Maui Musings: 5 questions for a new year in golf

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Justin Thomas hits from the 12th fairway during a practice round prior to the Tournament of Champions golf event, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele were discussing the quality of a certain golf shot, not belonging to either one of them, when the conversation turned into the self-deprecating variety.

“If you want to know how to hook a 3-wood into the garbage, I can help with that,” Thomas said.

“If you need to know how to three-putt,” Schauffele countered, pointing toward the 18th green at Kapalua.

Thomas hit such a shot last year in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and it nearly cost him. He made bogey on the last hole, which appeared to open the door for Schauffele until his three-putt par led to a three-man playoff that Thomas won.

But that was last year.

It's time to look ahead, and considering how 2020 unfolded, the hope is it can only get better. Here are five topics to consider before Hudson Swafford hits the first shot of the new year:

THE FANS

Rickie Fowler was asked the last time he heard someone cheer for him. Not a few claps from volunteers or staff members at a golf course, but a real, throaty cheer. He thought back to Thursday at The Players Championship, the day before COVID-19 shut down golf.