Five things to be thankful for this year as a golf fan: Tiger Woods, Tom Kim, Lydia Ko

Five things to be thankful for this year as a golf fan: Tiger Woods, Tom Kim, Lydia Ko

Golf has never had a year like 2022.

But through the bad and the ugly, there is much to celebrate as we gather around the table at this time of year and reflect.

Here are five things to be thankful for this year as a golf fan.

Be grateful that golf has a whimsical new star.

South Korean Joohyung “Tom” Kim, 20, burst onto the scene this year while playing on a special temporary PGA Tour membership. Needing a win at the Wyndham Championship to make the FedExCup playoffs, Kim laughed off an opening quadruple bogey and became both the first player born in the 2000s to win on the Tour and the second youngest Tour winner since World War II. And Kim didn’t even bother to see how much her winning check was, just like her childhood idol, Tiger Woods.

His breakout year earned Kim a spot on the international Presidents Cup team, and he stole the show at Quail Hollow on Saturday, earning a victory over American duo Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. Kim quit her winning putt and threw her hat to the ground in a Tiger-esque celebration.

“He’s been a tremendous gift to our sport,” said international captain Trevor Immelman. “He has the ability to be a global superstar.”

And Kim was the gift that kept on giving. Two weeks after the Presidents Cup, Kim defeated Cantlay and won the Shriners Children’s Open, becoming the first player to win two Tour wins before his 21st birthday since Woods. Kim hopes to keep pace with her childhood hero on her journey to global stardom.

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

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

During the 2022 season, both Nelly Korda and Danielle Kang received some difficult news.

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

Kang returned to the CP Women’s Open in late August. A month later at the NW Arkansas Championship, she forced a playoff by scoring a 40-yard chip on her 72nd hole, though she eventually fell to Atthaya Thitikul.

“What I did to get here to finish, even to struggle, is a win for me,” Kang said afterwards.

Meanwhile, Korda had four top-10 finishes in her first five starts and moved back into the winner’s circle – and being the world No. 1 – at the Pelican Women’s Championship.

“There have been more lows than highs this year, I think,” Korda said, “and I think that’s what makes this (win) so much more enjoyable for me.”

Alker’s persistence led to Charles Schwab Cup victory

Be grateful for the Cinderella story of golf in 2022.

In August 2021, Steven Alker, 18 days shy of his 50th birthday, qualified for the PGA Tour Champions Boeing Classic on Monday and finished T-7. With the top 10, the New Zealander entered the next event and went on to record six consecutive top 10s before claiming his first victory. Alker has never recorded a single top 10 finish in 122 career PGA Tour starts.

However, Alker was no one-hit wonder. He won four times in 22, including the Senior PGA Championship, which propelled him to win the Charles Schwab Cup title for the season.

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

Be thankful that Lydia Ko is back to her dominance.

In 2021, Ko ended a 1084-day winless drought. A year later, she was the LPGA Player of the Year.

The 25-year-old won three times, lifted the Vare Trophy for the second straight year and won the Race to the CME title throughout the season – but was a hair’s breadth away from making history.

AT Golf Channel Digital

Lydia Ko came in just short of a single-season silver record, but her number of awards brought her closer to the LPGA HOF.

The New Zealander collected $4,364,403 in season earnings, $591 shy of Lorna Ochoa’s all-time record, which she set in 2007.

However, Ko is set to achieve another historic feat soon. Her outstanding year puts her within two points of the 27 points needed to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame. Inbee Park was 27 when she reached this milestone in 2016 and is currently the youngest player to qualify.

If Ko continues her dominance in 2023, we (and she) could be grateful next year to be the youngest among this esteemed LPGA group.

Be thankful for Tiger Woods’ latest comeback.

In December 2015, after a string of injuries, Woods said all he would achieve in his career would be “gravy”. Well, that sauce consists of three wins, including the 2019 Masters – and his comeback tour in 2022.

Woods suffered serious leg injuries in a single-car accident in February 2021 while recovering from his fifth back surgery. The 46-year-old will likely never play a full program again, however, this year he was able to perform on some of golf’s biggest stages. In his first competitive round since November 2020, Woods shot 1-under 71 at the Masters en route to making the cut.

“I don’t think words can really describe this given where I was just over a year ago and what my prospects were at that time to finish here and be able to play in all four rounds,” said Woods after finishing 47th. “Even a month ago, I didn’t know if I could do it.”

He had a little more trouble in his next two starts. He made the PGA Championship cut, but pulled out after round three and played the 150th Open at St. Andrews, but didn’t get a tee time on the weekend. He is scheduled to play the Hero World Challenge in December next.

At times it may have been hard to watch Woods, who was clearly compromised. However, his mini-return gave golf several other indelible Tiger moments, and at his age – injury or not – those might be rare, which means we’re all grateful for the memories.


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