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Five things to be thankful for this year as a golf fan: From Tiger to Lydia

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Golf has never had a year like 2022.

But despite all the bad and ugly, there is a lot to celebrate when we gather around the table at this time of the year and reflect.

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Here are five things to thank a golf fan for this year.

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Be grateful that golf has a quirky new star.

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20-year-old South Korean Juhyun “Tom” Kim burst onto the scene this year playing on a special temporary membership to the PGA Tour. Needing a Wyndham Championship win to qualify for the FedExCup playoffs, Kim scoffed at the opening quad bogey and became the first player born in the 2000s to win the Tour and the second-youngest Tour winner since World War II. And Kim didn’t even bother to look at the amount of his winning check – just like his childhood idol Tiger Woods.

His breakout year earned Kim a spot on the International Presidents Cup team, and he stole the show on Saturday at Quayle Hollow with a win over strong American duo Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantley. Kim retracted his winning shot and threw his hat to the ground Tiger-style.

“He has been a huge gift to our sport,” said international captain Trevor Immelman. “He has the ability to become a global superstar.”

And Kim was a gift that kept on giving. Two weeks after the Presidents’ Cup, Kim beat Cantley in a duel to win the Shriners Children’s Open, becoming the first player since Woods to win two Tour victories before his 21st birthday. Kim hopes to keep up with her childhood hero on the road to worldwide stardom.

“Tiger has 82 PGA Tour wins,” Kim said. “Until I’m 83, it’s going to be hard for me to think a little differently.”

Be grateful that the two biggest stars of the LPGA are back in full force.

In the 2022 season, Nelly Korda and Daniel Kang received some hard news.

Korda was diagnosed with a blood clot in her right arm in March, underwent surgery in April and returned to competition at the US Women’s Open in June. At the event, Kang revealed that she had a tumor on her spine and would be out indefinitely.

Kang returned to the CP Women’s Open at the end of August. A month later at the Northwest Arkansas Championships, she forced the playoffs by hitting a 40-yard chip on her 72nd hole, though she eventually conceded to Attaya Titicul.

“What I did to get here to finish, even to wrestle, is my victory,” Kang said later.

Meanwhile, Korda had four top 10s in her first five starts back and returned to the winning lap – and world No. 1 – at the Pelican Women’s Championship.

“I think there have been more downs than ups this year,” Korda said, “and I think that’s why this (winning) is so much more enjoyable for me.”

Alker’s persistence led to Charles Schwab Cup victory.

Alker's persistence led to Charles Schwab Cup victory.

Be grateful for the 2022 golf Cinderella story.

In August 2021, Stephen Alker, 18 days before his 50th birthday, qualified for the Boeing Classic PGA Tour Champions on Monday and finished in a T-7. With a top 10 finish, the New Zealander qualified for the next tournament and then finished in the top 10 six times in a row before taking his first win. Alker never finished in the top 10 in his 122 PGA Tour starts.

However, Alker was not a one-hit wonder. He won four times in ’22, including the PGA Senior Championship, prompting him to claim the season’s Charles Schwab Cup title.

“The pressure was on [Alker] from the beginning of the year throughout the year,” Padraig Harrington said. “He had the advantage and several of us have been catching him all year. It’s very impressive that he not only holds up, but wins in style.”

Be thankful that Lydia Ko has returned to her reign.

In 2021, a 1,084-day win-win drought ended on Koh. A year later, she became the LPGA Player of the Year.

The 25-year-old has won three times, won the Vare Trophy for the second year in a row and was in contention for a seasonal CME title race, but he was short of hair to make history.

Central golf

Ko $591 is money-shy; approaching LPGA HOF

BY Golf Channel Digital

Lydia Koh nearly hit a single-season money record, but her cash tally brought her closer to the LPGA HOF.

The New Zealander earned $4,364,403 for the season, $591 less than Lorna Ochoa’s record she set in 2007.

However, Ko will soon achieve another historic feat. Her outstanding year took her two points off the 27 points required for induction into the LPGA Hall of Fame. Inby Park was 27 years old when she reached that milestone in 2016 and is currently the youngest player to ever qualify.

If Ko continues her reign in 2023, we (and she) could be grateful next year for being the youngest in this respected LPGA group.

Be grateful for the latest return of Tiger Woods.

In December 2015, after a series of injuries, Woods said that whatever he achieved in his career would be “gravy”. Well, that gravy consists of three wins, including the 2019 Masters and his 2022 return tour.

Woods suffered serious leg injuries in a car accident in February 2021 while recovering from his fifth back surgery. The 46-year-old will likely never play a full game again, but this year he has been able to play some of the biggest golf courses. In his first competitive round since November 2020, Woods hit 1-71 at the Masters en route to being cut.

“I don’t think words can really describe it given where I was just over a year ago and what my prospects were of being here and being able to play all four rounds,” said Woods, finishing 47th. “Even a month ago, I didn’t know if I could pull this off.”

He struggled a little more in his next two starts. He won the PGA Championship but withdrew after the 3rd round and played the 150th Open at St. Andrews but did not secure his first time on the weekend. He is due to compete in the next December Hero World Challenge.

It was hard at times to watch Woods, who was obviously compromised. However, his mini-return gave golf some more memorable Tiger moments, and at his age – injury or not – there may be few, which means we’re all grateful for the memories.


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