The best moment in golf from 2021? It might have happened at Augusta, but it wasn’t from a player.

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  • Hideki Matsuyama
    Hideki Matsuyama
    Japanese professional golfer

When thinking about the most memorable moment from this year in golf, it’s tough to narrow down a single fracture of time. 2021 was loaded with noteworthy events.

Tiger Woods, 10 months removed from nearly losing his right leg, teed it up alongside his son at the PNC Championship — and looked pretty damn good doing it.

Jon Rahm was forced to withdraw from the Memorial after building a stranglehold on the tournament through three rounds due to a positive COVID-19 test. Patrick Cantlay can thank the virus for that win.

Jordan Spieth, who seemingly disappeared from the face of the Earth after his 2017 Open victory, returned to form in the early part of the calendar eventually winning the Valero Texas Open.

I could go on.

But after sitting down, it became clear what the best moment was.

After Hideki Matsuyama became the first Japanese player to win the Masters, all eyes were on him — until they weren’t.

Shota Hayafuji, Matsuyama’s caddie, upon returning the flagstick into Holly’s green one final time, faced the 18th fairway, but in a larger sense the golf course as a whole.

And with the detached flag in hand, bowed to the National.

It didn’t take long for the gesture to take over social media, creating a moment of self-reflection for the entirety of the golf world. And in that time fans, media, and other players realized how important this game is, and what it means to us all.

It means everything.

Now, as we go into the new year, let Hayafuji’s gesture serve as a reminder, as guidance, on how to not only play the game but how to go through life.

With respect.