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It would be easy to stand under the clock tower at Southern Hills and pretend that the world isn't that much different, says John Maginnes, but the fact is that things have changed. (Scott Halleran/Gett Images)
It would be easy to stand under the clock tower at Southern Hills and pretend that the world isn't that much different, says John Maginnes, but the fact is that things have changed. (Scott Halleran/Gett Images)

Maginnes: Tulsa reminds us how different things are

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Even as he enjoys his return to Southern Hills, John Maginnes can't help but reflect on how much the world outside of golf has changed since the last major here -- and how much the people of Oklahoma have sacrificed to protect us.

By John Maginnes, Contributor

TULSA, Okla. -- The 2001 U.S. Open at Southern Hills is remembered for its dramatic finish and subsequent playoff. However, those of us who played that week were reminded of an American tragedy that had taken place in Oklahoma six years earlier.

Two weeks before the first tee shot was hit, Timothy McVeigh was put to death for the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. The museum that commemorates the loss of life in this terrible tragedy had opened earlier that year.

Families who lost loved ones, as well as the survivors, were honored during the U.S. Open for their bravery and heroism. The 1995 bombing was the most extreme act of terrorism that this generation had ever seen. However, less than three months after Retief Goosen won the U.S. Open, the world would change forever.

It would be easy to stand under the clock tower on the driving range at Southern Hills this week and pretend that the world isn't that much different. The chatter on the range is still about grips and the backswing, heat and sun dresses. The traditional Perry Maxwell design remains nearly as it was when he was inspired to design it south of town prior to World War II. Pars are still difficult to come by and birdies are rarer still. The heat of the summer challenges the players as much today as it ever has.

But after a day of golf, the nightly news is more different now than ever before. Footage of car bombs and American soldiers carrying children in war-torn foreign lands come to us with such regularity that the images have become the norm.

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The world is most definitely different today.

Professional golf is, perhaps, more politically conscious than other sports. Even if that hasn't always been the case, the last six years have changed that. It could have something to do with the diversity of the major players in all areas of the game. Or, maybe, it is something far more subtle.

The life of a professional golfer is one of attrition. In a sport with no guaranteed contracts or long-term deals, golfers are constantly trying to improve. To become complacent is to be replaced -- whether you are Tiger Woods or struggling to keep your card.

So the freedom to pursue a life in professional golf is a gift that the players acknowledge and appreciate. We have learned far too much about the cost of freedom since we were last at Southern Hills.

Earlier this summer, Tiger Woods hosted the first AT&T National. The focus of the event was a celebration of our military. After growing up in a military family, Tiger knows just how great the sacrifice can be. Oklahoma and Tulsa have certainly paid more than their fair share. A total of 59 of their sons and daughters have given the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq since March of 2003, when Lance Corporal Blair White was killed. Six of those men were from Tulsa.

The best players in the world are focused this week on the game. There is a lot at stake for those whose careers can be defined by a fairytale week. And while they are constantly reminded of the turmoil that we live in, we are all insulated nicely at Southern Hills. Whether we are playing, reporting or watching the action at the 89th PGA Championship, we do so in relative comfort and safety.

This week has been called "glory's last shot" -- and perhaps, it will indeed be achieved here. Since 2001, though, I can't help thinking that we have lived in a world where heroism rarely receives the glory it deserves.

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