You haven't played golf since the week after Thanksgiving. That was when the grim weather arrived and the course was closed for the winter. The clubs have been parked in the basement since then, useless and mute, next to an assortment of summer fans and cleaning supplies and boxes filled with indeterminate memories.
"Let me turn on the television and watch the golf from Doral," you say on Sunday afternoon, reaching for the family clicker. "Tiger is rolling. Let me take a look at Tiger."
There still is snow on the ground where you live. There are piles of snow, actually, if you live in certain parts of the country. The cars on the street are uniformly dirty, covered with road salt. There are puddles on that street during the day, ice at night. You wear your boots all the time. You are sick of wearing your boots all the time. You are sick of wearing all of your winter clothes, buttoning up, insulating yourself, wearing that stupid hat because of the cold. Sick. Indeed.
"Look at Tiger," you say. "Short sleeves. He's in the familiar red shirt for the closeout. Must be a new Nike style, having that black stripe down the back. And then there's Graeme McDowell, who's playing with him. What color would you call that shirt? Orange? Tangerine? The man is wearing a tangerine-colored, short-sleeved shirt. Wouldn't it be great to be wearing a tangerine-colored short-sleeved shirt?"
You think, wait a minute, that maybe you once owned a shirt like that one. You can't remember. You might still own one now. The short-sleeved golf shirts and the khaki shorts and the little zipper jackets have been packed away since forever, so it seems. They're like old friends who have fallen out of touch. You are sure you will get back together someday. You're not sure when that someday might be.
"Look at the grass," you say, the pictures from Florida bringing wonder to your voice. "Those fairways are just one green lawn. Look at the water. Blue! Calm! Look at the white sand. Look at the people in their shorts. [They seem so happy.] The announcer just said the temperature is in 'the high seventies.' A cameraman just took a picture of a cruise ship leaving Miami. Look at the palm trees! Everything so green."
You know there will be green in your own neighborhood sometime. If you think hard you can remember that you have a lawn underneath that snow and muck. Yes, a lawn. Those tree branches, stark and bare, will sprout buds and then leaves. All of the trees will have leaves. The temperature will be in the high seventies. Maybe higher. This will happen. Everything will be green again and the water will be blue and you will go swimming. Yes.
"Look at Tiger hit the ball," you say. "Isn't he a sight to see? He's back. He's collected 28 birdies in four days. He's drilling putts like he used to drill them. He's definitely back. The announcers say Steve Stricker gave him a 45-minute putting lesson on Wednesday that made a huge difference. That's golf. One lesson can change everything."
That's interesting, this lesson business. You've had a thought during this down time that maybe you should take a lesson when the better weather arrives. There are a couple of parts in your game where changes could be made that would bring you into golf respectability. Not big changes, either, A tweak here, an adjustment there. Thank you, Steve. Now I can putt. Thank you, Butch Harmon or whomever. Now I can drive the ball 300 yards, drop wedges onto the green, blast the ball out a sand trap to within two feet of the hole. I can do all this.
"Look at Tiger," you say. "It's all so easy, what he does. The announcer said he just hit a sand wedge from 148 yards. If I could do that, the game would be much easier. Get me some length on my sand wedge. I'm so close right now."
You say things like this when you cannot play golf. The golf in your mind during the cold weather is so much better than the golf you play with your body in the warm weather. You forget your frustrations, your lack of coordination, your general ineptitude. You make phantom swings with a phantom golf club at imaginary golf balls during the winter and every shot is perfect. There are no slices, no duck hooks in the imagination. There is only perfection.
"Look at the way these guys drive the ball," you say as drive after drive lands in the middle of the fairway. "That's what I can do. Then an iron to the green. Two putts. Maybe one. Walk to the next hole."
You begin to formulate a battle plan. Maybe you should buy a new driver. That would be the ticket. Maybe buy yourself one of those drivers that you can adjust to your own specifications. Yes. For sure. Maybe if you bought a new putter, too. Maybe if you bought a matched set of wedges. Maybe if you played with better balls this year, too, not those re-washed rejects. Maybe some new shoes. Definitely new shoes. Maybe the ones that look like tennis shoes? Maybe.
"Look at Tiger, 76 PGA wins," you say as the trophy presentation is made on the 18th green by some people from Cadillac and the Trump family and some other rich-guy dignitaries. "Played great. Makes me want to get out there. Just like him. A new year. Anything can happen. A good year. No, a great year."
You look out the window as the credits roll, a few minutes before 7 p.m. on the east coast and are surprised to see the sky is still light. Then you remember. Yes, OK, wonderful, this is the first night of Daylight Savings Time.
Heart be still. The end is in sight.