If you are a fan of golf---I mean a real fan--then you must be a little disappointed to see the 2012 season come to an end. I cannot think of a golf season in the last twenty-five years that was more riveting, more fun, more excruciating and more compelling than was the 2012 season. Sad to see it go but at the same time looking forward to 2013 and beyond and what could be an exciting new era in the game.
And as a golf fan, I find it appropriate at this time of year to be thankful for the great golf stories that emerged; the first time winners, the come- from-behind victories, the unfortunate meltdowns, the Ryder Cup for the ages, the rookies making new noise and the people that tell the stories. Young or old, new to the game or a lifelong fan, this year had something for everybody. And now we are only six weeks away from the 2013 season.
So what am I thankful for? In no certain order I am thankful that:
--Jason Dufner, Rickie Fowler, Kyle Stanley, Marc Leishman and Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey all finally broke through with their first career victories on the PGA TOUR as did rookies John Huh, Ted Potter, Jr., Jonas Blixt and Charlie Beljan. Looking forward to more great golf from all of them in 2013.
--Bubba Watson had the imagination to hit an out-of-this-world, law-of-physics defying, aerodynamically impossible, GPS busting hook wedge out of the trees on the second sudden death playoff hole against Louis Oosthuizen to win his first major at Augusta National. Words just cannot tell the story so enjoy it one more time.
--And Bubba's shot was just hours after Oosthuizen struck a perfect 4-iron at the par-5 second hole to card the first double eagle caught on television at Augusta National and set up an incredible closing day at the Masters. As sportscaster Warner Wolf would say, "let's go to the videotape."
--Brandt Snedeker won the Fedex Cup because I like the way he plays the game: with enthusiasm and without delay. Hopefully the smiling Tennessee native can inspire young people to adopt his approach to the game.
--Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus are still with us, still hosting their events and still inspiring so many players who took up the game because of what they did and what they meant to the game so many years ago.
--Johnny Miller still calls it as he sees it.
--Verne Lundquist still calls the action at the 16th at Augusta National, one of the best voices at one of the best holes at one of the best events in the game.
--Roger Maltbie still loves to walk the course and give us his insights, tell us what club the players are hitting, tell us what's going on inside their heads.
--the Golf Channel was created.
--the PGA TOUR does great work for so many worthwhile charities and shows the respect and honor to our veterans that they deserve, men and women who should never be forgotten for the sacrifices they made for us.
--I was able to attend the first Fedex Cup playoff event of the year--The Barclays at Bethpage Black-- with my friends Rob, Matt and Tommy G (no, not Tommy Gainey).
--my wife tolerates my addiction to golf.
--Oh, Oh, Oh --the Golf Boys (Bubba, Rickie, Ben and Hunter) are making another video this year. Will it be better than this?
--the belly putter is facing extinction ( I hope).
--that Jim Furyk made 98.38% of his putts inside five feet this year after backing off an equal percentage of those five footers for a second and third look. Love ya Jimmy, but c'mon. See Snedeker for some putting help. Nobody had a more agonizing year than Furyk did but I hope he comes back as good as ever in 2013.
--Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson each picked up a victory this year, both still showing some game into their 40's.
--Charlie Beljan survived his panic attacks at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic and won. A crazy ending to a crazy golf year that could only happen at Disney. And good for Rick Adcox, Beljan's caddie, who finally carried a winning bag after 20 plus years in the game.
--Tiger Woods seems to have found his game again. With three victories during the year, can Tiger find another major in 2013? With shots like this still in his bag, you'd have to think he still has a shot at Jack's record. The 70th hole at Jack's Memorial Tournament.
--that Rory McIlroy and Tiger were able to set aside some differences from a few years ago and become friends. Should be some great rivalry between these two for at least a few years.
--that so many golf videos can be found on YouTube.
--Ernie Els was able to win another major at the Open Championship. A very deserving winner, a class act and a ray of hope for the over 40 crowd. And let's not forget his great work on behalf of autistic children.
--that Sergio Garcia won his first PGA TOUR event since the 2008 Players Championship when he captured the Wyndham Championship and played himself back into the Ryder Cup. His cheerleading at the 2010 Ryder Cup after failing to make the European team was a selfless example of how to respond to a setback.
--Phil Mickelson found Keegan Bradley and partnered with him at the Ryder Cup and gave Team USA some much needed energy which hopefully can carry over to 2014.
--Davis Love III was our Ryder Cup captain and made the selections he made. Not an easy position to be in to have to tell worthy candidates like Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler and Bo Van Pelt that they didn't make the team. And Love handled the second guessers about his selections and his strategies with style and dignity. And he still plays a great game at the age of 48.
--Ian Poulter has the passion he has for the Ryder Cup; he makes the bi-annual event just so much more fun. Who can forget the putts he made and the daggers he shot at Team USA members as he carried the Euros on his shoulders? Great stuff, Mr. Poulter. And who could forget this scene?
-- the fine people at bunkersparadise.com give me the opportunity to write for their website and for its many readers. Great work being done by people I only know through the magic of a computer and a cell phone.
--we don't have to live through Ryder Cup captain selections again until 2014.
--it's only 141 days until the 2013 Masters.
Wishing all of you a very Happy, Healthy and Peaceful Thanksgiving.
By Mike Verrastro
Follow Mike on Twitter @ mjv1230 or on his blog at http://puttingforbirdie.yardbarker.com/blog/puttingforbirdie/home