In my long, illustrious golf writing career, there have been many nights after golf tournaments that I didn’t feel like churning out 500 words with intermittent gifs and relatable tweets recapping the weekend but would rather the sport of golf in general fade away so I could melt back into my couch and wallow around with my digesting Sunday spaghetti, biding my time until football season started again. Luckily today reminded me why I spend so many hours a week refreshing an app on my phone to follow green and yellow and red lines and gladly welcome words like “fusion” and “penultimate” during the live coverage. Sunday was the reason we play and watch golf.
It’s always and will always be the one shot that keeps bringing you back. As a golfer, my shot that will bring me back next week came on the 8th hole of a round I played Saturday as the 4th to a group of 70-year-old strangers. I had convinced my girlfriend that our date to the park with a bottle of wine would be much more fun while I played golf. When the group in front of us asked if I wanted to join their threesome, I immediately declined before coming to the realization that I didn’t want the starter to throw me into the nerd group behind me. While the first 7 holes were uneventful at best and forgettable at worst, the 8th hole brought a defining moment. I lit my first cigarette of the round while we waited on the group ahead of us to finish the upcoming par 3, and all three of the older men stared at me while I walked towards the back of the cart away from the group as to not blow smoke on any of the near-geriatrics.
“I hate to ask you this,” Great I can’t even smoke with these old dudes. “but can I bum one of those off you?” I was shocked.
“Yeah, if you don’t mind I’d love one too. I haven’t had a cigarette in probably ten years,” the oldest one said as he grabbed two out of my pack.
“Don’t tell my wife,” the third one said as he grabbed one too.
I flushed my 6-iron within 15 feet of the pin. Even though the shot may have not been my best of the round, it was the shot to tie me over until the next one.
As a fan, Tiger’s birdie putt on 17 will hold us over until the next great moment. It wasn’t the most impressive shot of this season, and it didn’t even put him in the lead. But for the first time in five years, I remembered what kept us coming back to watch golf Sunday after Sunday. I was brought back to the early 2000’s, a kid again in my parents’ living room, watching my dad sleep methodically from hole 3 to 15 only to wake up to “see if he can do it again this week.” I remembered why during Junior Golf, all the kids had the same black Nike hat with the white swoosh that I did. I remembered why each week during his prime there was a bet for Tiger vs. The Field. I remembered my brother and I running and pushing past the patrons at the practice round at the Masters just to see him walk past us on the way to the clubhouse. I remembered my first set of golf clubs and swinging them as hard as possible, trying to emulate the greatest golfer I’ve ever witnessed. I even remembered Tiger’s press conference that I watched with my mother and my grandmother and they subsequently disavowing him. I remembered all the people who would watch golf just to pull against Tiger, and I remembered the reasons why. I remembered how for five years I was sick of hearing about Tiger being back, or not being back, or news about his back, and thinking to myself that golf would be better focusing on the new talent and moving on without him. I remembered David Duval. And then another golfer who always wears sunglasses outlasted Tiger, shooting an emotional and impressive 65.
But it was that one shot, that one putt that Tiger drained from over 40 feet, that has me excited for next week, that has the world preparing for the second Sunday in April. And while there are other story lines and moments from this week, nothing will be as memorable as that putt on 17.