Alan Shipnuck Mailbag: Wild driving from Phil and Tiger, headline mystery solved and more

Why can't Tiger or Phil hit the ball straight? And do either of them have a chance
at the U.S. Open if they can't hit at least 50% of the fairways? — Robert
This first question is so simple, and yet so profound. Why, indeed, do two such
extravagantly talented players often drive it so crooked? Some of it is physics
– they're big, strong lads with long swing arcs who generate as much clubhead
speed as anyone in golf, so even small flaws lead to foul balls. There is
also their shared aggression. Phil and Tiger both like to attack golf courses,
generally swinging driver whenever possible. This magnifies their misses. Then
there is the psychological aspect that hitting every green and fairway would be
tedious for such celebrated escape artists. I once played at Torrey Pines with
a guy who competed against Mickelson in amateur golf, and he recalled a long-ago
round in which the young Phil bet his caddie on every hole how much he could
spin his ball back on every green. He was hitting trick shots in the middle of
a tournament round, just to stave off boredom. I guess these savants need the
challenge of playing out of the trees.
As for the Open, I teed it up at Pebble Beach last weekend, not because I wanted to
but because the readers have a right to know. The rough was very playable. Open
doctor Mike Davis recently stated that he wanted more of a risk/reward
setup, with shorter rough tempting players to try dicey recoveries rather than
just hack out sideways. So if the penalty for missing fairways is reduced, this
obviously helps Phil and, especially, Tiger. Philinfullcover_0419_large I have to ask, was there a problem with the Sports Illustrated Masters cover with
a headline that said 'PHIL IN FULL'? Am I missing something? Two customer service reps at SI are clueless, a dozen of my friends (and counting) can't tell me what the hell that means... Did someone forget to complete the title? — Bill Flynn
I'm impressed you actually called customer service on this, but their knowledge of
the magazine ends with address changes. Do you know the term "A man in full"? Means,
basically, a guy at the height of his powers.
Or maybe the headline was just a reference to Phil's Krispy Kreme drive-by. What
does it actually cost to be a title sponsor for a PGA tournament? — Robert Neibert
to be $7-8 million, depending on the purse, but I've heard from a few sources
that the Tour is willing to cut some deals these days. Commish Tim Finchem has
made it very clear that he won't let purses drop on his watch, but the Tour will pick
up the tab on other tournament expenses, reducing the overall cost to a
corporate sponsor. But it's still a big chunk of cheddar. Hilton Head is
currently dying for a sponsor. The Robert Neibert Invitational has a nice ring
to it, no? What courses do the pros wish they could play (for
fun, not a tourney)? Bandon, PV? — anonymous, via Twitter
A lot of guys have dropped by Pine Valley through the years, coming or going to the many tournaments on the Eastern seaboard. They love it, just as the rest of us do. Bandon has had fewer drop-ins because of its remote location. Pros will play a course if it's nearby,
but they rarely make a special road trip. Probably the most popular non-tournament
course is Cypress Point. On the Wednesday before the Clambake, it's always jam-packed with Tour players. Adam Scott has called it his favorite course in the world, and discerning golfing gentlemen including Mickelson and Brad Faxon always rave about it. In the Tour Confidential discussion about Lorena Ochoa's successor at number one, I
noticed there was no mention of Ai Miyazato. Do you not see her as being in the
same league as "Shelly" et al? Now that she finally found her confidence on the
LPGA Tour, I think she's going to dominate like she did in Japan. — Jim Steele
Good call, James, for having written this even before Ai dropped a little 62 on the competition in Mexico. There's no question she has a terrific all-around game and the killer instinct needed to close out tournaments. I think Ai is often overlooked because she hits the ball shorter than other top players, although she and Jiyai Shin are comparable in length. Power is always an
advantage but I'm partial to shotmaking and grit, and Miyazato has plenty of
both. When players finish a Saturday or Sunday with the same scores, why wouldn't the PGA
consider picking matchups people really want to see instead of the random
"first in, last out" method? Especially a sport that is scrapping for
ratings. A good example was Saturday at the Masters where Woods and Mickelson
could have been paired. — Joe, New Hampshire
This has always bugged me, too. I'd like to see some discretion used to provide the
theatre we all crave. The only problem I see could come with the leaders' final
round pairing. Being in the last group—or not—can confer certain competitive
advantages. If you start shifting around guys for TV purposes there can be the
perception that some players are being given favorable treatment. But I agree
that's a small price to pay for some boffo twosomes.

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by Kevin Cunningham