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Tour Confidential: Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods and the Masters

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  • Alan Shipnuck takes questions from his readers about Tiger, Phil and golf's next big rivalry.
By Alan Shipnuck
Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Welcome to another edition of #AskAlan. These are now going to be a weekly thing. (Consider yourself warned.) I want the Knockdown to be an ongoing conversation between me and you, the lunatic fringe of golf fans. Please keep the thoughtful questions coming…

“We know the OWGR isn't sufficiently reactive. What's the real top 10 right now?” –Brian (@brianros1)

1. Dustin Johnson
2. Henrik Stenson
3. Rory McIlroy
4. Jordan Spieth
5. Jason Day
6. Hideki Matsuyama
7. Justin Thomas
8. Justin Rose
9. Alex Noren
10. Jon Rahm

“Most athletic guy on the PGA tour?” -@TVG14

The easy answer is Dustin Johnson, but I’d have to say Gary Woodland, based on his prowess in team sports. Woodland was a standout shortstop who at 16 led his team to the NBC World Series title, hitting a grand slam in the semifinals to key a 5-4 victory. In high school hoops, Woodland was an all-state shooting guard who carried his squad to two state championships. Kansas offered him a golf scholarship, but Woodland chose to play basketball at Topeka's Division II Washburn University. As a freshman he had his best game against Northwest Missouri State, scoring 21 second-half points in a barrage that included five straight three-pointers. Later that year, in the national tournament, Woodland made the winning free throws with eight seconds left to defeat West Texas A&M. For the season he shot 32% from three-point range and 87% from the line. That’s real skillz (yes, with a z).

“It would be great if two guys broke out of the pack and had a true rivalry. Which two would be best for the game?” -Ryan (@spartygrad)

I love Jason Day. You love Jason Day. We all love Jason Day. But there’s no heat there. I think by far the three most charismatic characters in the game are Rory, Jordan and DJ. McIlroy has that indescribable “it factor” and given his long resume and international credentials, I’d have to pick him. Dustin plays a similar game with slightly less flair and though he draws people to him with his raw athleticism and Freddy-like cool, I’d pick Spieth for the second slot in this rivalry. His game is so different than the other guys in this paragraph, which makes for compelling theatre, and his fiery on-course demeanor is great television. Like Rory, Jordan is extremely smart and articulate, and their insight and candor brings the game closer to the fans (and reporters).

”Rather have Jordan/Rory battle it out down the stretch at Augusta or have Tiger in the mix on Sunday of the PGA champ?” –Michael (@MOB_23)

Gawd, this is tough. We’re all so ready for this next generation of stars to mix it up on the biggest stages, and McIlroy needs to break through at the Masters to make himself whole. But if Woods were to ever again make a run at a major – which, to put it kindly, is highly unlikely – that would be a massive thrill. And Tiger deserves one more moment in the sun. So, grudgingly, I’ll take his near-miss at Quail Hollow…and hope that McIlroy/Spieth follow with a decade’s worth of battles.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods (and his fans!) deserve one more major chase.
Getty Images

“If you could change your role in golf what would you be? Architect? PGA Tour pro? USGA Rules official? Jay Monahan?” -@the_fried_egg

If I say Tour pro, do I get to be a top player? If so, that has to be the answer. But if I’m just a fringe player fighting for my job every year, I would have zero interest in that life. The other day I had my best ballstriking round in ages but couldn’t buy a putt: two 3-jacks, four missed birdie putts inside eight feet. I wanted to hurl myself into the sea, and it was just a meaningless game with friends. Can you imagine if days like that determined your family’s future? I enjoy my job so much I’d want to keep it, but on the side I’d like to be the No. 1 amateur in the world, competing in Walker Cups, the U.S. Am, occasional Masters and a few cocktail circuit events like the Crump Cup. That would be a blast.

“In the spirit of Spieth's incredible third round display at Pebble, what's the best round of putting you ever remember seeing?” –Grant (@grantmcgalliard)

Tiger on Sunday at the 2006 PGA Championship at Medinah, when he made a mile of putts, including a pair of 40-footers on the front nine to blow the doors off his pursuers. Though Spieth’s first two rounds at the 2015 Masters are right up there.

“Is 2017 the year that Sergio finally wins a major?” –Andrew (@a_h_davies)

No.

“If you could ask Tiger just one question that he has to answer fully and truthfully to you only in confidence, what would it be?” -Mark (@mocycling)

Was it worth it?

“What is the rationale for a ball coming to rest in a divot not being classified as being in "ground under repair?" –Gary (@drmadude)

Because the games was invented by stern Scots who had to endure horrible weather and crude equipment to learn an almost impossible game on raggedy playing fields. And ever after they have wanted us to suffer, too.

“If you can have unlimited access to write one golfer’s biography, who are you writing about?” –David (@Dkateeb)

Phil. What a life that guy has had, filled with triumph, failure, scandal, medical crises, controversy and so much more. And Mickelson does a ton of stuff – philanthropy, world travel, high finance – that the public doesn’t really know about. It would be fascinating to go deep on all of it. And can you imagine how good the coffee would be?

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