Golfers should give thanks; 99 reasons why

By Jason SobelNovember 26, 2014, 11:59 pm

Ah, Thanksgiving. That one day each November when we gluttonously fill ourselves with copious amounts of turkey and count our collective blessings.

Well, golfers – and golf fans – are no different. We’ve all got plenty to be thankful for once again this year. Here’s a list of 99 of those things.

Why 99? Well, you’ll just have to read to the end to find out.

1. Because it takes only a few swings of some glorified sticks to hit a small ball into an only slightly larger hole in the ground some quarter-mile away.

2. Seriously. If you’d never heard of golf and someone suggested this as a realistic possibility, you’d think they were crazy.

3. I mean, really, the entire premise of the game sounds like some sort of outlandish bar bet.

4. Speaking of which: The 19th hole. Always be thankful for the 19th hole.

5. Because of those first footsteps on a dewy green at sunrise.

6. Those final swings of a quicker-than-lightning round at twilight.

7. And yeah, the twilight rate.

8. The wishful thinking that everything else in life had a twilight rate.

9. Because of the golf gods. They’re always watching.

10. So you replace your divots.

11. You fix your ballmarks.

12. Maybe a few other people’s ballmarks, too - just for the brownie points.

13. And you hope – no, you know – that at some point, in a tightly contested match when you need it most, a drive will carom off a tree and back into a fairway or a putt will take the side door into the bottom of the cup.

14. The golf gods don’t always taketh away. Sometimes they giveth.

15. Because of the pimento cheese sandwiches at Augusta National Golf Club.

16. The egg salad sandwiches at Augusta National Golf Club, which help mask the taste of the pimento cheese sandwiches.

17. Being confident enough in your own palate to insist the pimento cheese sandwiches aren’t anything special - even suspecting eternal, worldwide brainwashing from the folks in green jackets to convince us that they are some sort of delicacy.

18. Being smart enough to not propose this theory to anybody wearing a green jacket.

19. Because of Arnold Palmer.

20. Jack Nicklaus.

21. Gary Player.

22. The reputations of legends too often become stained and pockmarked after so many years of living in the spotlight and somewhere, somehow, ruffling our illusions of what they are supposed to be. That has never happened with golf’s ubiquitous Big Three.

23. It never will, either.

24. Tiger Woods.

25. Not all legends have to be infallible, you know.

26. Because of your local chapter of the fraternal order of golfers.

27. No, that’s not a real thing. But it refers to that knowing nod you give to the guy in the Starbucks line who’s wearing the same Titleist hat as you and the kinship you each share without ever saying a word.

28. How your mind immediately turns to whether you could beat that guy.

29. How after about three seconds of inner debate, you decide, “Oh yeah, I could take him.”

30.Because of Donald Ross. Old Tom Morris. A.W. Tillinghast. Alister MacKenzie. C.B. Macdonald.

31. Unless you wish the game was played in dreary, expansive, unimaginative grass fields, then be thankful for this quintet and all other influencers of early course design whose concepts have transcended generations.

32. But really, fellas: Did you have to make it so freakin’ hard?

33. Because the scorecard knows no age.

34. Tom Watson nearly won another Open Championship at 59.

35. Lydia Ko is kicking butt and taking names at 17.

36. Meanwhile, you can lose equally to the octogenarian who hits it a buck-fifty off the tee and that hotshot 12-year-old in the Rickie Fowler get-up.

37. Because of those famous movie quotes you say every time you play, no exceptions.

38. “Gambling is illegal at Bushwood, sir – and I never slice.”

39. “You don’t need to be thinking immortality. You need to be thinking, ‘Hit the 7-iron!’”

40. “Why don’t you go to your home? That’s your home! Are you too good for your home?”

41. Knowing whether you’re more of a Judge Smails, or a Roy McEvoy, or a Happy Gilmore.

42. Because of team golf.

43. Scrambles.

44. Shambles.

45. Better ball.

46. Alternate shot.

47. Oh, alternate shot. Do yourself a favor: The next time you and three buddies only have time for a quick nine holes, play 18 in an alternate-shot match instead. Then see if the losing team is still on speaking terms afterward.

