As we arrive at Thanksgiving, allow me a moment to share a few of the golf-related things for which I am thankful:
• The way golf became a saving grace during the pandemic, the participation numbers exploding as people gravitated to courses when they couldn’t go many other places. Getting a tee time occasionally felt like found money.
• Tiger Woods’ last six holes of the Masters. Coming off a 10 at the 12th, when every other player would have surrendered, he birdied five of the last six holes.
That’s why he’s Tiger.
• The overdue acceptance of push carts – trolleys, if you like – in the American game. They’re ubiquitous in the U.K. but we’ve been reluctant to adopt them for no good reason. That changed this summer.
• Dustin Johnson wiping away tears and being unable to get his words out at the green jacket ceremony at Augusta. It’s always been easy to appreciate his golf. His reaction allowed us to appreciate the man even more.
• The text chain that the game’s leaders created shortly after tournament golf stopped around the world. It was bosses only and it was where the plan to restart competition was born.
• The evolution of drone shots on television coverage. Harding Park, site of the PGA Championship, has never looked better than it did from the magic flying device and when we saw Augusta National from just above the treeline, it was spellbinding.
• Rory being Rory.
• The sheer audacity of Bryson DeChambeau. He is intent on revolutionizing the game and, in the process, he has become the most interesting player on any tour. For many, he is an acquired taste but his impact on the game may be far-reaching.
• The opportunity to stand in virtual solitude in Amen Corner during what felt like a private Masters, admiring it for all that it is. In late afternoon, with the shadows stretching, the notion of Augusta National’s 13th hole as a golf cathedral never felt more genuine.
• Kirk Triplett putting a Black Lives Matter sticker on his golf bag. Not everyone liked it, but he stood up for what he believes.
• The fun of watching Justin Thomas play golf. His brilliance is enhanced by his reactions to what he’s doing. It’s an emotional game and Thomas shows it. And when he loses a tee shot to the right and gives it a quick, frustrated point in that direction, it’s beautiful.
• María Fassi. Jennifer Kupcho. Brooke Henderson.
• The red cardigan given to the winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The plaid jackets given to the champions at Harbour Town and Colonial. The handshake from Jack Nicklaus to the winner behind the 18th green on Sunday at the Memorial.
• White Claws on the course. They became a thing this year.
• The edge that playing in competition brings. Whether it’s a Saturday morning points game or a club tournament, the feeling changes when you put a pencil in your hand. Makes you wish you’d practiced more 2-footers.
• The effervescence of LPGA commissioner Mike Whan. We could all use some of what he has.
• The Cradle at Pinehurst with the music playing. The Preserve at Bandon Dunes and all of the short courses they inspired. There is genius – and joy – in their simplicity.
• There are no more stigmas attached to the method anyone uses to putt. There was a time when left-hand low (or what some of us grew up calling cross-handed) was considered the last act of a desperate player. Now, it’s any port in a storm.
• Places that don’t frown on soft music while you play. Places where the starter box has tees, scorecards and pain relief medications. Places where gangsomes are allowed if they’re not disrupting play. Places where hot dogs still matter.
• As nice as it is to play lift, clean and place in bunkers, it will be better when bunker rakes return. And we’re allowed to remove the flagstick again.
• Listening to Brandel Chamblee and Jaime Diaz talk golf.
• The fortysomethings – Stewart Cink, Sergio García and Brian Gay – winning PGA Tour events this fall. The ball doesn’t know how old they are.
• Riding a motorcycle cart while playing Pine Needles. Walking 18 and carrying my bag at No. 2. A couple of days at the Country Club of North Carolina.
• Walking Winged Foot at the U.S. Open. A buckeye milkshake at Muirfield Village. Eighteen holes with my friends at Cedarwood.
• “How’s your game?” Golf’s version of a handshake.
• The dreamers, like Mike Keiser and Gil Hanse, who see where golf can go. It’s a game built on imagination and they bring those dreams to life.
• The feel of new grips. The shine of a new golf ball. The sweat stains on an old cap.
• Club logos. Like stamps on a golf passport.
Top: No. 16 at Augusta National. Photo: Jamie Squire, Getty Images
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