Normally when gathering around the table this time of year to give thanks, we keep the list short. Not that we’re ungrateful; it’s just that the potatoes are getting cold and we see Uncle Mark eyeing the turkey leg. This season, however, there’s no need to curtail the gratitude, and that includes around the table of this sport we love so, so much.
When compiling our list of golf thanks, we sought to avoid items like “the perfectly struck 7-iron” or “the dulcet tones of Jim Nantz.” Let’s be honest, they border on the mawkish, and we wanted to focus on things specific to this year unlike any other. As you’ll see, this list does plenty of gazing into the rearview mirror. But 2020 has taught us to appreciate the victories in all their forms. Big and small, silly and solemn, transitory and forever. And if some are overly sentimental, well, the world could use a bit of that right now.
Which is why we’re thankful for:
Players, caddies, volunteers, tournament directors, PGA Tour officials and anyone else involved in the season’s tightrope walk from Fort Worth in June to now. If that sounds like embellishment, well, you’re clearly not paying attention to college football.
Tom Brady. He was exposed as a sandbagger, received an ungodly amount of schadenfreude during a hit-n-giggle and ripped his pants in the one nanosecond where things weren’t going wrong. Yet his hole-out was the first “Oh-My-Did-You-See-That?!?!!” sports moment since the world shut down in March.
Maintenance crews. Busting their tails, often for little money, so we can enjoy a bit of heaven.
The Ryder Cup being postponed. Without galleries the biennial match would have felt like a member-guest. Credit the players—most notably Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka—for giving voice to the fans. Credit the PGA of America for listening.
Harold Varner III. At a juncture where the lines of sport and society are blurred, with his words and resolve and a performance that can only be measured against the pain and uncertainty and fear we all face, HV3 showed us the best that golf can be.
Destination courses. Planning future itineraries has been as a mnemonic device that a sense of normalcy, eventually, will return.
Short courses. Providing the occasional nudge that, oh yeah, this is supposed to be fun.
Hometown courses. They are not Bandon or Pinehurst or Pebble. Their fairways are rough, with greens that aren’t, and hitting the lottery is easier than snagging an early weekend tee time. But they are there, and it took a lockdown for us to finally see them for what they are instead of what they are not.
Majors going to munis. For demonstrating championship golf resides beyond ivy walls and brass gates, yes. But, too, for the unintended comedy of players and broadcasters marveling, “It’s so hard to play out of these Harding Park bunkers, there’s no sand!” while every public course player in America mumbled, “Yeah, no kidding.”
The Masters. Its postponement felt like winter. Its return was water in the desert.
Bryson DeChambeau. There is nothing standard about this cat in a sport whose players tend to be of the cookie-cutter variety. That can produce the astonishing (his odyssey from man into mountain for distance gains that beget the U.S. Open) and … uh, astonishing (fire ants?). No matter where he is on the spectrum in a given instance, it’s never short on entertainment and curiosity.
Bernhard Langer. The 63-year-old was last in the Masters field in driving distance, 60-something yards behind category leader DeChambeau. Langer finished at three under. DeChambeau, two under. Long live Bernhard Langer.
Buddies trips. Be they globetrotters or cross-country excursions or modified outings just down the street, for it’s not where you play but who you play with that truly matters.
Driving range attendants who don’t mind keeping the lights on an extra 15 minutes.
Golf debates. Maybe conversations about bifurcation and backstopping and broadcast complaints can get tedious and entrenched. Conversely, these disputes are (usually) civil and (mostly) come from a place of passion. Good luck finding that on other parts of the Internet.
Jared Wolfe. This mini-tour journeyman grabbed two Korn Ferry Tour wins to lock up his first PGA Tour card at 32, showing us dreams don’t have expirations dates.
Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff, Viktor Hovland. We were told they were the next big thing and that they would disrupt the game. Somehow, they’ve surpassed those expectations in 18 months.
Encouraged breakfast balls. As Euripides said, “Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.”
The Rory Runs. We should be used to McIlroy’s five-hole heaters. Instinctively, we know they will end. But the kinetic magic in those stretches, in which McIlroy makes anything seem possible, is a magnetism that never tires.
The perfectly struck 7-iron. If only for a moment, all seems right.
And finally, and most importantly, we’re thankful to all first responders and front-line workers. They risk their lives so we can go on living ours.