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GOLF DOCTOR

Golf shows significant signs of returning to the real normal

Posted

It has been just over a year since the pandemic turned the world upside down.

In March last year, the PGA Tour canceled the Players Championship after one round.

It’s worth noting that Hideki Matsuyama was heart-broken after shooting a 9-under 63 in that first round.

The Tour didn’t resume until June 2020 with the Charles Schwab Challenge tournament at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, won by Daniel Berger. 

Then in August the rescheduled PGA Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco was won by young upstart Colin Morikowa, followed by Bryson DeChambeau powering his way to victory in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September. 

Augusta National Golf Club hosted a fall version of the Masters in November with Dustin Johnson (world no. 1) running away with the Green Jacket. 

The Open Championship was cancelled in 2020 due to major difficulty with international travel during the pandemic.

Even though professional golf was shut down for three months, we got to watch a combo of pro-celebrity play for big charity bucks, with partly assuaged our addiction to pro golf on TV.  Precious few players have tested positive for Covid.

Starting early this year, things got partly back to routine, sans spectators, with Brooks Koepka winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open on schedule, and then Justin Thomas brilliantly winning the Players Championship in March. 

But it wasn’t until April, a few weeks ago, that I began to sense the world of golf was showing true signs of returning to normal, with the Masters being played in its normal week, and patrons, albeit limited in number, provided some semblance of roars. 

Certainly Hideki Matsuyama offered the golf-crazed Japanese reason to feel some sense of normal. We may even see Hideki light the flame to start the Olympics in Tokyo this summer. 

Other than the brainless promotional stunt by Wayne Player, honorary starter Gary Player’s aging son, who blatantly displayed a box of brand golf balls over the head of a seated Lee Elder -- the first black player to tee it up at the Masters back in 1975 -- things seemed pretty normal.

Also, an indication of normal was Stewart Cink winning the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, besting players his caddie son Reagan’s age, while Harold Varner III finished tied for second after hitting his first shot out of bonds. HV III will win soon.

Also so nice to see Lydia Ko winning the Lotte Championship in Hawaii by seven shots – her first win in three years. 

Not to mention Ryder Cup Captain Steve Stricker winning the PGA Tour Champions Chubb Classic in Naples, Florida. And Jordan Spieth is returning to normal with his win at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio on April 4.

I give PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and the entire PGA Tour staff high marks for demonstrating sensible safety precautions and bringing Tour golf back sooner rather than later.

Jordan Spieth said recently, “There was a lot of concern about whether we would be able to play golf in 2020 and beyond.”

 “I give a lot of props to Jay Monahan for the work he put in,” Spieth added. “It’s easier to see how good a leader is when you’re in tough times.”

Resuming regular play on all the tours truthfully sets the stage for recreational golf to blossom in popularity. 

As Max Adler, editor of Golf Digest, noted last May, “As our world braces to be drastically reshaped, is it heedless to wonder what will become of golf? I don’t think so. There’s no reason to apologize for a game giving meaning to your life.”

Along with most other golf fans, I am hoping the return to normal will include full spectator attendance at events on all the tours, with or without masks. 

Monahan has said things will start to be normal when a high percentage of players have been vaccinated, but he is not requiring it.

“If golf teaches us anything, it is to be resilient and adaptable in the wake of disasters. I’m stirred to imagine how our game will contribute meaningfully to bring about the changed world that awaits,” Adler so mindfully observed.

Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact him at docblanchard71@gmail.com