two top 10 finishes this season are the fewest for any player inside the top 30. In my opinion, he’s going to have to be more consistent if he wants to stay in the top 30 in the standings.
He currently sits 16th in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Phil Mickelson will go down as one of the best golfers of his generation. Honestly, he’d probably be the best golfer in the last 20 years if not for Tiger Woods.
But at age 50, Mickelson’s best days are well behind him.
Mickelson’s season got off to a great start, but it wasn’t on the PGA Tour. He won the Dominion Energy Charity Classic on the PGA Tour Champions. Mickelson won the event by three strokes.
On the PGA Tour side, things weren’t going well for Mickelson. He made five starts at the end of 2020, with his best finish being 44th. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open and finished 55th in the 2020 Masters.
Despite a two-month layoff, Mickelson’s finishes didn’t improve at the beginning of 2021. He opened the season with three missed cuts in six starts. He finished 21st in the Masters. That was his best finish on the PGA Tour in eight months.
Following a missed cut and 69th place finish, no one really considered Mickelson a threat to win the PGA Championship. Mickelson blocked out the noise and let his game do the talking.
He performed extremely well with three straight rounds under par to give him a one-shot lead going into the final round. Despite recording six bogeys in the final round, Mickelson won his first major since 2013 and sixth overall.
In doing so, he became the oldest major champion at 50 years of age.
Similar to Hideki Matsuyama, Mickelson just couldn’t build any momentum off his major victory. In two starts since then, he has a 62nd and a missed cut. I know the fans loved watching Mickelson win that major, but I don’t think we should expect many in the future.
Mickelson definitely has some work to do if he wants to jump into the top 30 in the FedEx Cup Standings. He’ll need much more consistent play to do that. He sits 30th in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Prediction for Best Athlete, Men’s Golf at the 2021 ESPYS
Considering his age, Phil Mickelson’s major victory is probably the most impressive feat, but he hasn’t done anything else this season. Hideki Matsuyama also struggled outside of his major win.
Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau are having similar seasons. I think I’m going to have to go with Johnson because of his consistency.
Both players have great finishes while also struggling, but Johnson’s bad finishes aren’t as bad as DeChambeau’s. Honestly, I think it’s a coin flip between these two golfers. I’d be fine with either one of them winning the award.
Digging the conversation headed into the 2021 ESPYS? Check out more content offering analysis and predictions for various ESPYS categories this year below.