Alan Shipnuck's Mailbag: Debating Ping Eye2s, expanding the PGA Tour, Tiger vs. the media and more

I'm unable to summon a clever preamble this week, so let's go straight to the questions:

Alan, Do you
agree with Bob Estes that using Ping Eye2s, which are exempt from the new
groove rule by court order, is against the spirit of the rule and, if so, do
you believe it is important to abide by the spirit or just the letter of the
rule in golf? — Al

I like my
spirits on ice, with a lime twist. A rule is a rule — I'm not sure I want to
start assigning metaphysical properties to it. The pre-1990 Eye2's are legal,
so guys are going to play them. Bob Estes can too, if he so desires. It's a
silly little loophole born in a courtroom, but it's unlikely to go away so guys
like Estes should stop kvetching. Grooves that are 20 years old are sure to
have a fair amount of wear and tear so it's debatable as to how much more spin — if
any — is being imparted compared to brand-new laser-milled grooves. Time to get
over it.

I rarely read
interviews with golfers from non-English speaking countries in the U.S. golf
media? Are you guys myopic or just lazy? Seriously though, you can't really
criticize U.S. players for not expanding the game abroad when the scribes seem
to choose the well trodden path. — Rene Andersson

Clearly, Rene,
you are not a careful reader of SI. Over the years, John Garrity, Michael
and myself have gone overseas to produce long features on such
non-English speakers as Angel Cabrera, Jumbo Ozaki, Carlos Franco. A decade ago
I hired a translator in Hawaii to help with one of the first big features on
Shigeki Maruyama
. But there's no question the language barrier can be
formidable. There are also cultural differences that can torpedo stories. Last
February, I was hot to go to Japan to do a story on Ryo Ishikawa, before anyone
had heard of him. I spent weeks dealing with his agent in Japan and negotiating
by proxy with Ryo's father, who at the time was controlling his career. (IMG
has since stepped in and improved media access.) They simply didn't get the
kind of story I wanted to do. Reporters over in Japan, as in much of the
golfing world, stand in a big pack behind the 18th green, encircle the
player for five minutes and then run back to the computers and file basically
identical stories.

Ryo's people couldn't conceive of a scribe wanting to spend
a couple days with the kid, follow him to school, hang out with his family and
friends, and really get to know him and his life in a meaningful way. I had a
(non-refundable) ticket to Tokyo in hand but less than 24 hours before I was
due to depart the story fell apart, mainly because of his dad's jitters. So
while I agree the American media
can be lazy and xenophobic at times, it's often the discomfort or lack of media
savvy from the foreign-born players that prevents them from having their
stories told.

Alan, I am
trying desperately to find a list of players competing at Torrey next week. Can
you help me out?

The field for
every PGA Tour event is not finalized until 5 p.m. (Eastern) on the Friday of the week preceding the tournament. This afternoon go here for the latest update for Torrey.

Alan, do you think that the PGA Tour officials were slow in not expanding the Tour more globally? Now they need to face much stronger competition with European
Tour taking the Asia market? And without Waldo, the PGA Tour is losing their
main asset to compete in Asia with the Euros... Ten years ago, the gap between
the tours was immense. In five more years, the European Tour might be the one
attracting the best players. Opinion? —Peter

This issue is certainly top of mind this week with Abu Dhabi having a
much, much stronger field than the Hope, including the presence of Palm Springs
native Anthony Kim. There's no question that by planting its flag across the
Mid East and Asia the Euro tour has become a much more relevant and prosperous
tour. Tim Finchem is belatedly trying to get in the game, and I suspect in a
couple of years the PGA Tour will have a couple of official-money stops abroad. But
players have repeatedly voted with their feet, refusing to travel to WGCs and
World Cups that are held overseas. Bottom line is that the PGA Tour's identity
is as an American tour, sponsored by companies based in America. There will be
a few concessions to other markets, to keep purse levels up, but the Tour's
focus is on improving their existing tournaments, not taking on the world.

TMZ and the like never cared about whether Tiger put them on the DNR (do
not resuscitate) list so they went after him. Now it seems that golf writers
are emboldened to take shots too. How long will you guys stay so bold when the
Mighty One returns? Won't you all fear being put on his naughty list? TMZ
doesn't need Tiger. They move on. You live and die by the guy. Also, do you
fear him remembering how bold you were during his absence and that you might be
black listed? —Lenny Johnson

Even before Tiger's
crackup, I would get variations of this question all the time. There seems to
be a widespread belief that reporters live in mortal fear of somehow being
blacklisted by Woods. The truth is that no one was getting much access before
and he's going to be even more locked-down in the future, so who cares if doesn't
like what we're writing? A couple of years ago John Garrity wrote a long,
engaging cover story about Tiger
. He was granted an audience with Woods that
lasted exactly ten minutes. Those were the good old days? I think Tiger's
dealings with the media will be downright Nixonian upon his return.

I recently
played with a yellow golf ball and was amazed how easy it was to see in the air
and find in the rough, plus I didn't have a problem with another group hitting
my ball. Why wont some of the top ball manufacturers make high quality yellow
balls, i.e. a Titleist PRO-V1? I think there would be a market for them. Your
thoughts? —Mike

Hey, Mike,
sorry to hear you're having trouble with your balls. There are already
high-quality colored options available for you in the marketplace. They're
pink, big guy. Enjoy. The rest of us will stick with the white ones. Some
traditions are worth maintaining.

Without naming
names, are there some Tour rank and file types having a good chuckle at Tiger's
hard fall? He has always been pretty arrogant, and dismissive of the lesser
players. I notice he is still getting special treatment in Hattiesburg — do the
other patients move boulders for him? —Zeb

Excellent boulder reference ... I don't think anyone is really "chuckling" over Tiger's
travails. For all the petty squabbles, the Tour is a very tribal, insular
place, and there is a lot of empathy for Elin and the children. No doubt Tiger
has stomped on a few guys through the years but he has always been popular with
the other players because at heart he's a golf nerd who enjoys talking about
the game with other golf nerds. When he felt like it, Tiger could be very
generous with advice on the range or practice green. And he followed the game
closely and often surprised marginal players with little congratulations about
their first win or some random good play.

Certainly there is a little schadenfreude
in play, as Woods was always holier than thou in trumpeting his work ethic and
dedication and discipline, implicitly criticizing everyone else. But most Tour
players are smart enough to know their fortunes are intertwined with Tiger's
and they're rooting hard for him to make things right, on and off the course. Follow Alan Shipnuck on Twitter Have a question for Alan Shipnuck? Leave it in the comments section below and check back next Friday for a new edition of Shipnuck's Mailbag.

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by Kevin Cunningham