In golf, we thank our lucky stars
This time of year, some people prefer a daily offering in November proffering what they are thankful for, often on Facebook. Me? Let's just knock 'em out in one fell swoop.
So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are 30 golfing treasures that I'm grateful for in 2013.
1. Phil Mickelson's Open Championship win. He showed us that even at 43, the best lefty ever can still produce magical rounds and rewrite his legacy. Mickelson also proved that 40 is the new 30 in terms of winning majors.
2. Inbee Park. It had been a more than a decade since anyone -- male or female -- made a realistic run at the Grand Slam. Park convinced us that the impossible just might be possible. Hopefully it won't be another decade before someone aims this high again.
3. Billy Horschel's octopus pants. Who said these all have to be serious? Golf fashion leans to the extremely boring side (except where John Daly is concerned). Horschel showed a bit of, shall we say, courage, when he donned this beauty for the final round of the U.S. Open. Pro tip: Don't wear anything crazy during the final round of a major. Just ask Sergio Garcia about the 2007 Open Championship.
4. Jim Furyk's 59. How he did it with a bogey on his card -- the first time ever that happened with a 59 -- continues to amaze me. But it also proved that a 58 is out there to be had, somewhere, in the coming years. The glass floor will be broken soon.
5. Tiger's five PGA Tour wins (but without a major.) Why? Because it gave us actual debate about the PGA Tour player of the year award. For what seems like the better part of two decades, the suspense around who would win the PGA Tour's top honor as voted on by the players was about as suspenseful as a 1 versus 16 seed in the NCAA tournament. Not this year. There were legitimate cases to be made for eventual winner Woods, Mickelson with a major win and two other victories (albeit one came on the European Tour) and Adam Scott's history-making triumph at the Masters.
6. #Dufnering. A decade from now, golf fans might think that Jason Dufner's great entry into the sports lexicon came after his PGA Championship win. Those true social media hounds will know, though, that it was a phenomenon all its own months before Oak Hill.
7. Jordan Spieth's John Deere Classic win. Without it, we would have been subjected to the PGA Tour trying to explain how a golfer clearly with the credentials to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs wasn't allowed. Had he not won the week before the Open Championship, Spieth would have had to sit out all four playoff events and likely would have never played for Team USA in the Presidents Cup.
8. Luke Donald's cow. Yup, that's not a typo. The former world No. 1 finally took home his prize from winning a tournament in Japan and it came with a cow. How cool is that? More tournaments should follow suit. Maybe the Deutsche Bank Championship will be next. Win our tournament and get your own ... hedge fund?
9. Guan Tianlang. He was 14 when he won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship last year and then became the youngest player in Masters history to tee it up at Augusta in April -- and he made the cut. Granted, his slow-play penalty was unnecessary, but the kid from China handled it with great aplomb and showed we might not have heard the last of him.
10. Rory McIlroy's honesty. Sometimes it takes a little longer to come out (remember the wisdom tooth pain at the Honda Classic?), but more so than most top-flight pros, the Northern Irishman wears his emotions on his sleeves and isn't afraid to share his thoughts. Let's hope that doesn't change after a difficult 2013 that saw his patience get tested both on and off the course.
11. Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky. The new it couple on the PGA Tour shared the news of their pending nuptials. Hopefully we'll get a seat at the wedding reception next to the Great One. OK, we'll settle for the hotel gift basket.
12. Lindsey Vonn. How many people can get away with calling Woods "dorky-goofy" on national television? That quote alone puts her on the list.
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13. European Tour appearance fees. There are many reasons to abhor them, but the reality is, this extra cash for the biggest names in golf allow us to see them play after the main part of the PGA Tour season ends in the early fall. For us golf fanatics, is there anything better than watching golf first thing in the morning before heading off to work? OK, I'm not a huge fan of the 11 p.m. ET tee times for some events, but when you can watch golf before going to the office, that's a win-win.
14. Rules officials. No, not the people who sit on their couches and phone in infractions. I mean the ones who are actually out on their carts from sunrise to sunset (sometimes longer) and are only there to help but often get the short end of the stick when it comes to perception in the public. My biggest quibble remains ... why aren't there more of them? If we can have a $10 million purse for the Players Championship, why not a few more rules officials to keep controversies at bay?
15. Opposite field events on the PGA Tour. Why? Because had we not had the Puerto Rico Open, Spieth -- by virtue of his second-place finish there in March -- might not have gone on his amazing run that led the then-teenager to become the youngest PGA Tour winner since 1931.
