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Maui Musings: 5 questions for a new year in golf

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) – Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele have been discussing the standard of a sure golf shot, not belonging to both of them, when the dialog was the self-deprecating selection.

“If you want to know how to hook a 3-wood into the garbage, I can help with that,” Thomas stated.

“If you need to know how to three-putt,” Schauffele countered, pointing towards the 18th inexperienced at Kapalua.

Thomas hit such a shot final year in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and it almost price him. He made bogey on the final gap, which appeared to open the door for Schauffele till his three-putt par led to a three-man playoff that Thomas received.

But that was final year.

It’s time to look forward, and contemplating how 2020 unfolded, the hope is it could actually solely get higher. Here are 5 subjects to contemplate earlier than Hudson Swafford hits the primary shot of the new year:

THE FANS

Rickie Fowler was requested the final time he heard somebody cheer for him. Not a few claps from volunteers or workers members at a golf course, however a actual, throaty cheer. He thought again to Thursday at The Players Championship, the day earlier than COVID-19 shut down golf.

“It was a bad round, but I have to think there was maybe a good shot in there,” he stated.

Golf hasn’t been the identical with out them. Schauffele was requested when he thought they may return and he stated, “Hopefully, as soon as possible.”

There shall be a small gathering of individuals seated across the 18th inexperienced at Kapalua, however they’ll’t go anyplace else. No followers in Honolulu or in California (the Genesis Invitational hasn’t introduced a plan, however contemplating the circumstances in Los Angeles, no followers could be anticipated). The Phoenix Open is planning for 8,000, a fraction of its regular crowd.

The subsequent choice falls to Florida, about two months away, which is beginning to really feel as if it’s proper across the nook. The large query is Augusta National. And nobody is extra involved than Ryder Cup officers.

THE RYDER CUP

No different golf match depends a lot on noise than the Ryder Cup, which is why it was postponed from final September. This time, it won’t have a selection however to play with or with out followers.

But who performs?

The high six going into 2021 are Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa and Schauffele. U.S. captain Steve Stricker will get six picks this time, and he’s nonetheless eight months and 4 majors away from getting a sense of who shall be there and who ought to be there.

Tiger Woods is at No. 17 and isn’t enjoying fairly often. Is he price one other choose? Phil Mickelson has performed in each Ryder Cup since 1995 – Morikawa wasn’t even born then. He turns 51 in June and is approaching the two-year anniversary of his final win. Since the final Ryder Cup, Lefty has completed a mixed 84 pictures behind in the 5 majors he made the lower.

American golf is deep. And younger.

THE BATTLE FOR NO. 1

By counting the FedEx Cup and never the uncooked rating on the Tour Championship, Johnson received or was runner-up in six of his final seven tournaments. The exception was a tie for sixth on the U.S. Open.

That’s why he’s not solely No. 1 in the world, however has the most important hole over No. 2 since Rory McIlroy initially of 2015.

McIlroy, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas all have had moments of brilliance. Sustaining it over the course of the year has been the exhausting half. No one since Woods in 2009 has stayed at No. 1 a complete year.

Jon Rahm and Thomas are behind Johnson, and each are able to large years. Bryson DeChambeau is swinging sooner and sooner and promising to succeed in new frontiers.

TOKYO

March looms as a vital mile marker for deciding the destiny of the Olympics. Regardless of who represents which nation, it could possibly be a enormous setback for golf if it desires to construct momentum from its profitable return to the Olympics in 2016. It wants the gold medal to actually imply one thing.

It does to Justin Rose. He received in Rio de Janeiro, however the one-year delay didn’t assist his possibilities of returning. Rose went into final year at No. 8 in the world, the highest-ranked participant for Team GB. Now he’s No. 35, the fifth-ranked British participant, and nations solely get greater than two gamers – a most of 4 – if they’re among the many high 15.

The battle to put on the Stars & Stripes figures to be fierce as ever, particularly with 11 Americans among the many high 15. That begins with Johnson, who had no intention of enjoying initially of final year as a result of he didn’t need to be worn out heading into the FedEx Cup postseason.

As for Woods? He began final year at No. 8, fourth amongst Americans. Now he’s at No. 41. His Olympic flame is flickering.

TIGER WOODS

A year in the past, breaking the PGA Tour report with victory No. 83 appeared extra like “when” than “if.” Now it’s most likely someplace in between, and solely as a result of he’s Tiger Woods.

The pandemic was disruptive, as was his well being in March (Woods didn’t play for a month earlier than golf shut down). After he began the year by breaking par all 4 rounds and tying for ninth at Torrey Pines, Woods by no means contended. In the following seven tournaments the place he made the lower, Woods completed on common greater than 18 pictures behind the winner.

The report remains to be one victory away. And he’s nonetheless Tiger Woods. But it’s not getting any simpler. Only three gamers older than Woods (45) have received a main – Jack Nicklaus, Old Tom Morris and Julius Boros.

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