On our kitchen wall, there is a sign made by my daughter, Molly, that reads, “Choose Joy.”
Though some close to me might argue that goes against my nature, especially given what short-game issues have done to my handicap in recent months, it seems a proper mantra for our new golf year.
Lord knows there’s enough joylessness around these days. The pandemic. Politics. This healthy eating thing I’m trying to adhere to for 21 bread- and potato chip-free days. (The “no alcohol” requirement was a non-starter).
The sight of tournament golf being played last week at the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Maui was borderline inspirational. It’s a place where rainbows live and we could all use some of that about now.
As much as we might prefer to keep our politics separate from our sport, there are times when that would be ignorant or blind. This is one of those times which is why the PGA of America did the right thing Sunday evening in announcing that the 2022 PGA Championship will not be played at Trump Bedminster as scheduled.
The statement was short, almost as if no further explanation was necessary. The only required explanation would have been had there been a decision to stay at Trump Bedminster. There would have been no justification for that.
Don’t expect professional golf to be played at a Trump property for years, if ever.
It’s not an ideal way to start the new golf year. Annika Sörenstam and Gary Player received Presidential Medals of Freedom they should have postponed. Justin Thomas made an insensitive comment after missing a putt and was smart enough to immediately apologize while admitting he has to be better than that.
And, by the way, the pandemic – the same one that was going to magically disappear last spring – is raging.
It has shrunk our respective worlds. We hoped we’d be past it by now but we’re probably looking at essentially spectator-free Tour events for a good while longer and, if that’s true, we can still hope the azaleas are blooming at Augusta in April.
Without ignoring what is happening in and to this country, there can be a personal on-off switch. Catching a glimpse of Harris English winning for the first time in eight years with the Pacific glistening in the distance last week had that effect.
That’s choosing joy.
Maybe for a few minutes. Maybe for a few hours.
That’s what golf can give us.
Nine weeks from now, it will be Players Championship week again. ... That’s a week that could warrant a celebration of sorts – just for getting back there, if nothing else.
We can be divided about whether what Bryson DeChambeau is doing could destroy the game as we know it (my guess is it breaks him before it ruins the game), but at least we are united by the game even if we get our news feeds from different networks on the cable guide.
As strange and unsettling as last year was from a professional golf standpoint, it was ultimately a success. Dustin Johnson may have won his green jacket in November and Shane Lowry may have been allowed to keep the Claret Jug for an extra year but, similar to how good players find a way when they don’t have their best stuff, pro golf succeeded.
While the PGA Tour season may technically have begun last September, this is when it feels new. This is when the rhythm of professional golf begins to thump.
Two weeks in Hawaii then off to California and Arizona. Half a world away, the European Tour has a three-event run through the Middle East that draws global attention.
This is when anticipation begins to sprout. If the past 10 months have taught us anything, it’s to appreciate what we had and hopefully will have again.
Nine weeks from now, it will be Players Championship week again. Who imagined so much would happen in one trip around the sun but that’s a week that could warrant a celebration of sorts – just for getting back there, if nothing else.
This could be a golf year for the ages with the Olympics and the Ryder Cup shoehorned into the schedule. The sage Adam Scott said last week that “there's probably 10 or 12 serious competition events during the calendar year and then the rest is a bit of entertainment, really,” and he’s right.
If you’re not trying to make a living by outplaying Jon Rahm or Patrick Reed, it’s all fun. At least it should be.
Think about the state of the professional game at the moment:
We’re watching one of the all-time greats in D.J. and we’re only now beginning to fully appreciate him. He may not inspire emotion or passion like Tiger or Phil have but there haven’t been many better than him.
Justin Thomas is already the next great player if that makes sense. Rahm is hammering a meaty fist on the door as well.
It’s felt like a privilege to watch Rory McIlroy play for the past decade and the prospect of a fully healthy Brooks Koepka is exciting. It wasn’t that long ago we were wondering what golf would look like when Woods and Mickelson were aging out.
It looks like this.
It looks like Xander Schauffele and Viktor Hovland, Scottie Scheffler and Matthew Wolff, Collin Morikawa and DeChambeau.
Who takes the next big leap? Is it Patrick Cantlay? Sungjae Im? Abraham Acer?
Is this the year Tony Finau finally wins again? Can Jordan Spieth get it back? What about Rickie Fowler?
For a world that feels off in so many ways, it’s worth appreciating the simple things.
Watching the final round from somewhere far away on a Sunday afternoon. Wondering if Tiger has it in him one more time. Feeling the tug of the game.