It’s October 2017, we’re already playing the third event of the 2018 season and I’m answering questions for, what, the 25th time this year? Let’s get right to it.
"How are people so delusional to think Tiger can be competitive again? #AskAlan" -Matt (@PurdueMatt05)
For the same reason some people believe in mermaids and ghosts and Sasquatch – because it’s fun! And we all need something to believe in. It was cute that a few folks got excited about the videos of Tiger’s action, not least Hank Haney. But at this point cobbling together a functional swing is the easy part for Tiger. He has to get healthy, and stay healthy. He has to try to overcome the shame of the DUI, and the lingering wounds to his self-image from the scandal before that. He must keep the chip-yips at bay and try to fix a deteriorating putting stroke. He must heal the scar tissue of the 85 at Memorial, the first tee chunk at the Old Course and assorted other disasters. And then he would have to try to keep up with younger, hungrier talents who are brimming with confidence and unencumbered with the demands of being a single dad. Other than that, he’s definitely ready to be competitive.
"Thoughts on increasing purse disparity between the PGA & Web tours coupled with the decreasing talent disparity - should there be a reform?" -@the_fried_egg
I’m fine with the status quo. The leading money winner on the Web last season cleared $562K – that’s serious cheddar. The top 62 all made at least $100K, plus some small endorsement money, which is more than enough to pay the bills. It’s a developmental circuit, not a place to hang out and make a good living.
"Which Monterey Peninsula–area course would you bulldoze and rebuild if you could?" -Gary (@WillotheGlen)
Oh, it has to be Spanish Bay – such a gorgeous site, such an unsatisfying course. I actually like it more than most, but there are a bunch of awkward holes. Even if the old environmentally-sensitive areas have to be honored, we could still do so much better.
"How do reporters keep their independence when they are playing golf courses for free?" -@joshysam
This is a very important point: If I’m paying $200 to play course A and $100 to play course B and get to play course C for free that could certainly influence my feelings. So that’s why it’s vitally important that I play every course for free, so I can evaluate them objectively.
"Who wins in an 18 hole match between Tiger and Jack tomorrow?" -@faint_whiff
Honestly, I think Jack takes him 79-80.
"If you could move one Tour event to a different course in the same city which event would you move? #AskAlan" -@Carr4thecourse
It’s not the same city, but the since the Northern Trust moves around the Tri-State area I’ll put it at at Pine Valley. Or take the Honda Classic to Seminole. Or drop Spyglass in favor of Cypress Point. And let’s definitely move the Tour Championship to Peachtree.
"Golf in Ireland - what are your top 5 courses?" -@Paddy_golf
2. Royal Portrush
3. Royal County Down
"If a round with Phil is valued at $250k, what's a round with Alan Shipnuck worth? And where would it be played? #AskAlan" -Joe @FIGJAM83
It would have to be at my ancestral homeland, the Salinas Fairways muni. Not a great track but a sentimental experience, for sure. I couldn’t begin to guess the value, but I’m open to offers. Any bored, rich dudes out there who want four hours of juicy golf gossip? Make me an offer on Twitter – all money will go to a good cause, perhaps the First Tee of Monterey County or San Francisco Public Golf Alliance.
"Name the next event Phil wins?" -@brad_brezinski
The U.S. Senior Open.
"How about an event where pros get to carry only 3 or 4 clubs for the round? Let's say Pebble. What's in your bag?" -@JoeMadison
I love this idea. In fact, my colleague Michael Bamberger has explored it in depth. It would certainly be an interesting experiment and lend itself to all kinds of interesting shotmaking. As for me, I’d choose 3-wood, 6-iron, sand wedge, putter.
"I’m a former 3-handicap who moved to London for work and now can’t play to 10 and have lost the love of the game. What can I do?" -@Rob_Jones91
Proceed directly to the nearest par-3 course. When I’m struggling with my long-game every hole is intimidating, and it feels like a battle just to save bogey. To get out of this kind of funk I love to play a short course; every tee offers the chance to make a birdie. I can find a good rhythm with my swing, and building confidence in the short-game filters into the longer clubs, too, because I feel like I can save strokes even if I’m not hitting it well.
"Your house is about to burn, family and respective pets are clear, what one golf momento is spared a fiery fate?" -Todd (@Titleist_TB)
Hmmm, my first thought is the framed pics from some overseas golf trips with friends…but those are probably replaceable. There’s the signed scorecard from my mini-golf match versus Dustin Johnson, which shows me pressing on the final hole and taking him down. Maybe my caddie bib from the First Tee Open? The hundreds of media credentials hanging from a bookcase?
Actually, I know the answer: it’s the drawing I commissioned 15 years ago that mashed-up Tiger Woods and Tupac Shakur. If I recall correctly, it was for a fanciful Golf Plus column that imagined a hip-hop spin on the golf world. I thought it'd be fun to combine the visage of two icons who, to say the least, had very different public images at the time. The illustration never ran, and I don't think the column did, either. But the sketch is taped to the wall next to my desk and makes me smile every time I look at it.