48. Just don’t – I repeat, do not – wear matching sweaters in team golf.

49. Unless you’re playing in the Ryder Cup.

50. Wait, scratch that. Even in the Ryder Cup.

51. Because of your cartoonishly over-the-top swing that looks like you’re trying to hammer the grass back into the ground.

52. Your too-quick worm-burner pull-hook that sees less time in the air than Phil Mickelson leaping after a Masters victory.

53. The idea that, hell, if Jim Furyk can turn himself into one of the game’s best players with that tortured move through the ball, then who’s to say your repugnant swing can’t work, too?

54. Because of the handicap index.

55. Think about it: In no other sport can you play against the world’s best player on a level playing field based on your capabilities.

56. That said, don’t play against the world’s best player. You won’t win, index be damned.

57. Because of how social media has made the golf world so much smaller.

58. You’ll someday preach to your kids about crawling through a gallery 10 people deep just to press yourself against the rope line so you could yell to Ian Poulter that you hated his pants. Now you can just tweet him.

59. Or most other famous pros, for that matter. They might even respond to the criticism.

60. You could even tweet me about how much you hate this column. In fact, you’re probably doing that right now.

61. Because of the magic numbers.

62. Once PEDs ruined baseball’s hallowed all-time home run record of 755, the most ethereal number in career-long sports accomplishments became 18 – as in, the total of Jack Nicklaus’ major championships.

63. And sure, 59 has become more attainable in recent years, but it still holds mysterious allure when it shows up on the rare scorecard.

64. Because of the interlocking grip.

65. The overlapping grip.

66. Cross-handed.

67. Left hand low.

68. The claw.

69. The fact that there’s no right or wrong way to hold the club.

70. Just don’t anchor the damned thing. For the love of everything virtuous and true in the game, just don’t anchor it.

71. Because of that time you made an eagle in such unbearable heat that your sweat-soaked hat went right into the garbage can when you finished.

72. That time you made a birdie in torrential rain.

73. That time you made a par in a snowstorm.

74. That time you made a bogey in a hurricane.

75. OK, so maybe the hole was only playing into a three-club wind, but it was still a pretty damned good bogey.

76. Because playing with a rangefinder means knowing the exact yardage to the flagstick.

77. But playing without a rangefinder means you get to estimate and play more of a feel type of swing.

78. Hey, striving for perfection can get annoying after a while.

79. Because the future is so bright. Leave those doom and gloom scenarios about the industry to the bean-counters. Just look at the potential on the game’s highest level.

80. Rory McIlroy is a bona fide superstar at 25. Rickie Fowler is the same age and fresh off top fives at every major.

81. Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama and Patrick Reed and …

82. I can keep going.

83. Fine. I will: Brooks Koepka. Victor Dubuisson. Harris English. Matteo Manassero. Thorbjorn Olesen. Ryo Ishikawa. Cameron Smith. Seung-Yul Noh. Yup, the future is bright.

84. Because of Footgolf.

85. Yes, I’m serious about this one. Footgolf might only tangentially bring more golfers to the game, but it undeniably brings more traffic to the golf course, which in turn is a huge benefit to all those seeking the betterment of the game.

86. The understanding that golf courses being used strictly for traditional golf and nothing else is a major reason why so many golf courses are failing right now.

87. Because there are no trades.

88. No free agency.

89. Want to know where your favorite pro golfer will be playing next year? Just ask him.

90. Because of the statistical research of Columbia Business School professor Mark Broadie, who concluded that long game is more important than short game.

91. Why? Simple: There is a greater differential of success between players of varying levels the farther they are from the hole.

92. Which doesn’t mean you can’t also be thankful for your Uncle Fred, who chirps, “Drive for show, putt for dough” every time you stripe a tee shot.

93. Especially when it’s followed by that warm, fuzzy feeling knowing he’s wrong as you nod your head in response.

94. Because of mulligans.

95. And the idea that real golfers don’t take mulligans.

96. And the idea that, hey, if your playing partners don’t mind and you’re not gonna set the course record anyway and the tee shot you just hit sliced halfway to Topeka, sure, you’re allowed to go ahead and hit another one.

97. And the endless ribbing you’ll receive for doing it.

98. And how little you’ll care when the second one splits the fairway.

99. Because at some point – whether it was your fifth or 15th or 50th round – you finally kept it in double-digits.

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings.