Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year
William Carlos Williams captured a sense of loss in his classic poem “The Widow’s Lament in Springtime.”
For the next month, at least, Tour pros will know the cold fire of which the poet speaks.
So will the rest of us as we come to know our first spring without tour golf.
Like the widow, we’re left to walk through the rest of March and early April lamenting what’s missing, at least this spring, and maybe this summer, too. There’s no telling how many more tournaments and major championships may be cancelled before COVID-19 runs its course.
The lament begins this weekend.
Who would have made that walk down the 16th fairway Sunday at The Players with the lead? Would he have glanced over his right shoulder as he neared the green, to see what awaits at the 17th island green, the sport’s most thrilling high-wire act?
Rory McIlroy arrived at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course in good form this week, with everything but a win this calendar year. Would he have built on his even-par start Thursday to make history with a victory, becoming the first to win The Players in back-to-back years?
Or would Jon Rahm have been in position to win, giving him a chance to overtake McIlroy as the new No. 1?
And what about Patrick Reed?
He didn’t play the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this year, avoiding the hijinks around the boisterous, infamous 16th. But you can’t help wondering what Reed would have faced this weekend at the 17th island green at TPC Sawgrass, the other Lion’s den in golf. A fan was escorted out of The Players Thursday for asking Reed if he would sign his shovel. No Laying Up retweeted a video capturing it as it transpired. Yes, there’s something cruel in wondering what Reed would do in contention there on a Sunday, but love him or loathe him, he’s a marvel in how defiantly he can turn your disfavor into his fuel. We would watch wondering if he would ace the damn hole. He’s must-see theater that way.
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though hemlock I had drunk
John Keats died a century before the PGA Tour was launched, but in an “Ode to a Nightingale” he captured what a golf fan might feel cracking open a beer in front of the TV while wondering who would have faced off in the finals of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in two weeks.
Maybe that’s where Tiger Woods would have been ready to make his return.
Or maybe that’s where Brooks Koepka would have turned those tips from Butch Harmon into resurgent form in a heavyweight final showdown with McIlroy.
The blue skies turn to grey
No more stories
You've gone away
Alan Owen’s “Eternal Love” isn’t about the ANA Inspiration. The event isn’t going away, but we don’t yet know where the LPGA will be fitting this event back into the year’s schedule. We don’t know if the year’s first major will still be the year’s first major.
The first week will pass with fans of the women’s game wondering they’re waiting to see.
Who would have made the leap into Poppie’s Pond?
World No. 1 Jin Young Ko in the first title repeat since Annika Sorenstam won in 2001-02 there?
One of the Korda sisters after an unforgettable duel between Jessica and Nelly?
Lexi Thompson in a victory that soothes the memory of her painful loss there three years ago?
Today my son told me
that in the meadows,
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them
Williams’ lament takes us to the Masters, too, and the spring beauty we won’t be seeing between shots there the second week of April.
Like the ANA, it’s postponed, but we’ll wonder what spectacular hue of azaleas and dogwoods we will be missing this spring, and what glow will be absent through Amen Corner if the event is moved to October.
We’ll wonder how the grasses will look through Augusta National if it’s moved to the fall. We’ll wonder if ryegrass overseed will have time to find its lushness, or if there will be an unfamiliar golden hue, with dormant Bermuda still showing through.
We’ll wonder if maybe this buys Woods time to defend his title, if a more healthy back gives him a better chance to defend his title in the fall, or even later this spring or summer. We’ll wonder if this postponement actually helps him claim his 16th major, moving him yet closer to Jack Nicklaus’ record.
If the Masters is moved to the fall, we’ll wonder, too, if the PGA Tour will count it as the fourth major of 2020 in its statistical archive, or as a fifth major as part of the wraparound 2021 year.
We’ll wonder about that and a lot more as we endure the cold fire of this strange spring.