16. Pro golfer Twitter rants. It's not often we see the likes of Lee Westwood simply go off on his followers, but it happened. And Jeff Overton used Twitter to lambaste the PGA of America. Just imagine if we could get Tim Finchem to join the social media ranks!
17. Merion Golf Club. The USGA called it a "boutique" Open since it was on a slice of property that seemed about half the size of most U.S. Open venues. No matter, since it provided great drama yet again for our national championship even if we might not see it for another 32 years.
19. Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Reed. They went from driving to Monday qualifiers not so long ago to PGA Tour winners in 2013 after capturing the Wyndham Championship. That work-life balance thing might be a challenge in their household, but for now, all seems well for the Reeds.
20. Lydia Ko defending an LPGA title ... as an amateur. There's plenty of impressive things about the 16-year-old Ko (including how she awesomely announced she was turning pro), but the top of the list has to be repeating as the CN Canadian Women's Open champion -- on a different course! Most pros have a hard time following up a win a year later by even playing well at the same track, but Ko showed she's got game and will for years to come.
21. Vijay Singh's lawsuit against the PGA Tour. The ultimate grinder likely won't get anything out of the litigation, other than a few more deer-antler spray jokes, but we as fans might start to learn a little more about the inner workings in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., if the lawsuit continues. An added bonus? That Singh announced the lawsuit the week of the tour's most prized event, the Players Championship. Don't expect any holiday cards this year from PGA Tour headquarters, Vijay.
22. Spieth skipping the WGC-Bridgestone. The fact that he even qualified for the tournament was simply amazing. Then he tosses away the free cash and crucial world ranking points in the process. Why? Because he's thinking about the big picture, not grab what you can now, which seems to be what most veterans, much less 20-year-olds, do these days. That foresight will serve him well down the road and hopefully all the way to the 2014 Ryder Cup team.
23. Mickelson's 59½. The reaction alone from Lefty was priceless when his putt for 59 lipped out, but the wily veteran didn't stop there after nearly making history at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He went on to win the tournament, possibly a harbinger of things to come later in the year with his Open Championship victory. Note to Lefty: Play more golf with Dufner, who was paired with Mickelson during his 60 and also played alongside Furyk when he shot 59 later in the year.
24. Brandt Snedeker's "iron man" streak. Okay, Cal Ripken he's not. The former FedEx Cup champ played nine tournaments in a 10-week stretch from mid-July to the end of September. The only week "off" was when the tour went dark between the Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship. Players talk about the grind of the game and especially the travel, but Sneds proved it can be done. Now if he could only manage to dismount a Segway, he'd be all set.
25. The Walker Cup. It always showcases the next generation of golfers and this year gave us a peek at one of the great golf course treasures in the National Golf Links of America.
26. The boldness of PGA of America president Ted Bishop. If his selecting a 64-year-old Tom Watson last year as the U.S. Ryder Cup captain wasn't enough, Bishop's encore for 2013 included mixing it up with the powers that be in golf's other governing bodies, mostly about the impending anchoring ban. Now if we could only get all those groups to see eye-to-eye on most issues ... yeah, wishful thinking.
27. John Daly's fashion taste. Calling his clothes outlandish would be like saying Miss Universe is beautiful. Duh. Wouldn't it be great if his clothes were the second, third or fourth thing mentioned about Daly these days and not the first?
28. Jarrod Lyle's return. There's no rooting in the press box, I know, but the Aussie -- who is dealing with a recurrence of Leukemia -- is one of the rare exceptions to the rule. The fact that he played in the Australian Masters recently proves the golf gods aren't just out to kick your perfectly struck drive into the woods. They have a heart, too.
29. Peter Uihlein's long road. His dad Wally happens to run Acushnet, which owns Titleist, so Peter might have tried a little family-based arm twisting to get into more tournaments in the U.S. Instead, the younger Uihlein went across the pond to ply his trade on the European Tour and became a winner, raising his world ranking to well inside the top 100. Taking the more challenging course will likely pay dividends in the future, something his CEO father can surely appreciate.
30. Boo is back. With a victory at Colonial in May, Boo Weekley earned playing privileges for two more years. That means we'll get two more years of Boo-isms, and who doesn't love that?
Ones that juuuuuust missed the cut: Slow play, phoned-in rules violations (especially after the guy on his couch DVR'd the tournament and is watching it a day later), the lack of transparency in Ponte Vedra Beach, how much Mother Nature hates golf (more than 20 PGA Tour events in 2013 were delayed due to bad weather) and the new Q-school system.
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