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Punch Shot: Most thankful for in 2013

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Since we've already revealed our turkeys of the year, we'll focus on something more positive. GolfChannel.com writers offer up what they're most thankful for in 2013.


By RANDALL MELL

I’m thankful for the way the stars aligned over St. Andrews before the Ricoh Women’s British Open this summer.

Inbee Park fell short in her quest to become the first man or woman to win four professional major championships in a season, but there was something magical in the air that week with Park teeing it up at the birthplace of golf after winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Wegmans LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women’s Open. What a special week for the women, with the world watching to see if Park could make history. While she couldn't pull it off, the week ended with magic anyway, with Stacy Lewis hitting one of the greatest shots in major championship history, a 5-iron through a stiff wind at the famed Road Hole, to set up a birdie-birdie finish and her second major title. As always, Park was as gracious in defeat as she was in her victories this season. The women honored the game with their performances at St. Andrews that week.


By RYAN LAVNER

I'm thankful that, for the most part, the world’s best played like it in 2013. It makes being a golf writer even more enjoyable.

Yes, it’s always fun to see who will be the year’s breakout star – Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama or Lydia Ko. But golf is driven by the biggest stars, by the headliners, and there was no shortage of those this season. The game was compelling from January to November.

Tiger Woods won five times. The game’s other biggest star, Phil Mickelson, broke through at the Open Championship and won two other events. Adam Scott won the Masters, the best tournament of the year, and three other times worldwide. Henrik Stenson became a household name by claiming the big prizes on both sides of the Atlantic.

On the women’s side, world No. 1 Inbee Park nearly became the first player, male or female, to win four professional majors in a season. Suzann Pettersen, Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson are all in hot pursuit. 

When the calendar flips to 2014, we don’t have to manufacture storylines. They’re ready-made, even obvious. We still want to know whether Tiger will resume his climb up Mount Nicklaus, or whether Scott can take the next step and reach world No. 1, or whether Phil can complete the career grand slam, or whether Stenson can extend his torrid form. And, yes, don’t forget, whether Rory McIlroy can return to championship form.

All these stars, all these stories, all at once. Can’t wait to resume tapping away on the keyboard.


By JASON SOBEL

I don’t always enjoy their work and still believe they can be unnecessarily cruel at times, but this year I’m thankful for the golf gods.

Don’t believe in 'em? Then you’ve probably never properly understood how a drive that slices into the trees only to carom back into the fairway is so often followed by one that travels dead straight only to land in a divot. The golf gods work in wonderful, magical, mysterious ways - and this year was no different.

How else to explain the Masters finish? For years, Australia was tortured and tormented by Greg Norman’s numerous close calls at Augusta National. This year, the golf gods finally repaid the folks Down Under – or at least spared them greater heartache – by allowing a couple of crucial Adam Scott putts to find the bottom of the cup down the stretch for the country’s first Masters victory.

How else to explain a son’s destiny? Ken Rose was Justin’s first golf instructor, and watched his son develop elite-level skills at an early age. He saw Justin finish in a share of fourth at the Open Championship as a 17-year-old. Ken died of leukemia in 2002, all of which made his son’s first major championship – on Father’s Day 11 years later – even more meaningful.

How else to explain the unexplainable? In 19 previous Open Championship starts, Phil Mickelson owned only two top-10 finishes. Of the four majors, this was always the one he – and most observers – felt he’d probably never win. And then … he did. Just like that, it was as if Mickelson was given a key to unlock the secret of links golf and walked through the door into the winner’s circle.

Just three examples of top players outperforming the rest of their competitors on major stages? Maybe. But there was a little karma and fate mixed into each one, as well. And for that, we must be thankful for the golf gods.


By WILL GRAY

As 2013 winds to a close, I’m thankful for the man who has discovered golf’s fountain of youth: Steve Stricker.

One of the most personable players in the game, Stricker turned back the clock this year and demonstrated that it’s possible to contend on the PGA Tour while playing approximately once every lunar cycle. Stricker’s successful season – one that included eight top-10 finishes in just 13 starts – has in part caused several of his peers to reassess their on-course priorities over the age of 40, including Phil Mickelson.

Beyond his own play, though, Stricker also helped to shape the 2013 PGA Tour season thanks to a single putting lesson at Doral with a certain 14-time major champion. Tiger Woods made everything in sight en route to winning the WGC-Cadillac Championship after a few tips from Stricker, then won three more times while claiming Player of the Year honors. Without Stricker taking the world’s top-ranked player under his wing in March, the rest of the 2013 season might have gone in an entirely different direction.

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