Who should be most thankful in 2011?


It's been a remarkable year for many players on all tours. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, GolfChannel.com senior writers Jason Sobel and Randall Mell debate which player has reason to be most thankful.


Let’s get things straight right off the bat: This isn’t about the best player of the 2011 season. It’s not about the luckiest or most fortunate. Those all may sound like similar adjectives, but they can produce very different answers. Same goes for the player who should be most thankful this year.

In my mind, that player is Bill Haas.

His year will always be remembered for him winning the Tour Championship and, as a result, claiming the FedEx Cup title, too. That was a one-day windfall of $11.44 million – and really, if you can’t be thankful for an eight-figure payday, you should lose your cranberry sauce and stuffing privileges and get sent back to the kids’ table.

Haas wasn’t the best player of the entire season, but he did play the best when it mattered the most – at least monetarily. He should be thankful for the format, thankful for the obscene grand prize and thankful for the low water level in the pond by East Lake Golf Club’s 17th hole, allowing him to splash out perhaps the greatest shot of the season.

He should also be thankful that two days later he was chosen to represent the United States in the Presidents Cup. He may have only turned the opportunity into a 1-3-1 record, but his play was better than that mark indicates, as he helped the team to victory.

That was only part of the story, though. Bill got a chance to play on a team assistant-captained by his dad Jay, something no previous player had ever done.

Haas had an excellent year and certainly deserves all the fortune that has come his way, but if there’s one professional golfer who should own an extra-wide smile at the Thanksgiving table this week after everything that’s happened, he’s the guy.


Who has more to be thankful for than Erik Compton?

With his victory at the Mexico Open, he locked up a PGA Tour card for this coming year, clinching his spot through the Nationwide Tour.

Courage is normally too large a word to describe what it takes to hit a golf shot. With Compton, you can use it to describe every shot he hits.

After two heart transplants, one as a 12-year-old, another after he suffered a heart attack three years ago, Compton persevered this year to realize his lifelong dream of earning PGA Tour membership. At 32, he’ll join Tiger Woods, Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and the top players in the world on golf’s best tour.

“Miracle” gets thrown out too casually to describe feats in golf, but Compton’s truly a medical miracle in how he has overcome the challenges his body presents in trying to play at the highest level. Compton practices less than just about any tour pro because of the fatigue he fights. He has learned to be efficient in his preparation, limiting the number of balls he hits on the range, limiting his practice rounds, often to just nine holes, to conserve energy. There have been issues with his heart rate in the past, and I’m not talking about the impact nerves have when a player is in contention to win. He takes medications with side effects other players don’t battle.

There are two sides to Compton we can all be thankful for this holiday season. There’s the man who understands how his story inspires other transplant patients, who reaches out to mentor and encourage men, women and children who are full of fear over how their lives will change after surgery. He’s their great hope. He didn’t always want that role as a boy, but he embraces it now. But there’s also Compton the player, the competitor who wants to be measured solely on his golf skills, who relishes the cold, cut-throat nature of a scorecard and wants to make a mark based on that criteria. The fact that he measures up so well as a humanitarian and a competitor makes him the most remarkable story in golf.