8:27 | Tour & News
Tour Confidential: Bold predictions for 2018
Can Tiger Woods stay healthy? Will Phil Mickelson win again? Our panel selects and debates their bold predictions for the 2018 season.
By Alan Shipnuck
Wednesday, January 03, 2018

The first question is always the hardest…

What's your favorite non-Pebble stop in the West Coast Swing? - @BrianSheeny

It has to be Kapalua, and it kills me not to be there for the first time in forever. But my kids are on break and I'm helping the assistant coach of my daughter's middle school hoops team and we have a big game next Tuesday so I couldn't swing it. I love the Plantation Course, which requires so much imagination and geometry, and the relaxed vibe, small field and lack of fans makes it a great week to get work done. There is also excellent observational reporting available poolside at the Ritz Carlton.

Do you predict any decline in ratings or fan interest for this season with pro golfers like Spieth, Thomas, and Johnson playing golf with such an unpopular President? - Michael (@MayMasters)

Donald Trump poses with the victorious U.S. Presidents Cup team at Liberty National.

Getty Images

I would expect a ratings decline only if those guys start teeing it up with Colin Kaepernick. Let's face it, there is a heckuva lot of overlap in the demographics of golfers and of Republicans. Rory McIlroy got a bit of blowback for pegging it with the President back in February but since then half the PGA Tour has done so and no one seems too bothered. I think part of Trump's appeal to his voters is that he is a walking, talking wish fulfillment. A lot of them probably think that if they had f*@# you money they would act exactly like him. And a lot of golfers probably tell themselves that if they became president they would try to play every weekend with all the cool kids on the PGA Tour, which is more or less what Trump has done.

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Who wins major first: Fowler or Cantlay? - @ScottMichaux

Cantlay is the sexier answer and he certainly has a polished game that should translate to the majors, but to win a major you have to lose one first, or maybe a couple. Fowler has already been there a bunch of times, so you have to think at some point he'll apply those lessons.

Rickie Fowler lines up a putt during the 2017 Masters.
Getty Images

Do you think there's a place for a reboot of Shells Wonderful World of Golf or something like that? I imagine it taking place on architecturally significant golf courses to give us a better look at these layouts. - Chris (@no_gimmes)

Stellar handle, by the way. Oh gawd yes, it's baffling to me that Golf Channel hasn't rebooted this concept. How about Jordan vs. JT at Cypress Point? Rory vs. Dustin at Pine Valley? TIGER VS. PHIL at National Golf Links? The possibilities are f'ing endless.

"Do you think Tiger will mark his ball or be a backstop guy like the rest of the Tour? Hard to imagine him helping his competitors at a major. #AskAlan" - @AlwaysOnIn2

Stellar handle, by the way. The old Tiger would definitely have marked his ball. But this new, cuddlier version, who is so eager to be liked by his peers and accepted as an elder statesman? Hard to say. I do hope he can still access that inner hardass – it's a big part of what made him so dominant.

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Top three new-to-you courses you're going to try to play in 2018. - Steve (@_Smisner)

With the U.S. Open at Shinnecock I'm already scheming a Long Island orgy. I've played Shinny and National but that's it so three that I've long lusted to play are Fishers Island, Friar's Head and Maidstone, to say nothing of Garden City, Piping Rock and Sebonack. (I know some folks consider Fishers to be a province of Connecticut but if you take a chartered boat from Long Island it counts as Long Island, okay?) Mind-blowing that I can pick them all off on the same trip, Lord willing.

The exclusive Fishers Island Club on Fishers Island, N.Y.
Larry Lambrecht

If you could replace any hole on any course with another, what would they be? - @WilliamHardy

Three of the worst finishing holes in golf come on a trio of the most celebrated courses: Cypress Point, Augusta National and Bethpage Black. Rather than a hypothetical airlift of another hole, I have simple solutions for each. Fifty or sixty yards offshore from Cypress's 18th tee box is a large rock outcropping on which, legend has it, Alister MacKenzie wanted to site the tee. But building a bridge over the raging Pacific scotched that idea. (Nevermind the regulatory or common sense issues of building a bridge into a marine preserve – this is fantasy!) If CPC built that tee and widened the fairway a bit the 18th would suddenly be utterly spectacular. Augusta could also fix its problem relatively easily by switching the 18th and 15th holes. It'd be an easy walk from the current 14th green to the current 18th tee. After putting out there the players could take a high-speed train in an underground tunnel back to the current 16th tee. After playing that hole and the next one it's a quick jaunt from the 17th green to the tee box of what is now 15 but should be 18, creating the most exciting finishing hole on the planet. Bethpage is another easy fix: just proceed directly from 14 to play 17 and 18, then rechristen the current 15th and 16th as the new finish. Those are incredible holes and offer the smashmouth closing stretch that course deserves.

How crazy do you see the price of golf clubs getting? - @RoddyDG

I was on the phone the other day with Bob Parsons (the CEO of PXG) and asked him, "Does the world really need an $800 wedge, Bob?" And he said, "Does the world need Ferraris?" Parsons has turned PXG into a juggernaut by tapping into this simple idea: Dudes who wear Rolexes and drive fancy cars and pay six-figure downstrokes for swish country clubs do not want to play the same clubs as everyone else. They want status symbols in their bag. If you're willing to pay $20k for a watch, how much will you pay for a set of clubs? After all, they are more personal and bring you far more pleasure. So I think at the very top end of the market we will see prices go higher and higher.

Ok, it's not too early. Who do you like for The Masters this year? Also, the obligatory does Tiger make the cut question. #AskAlan - David (@daver40)

It's too early.

Why wasn't Tiger Woods suspended for his DUI? People in all other sports are suspended for DUIs and alcohol-related offenses. Why does Tiger catch a break? We don't need him. - @Golfrxorldando

How do we know he wasn't suspended? Maybe Tiger wanted to come back in Napa or Vegas or Sea Island but he was in fact under suspension. This was the problem with the Tour's absurd policy of not making public its disciplinary actions. It changed with the beginning of this current season but since Tiger got busted before then it's possible he was suspended under the old rules. We'll never really know for sure.

Which group do you take to have a 2018 major win: Tiger, Phil, Day, Stenson or Cantlay, Fleetwood, Reed, Finau? - Jeremy (@IndyJerome)

Day and Stenson are definite threats and Phil remains dangerous, while all the guys in the other group are a little callow, so it's an easy choice for me. But it's interesting that Cantlay is getting a lot of love in this space.

Setting up a trip for late summer - obviously we know the famous spots, but what's your recommendation for a great boys trip that isn't Bandon, Koehler, Pebble Beach or Pinehurst? #AskAlan - @gwdowell

Northern Michigan. The weather is perfect, the price is right, and the golf is world-class: Forest Dunes, the Loop, Arcadia Bluffs, Bay Harbor and Treetops are all blessedly public. If you can call in a favor or two, Crystal Downs is an Alister MacKenzie masterwork and the Kingsley Club boasts 18 incredible holes. Make it happen.

Team Europe celebrates their win on stage with a champagne spray during the award ceremony for the 2014 Ryder Cup.
Getty Images

What forfeit are you willing to do if (when) Europe wins the Ryder Cup? #SorryNotSorry #RyderCup18 - Andrew (@ANorrby)

I'm willing to quit Twitter. In fact, that will be advisable.

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