36 Reasons to Love Golf Now -- plus 10 bonus items!

Tiger Woods
Carlos M. Saavedra / SI
Tiger Woods.

Yes, it’s a troubled world. Rampant unemployment, partisan bickering, overpopulation—and that’s just the Kardashians. The good news: Now is the best time ever to love golf. A new rivalry has begun on Tour, high-tech toys are lifting your game to greater heights, and Tiger Woods has never been more fascinating. How do we love golf at this very moment? Let us count the ways.

No. 36: TIGER HAS NEVER BEEN MORE FASCINATING
By age 34, Tiger Woods had won 71 Tour events, including 14 majors, and was destined to surpass 18 majors, the standard set by Jack Nicklaus. That inevitability is gone. Every time we watch Woods play, we wonder: Is he still Tiger? Is the magic still there? There’s more suspense now, and it makes Woods more interesting than ever. When he won at Bay Hill this year, his red shirt looked even redder. “He’s back!” we said. Then he fell flat at the Masters. He’s not back. But he won the Memorial, complete with a flop-shot hole-out for the ages. Back! Then he led the U.S. Open through 36 holes and crumpled over the weekend. Not back! A similar narrative played out at the British Open and the PGA . So it goes. Tiger’s new unpredictability—and a jarring vulnerability we saw when he fluffed a chip at Olympic and dodged his own bunker shot at Royal Lytham—makes him more human than when he was winning the U.S. Open by 15 strokes. At his best, Woods still makes golf louder, brighter, more impactful. To me, he calls to mind not Jack Nicklaus but Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt. The guy can’t stand to be around his wife, but upon her sudden death becomes a blubbering mess, as if she’d been his reason for living all along. It’s like that for us with Woods. I used to have reservations about covering a guy who was so openly disdainful of the media. But man, those were some good times. —Cameron Morfit

No. 35: THIS YEAR’S RYDER CUP SHOULD BE EPIC
Too often, the Ryder Cup is like an Ocean’s Eleven sequel—great cast, weak story. Three of the last four matches have been blowouts, by Cup standards. Not this year. Not only is Tiger kinda-sorta Tiger again, but Rory McIlroy has awakened from a mini-slump. And at press time, nine of the world’s top 10 players were Medinah-bound: five for Team USA , four for the Euros. To paraphrase 1999 skipper Ben Crenshaw (complete with knowing finger wag), “We have a good feeling about this.”

No. 34: HIGH-TECH DRIVERS HELP YOU HIT IT LIKE A TOUR PRO
Whipsaw shafts. High-MOI titanium faces. Slice-busting adjustability. Today’s space-age drivers are so high-tech, Steve Jobs could have conjured them. Remember the ’90s when you used thimble-headed metal woods? Remember the ’80s when woods actually were wood? Today, players of all abilities are hitting it longer and straighter than ever. In a recent ShotLink experiment we conducted on the par-4 18th at Doral Resort’s Blue Monster, 57 weekend warriors (average handicap: 17.1) hit almost as many fairways (44 percent vs. 47 percent) and fewer balls in the water than did a comparable number of Tour pros during the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Off the tee, the gap between you and the world’s best players has never been smaller.

No. 33: TWITTER BRINGS FANS AND PLAYERS CLOSER TOGETHER

The addictive social networking service (500 million users daily) has given Tour pros and Average Joes a direct line of communication, 140 characters per pop. And it’s more versatile than a rescue club, whether you want to get a tip from Hank or Butch, or keep tabs on Keegan Bradley’s viewing habits. Three of our favorite Tweets:
“You know what time it is...... C O F F E E E E E E E E E E E E E.” —Webb Simpson (>@webbsimpson1a)

“Turning on the tv in England and Fresh prince of Bel Air is on. Gonna be a good week.”
—Keegan Bradley (@keegan_bradley)

“Giraffes make you smile for some reason”
—Ian Poulter (@ianjamespoulter)

No. 32: GOLF CHANNEL’S HOLLY SONDERS (pictured)

No. 31: CUSTOMIZING YOUR GEAR IS EASIER THAN EVER
Want to play orange-tinted irons like Rickie? Personal touches were once reserved for the pros, but no more. Vokey Wedge Works (vokey.com/wedgeworks) personalizes your wedges, Callaway’s “Udesign” (udesignu.callawaygolf.com) blasts color onto your Razr Fit Driver, and Scotty Cameron’s Custom Shop (scottycameron.com) can add hues, logos and initials to your flatstick. So now’s the time, Slugger, to finally get your nickname stamped on your lucky club.

No. 30: THIS EXISTS
Behold the Golfer’s Beer Tap (pictured), which holds 48 ounces of suds, fits most golf bags—and is almost impossible for your course’s “No Outside Coolers” cops to spot. ($47, groomsday.com)

No. 29: R.I.P. SILLY SEASON
Thanks to a revamped Tour schedule, beginning in 2013 the new season kicks off with October’s Fall Series, ending the eight-week snooze-fest from late October through New Year’s.

No. 28: YOU CAN FOLLOW IN TRAVELIN’ JOE’S FOOTSTEPS! (And Win a free trip to Hawaii worth $10,000)
Travelin ’ Joe isn’t the only lucky soul who gets to visit exotic golf locations for free. Here’s your chance to follow in his footsteps. If you’d like a chance to play in the pro-am at the Champions Tour’s Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai in January 2013, tell us in 100 words or less why this would be your dream trip. The winner receives round-trip airfare for two to Hawaii, four nights at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on the Big Island of Hawaii, one slot in the event’s pro-am, two VIP passes for the hospitality tent, and a gift bag. That’s an estimated $10,000 value! The winner will write a story for Golf.com about his or her experience in the event. Do you have the “write” stuff? Click here to enter!

No purchase necessary. “Hawaii Dream Trip” contest begins on 12:01 am (ET ) on Sept. 15, 2012, and ends at 11:59 pm (ET ) on Oct. 15, 2012. Open to legal U.S. residents, age 18 or older, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Void where prohibited by law. For official rules and instructions on how to enter, go to Golf.com/Dreamtrip.

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