Friday, May 14, 2010

Dude, I don't want to believe the news about Erica Blasberg. She had to
be on your top-5 list of LPGA crushes. Did you ever have the chance to meet
her?
—Mike, Folsom, Cal.

I was definitely a fan and watched her play a few times. We had a couple
of short conversations. Erica was a very sunny presence on tour — great smile,
always in a chipper mood, or so it seemed. It's still stunning that she's gone.

Judging by the number of questions I've gotten at the grocery store, my kids'
school, etc., something about her death has really resonated with the public.
The lack of information from the cops and coroner is creating an information
vacuum that the likes of Nancy Grace is filling. I sincerely hope that when all
the facts come out Erica's death is merely a medical tragedy, the cause being
an undetected heart defect or something like that. If it was suicide or foul
play, it will be a long time before she gets to rest in peace.

I just saw where Jerry Rice shot a whopping 92 in the Nationwide Tour
event. He took a 10 on the par-4 second hole and then didn't want to talk about
golf after his round. Why is this guy taking a spot from a formidable player,
let alone embarrassing himself?
—David Castle

Is it true that Jerry Rice is going to begin seeking sponsor's exemptions
on the LPGA tour?
—Robert Anderson

Ah, Jerry Rice. How I wish we could remember him merely as a great
football player and an enthusiast of seedy massage parlors. But for some reason
he thinks he belongs at a real pro golf tournament. The whole idea is a joke,
as have been his performances. There's a place for Jerry Rice to dabble at golf
tourneys: the Wednesday pro-am.

Given the venues, Tiger, and everything else, what odds would you put on
Phil hitting the calendar year slam this year?
—Brian Sullivan

It's now or never. Pebble is the Open venue at which he is most
comfortable, having won three Clambakes. The Old Course is the most wide-open
Open venue and the best canvas for Phil's artistic expression. And he finished
third at the '04 PGA at Whistling Staits, during a season that Phil likes to
remind everyone he was theoretically only five swings away from the Grand Slam.

It'll be fantastic if Phil can pick off the U.S. Open, turning his trip to
Scotland into a bona fide frenzy. I think it'll happen. But taking the other
two is a big task. I don't see it happening, but it will be fun to watch him
try.

Hi Alan: We all know that Quail Hollow would love to host a major. Do
you think Rory's 62 hurt their chances, as we know that the USGA (for example)
likes its venues tough? Cog Hill has/had similar aspirations, but it appears
that Erin Hills just beat out Cog Hill for the 2017 Open - coincidentally,
Tiger dropped a 62 on Cog Hill at last year's BMW Championship. It seems that
62s are great for TV, but poison if you're looking to attract a major. Any
thoughts?
— Alexander Heinrich, Chicago

Rory's 62 didn't help, but the PGA of America is not as obsessed about
low scores as the USGA. However, in August Charlotte is sure to be steamy,
which would force the PGA to keep the greens soft and thus make Quail Hollow
even more vulnerable. Phil's public napalming of the greens probably resonated
more than Rory's 62. Mickelson often has an agenda when he opens his mouth and
his comments were meant to be a message to the PGA of America. We'll see what
happens. I like Quail Hollow, and if a PGA doesn't come to town the event
oughtta be satisfied as the 5th or 6th major.

Why isn't the sports (golf) media taking advantage of the opportunity
provided by Tiger Woods' troubles (golf and personal) to actively sell the rest
of the stars in the game to fringe fans who thus far may have only followed
golf because of Woods? You don't have to look further than this site for
examples. "Follow Tiger's Round" link to get to Players' leaderboard,
for example.
—Kurt Eby

I'm not sure I agree with the critique. Phil Mickelson has become one of
the biggest stars in sports. After his win Rory McIlroy was on the cover of
every golf rag and has been elevated to the ranks of the elite. I did a big
blowout in SI on Anthony Kim. There has been a ton of hype surrounding Rickie
Fowler and Ryo Ishikawa. Expect a lot of pop this summer as Alexis Thompson
embarks on her pro career. All in all, I think a lot of players have benefited
as Tiger has been relegated to a sideshow. But you have to accept that golf is
a niche sport, and always has been. Only a handful of players have ever been
able to crossover to the mainstream. The media is only a part of that process.
It all comes down to the right players winning the right tournaments.

With Ochoa's sudden retirement and the untimely demise of Erica Blasberg
it has been a tumultuous time for the LPGA. In times like these we might
encounter a paradigm shift, perhaps into the realm of Nordic golfers dominating
the LPGA. Suzann Pettersen is an obvious candidate, but Anna Nordqvist could
be a dark horse, and in a year or two Caroline Hedwall may very well be a
household name. What is your opinion? (And granted, being Swedish I'm not the
most objective pundit around here.)
—Hokuojin

I love Pettersen's swing but she's a bit of a head case who has trouble
closing out tournaments. I see her continuing to win but never reaching number
one. Nordqvist is certainly going to be a force for a long time and Hedwall has
a nice college resume, which may or may not translate into pro success. Can
three players make a revolution? Maybe. There's certainly a great
infrastructure in Sweden for developing young talent, so more help is on the
way. But it's hard to imagine any paradigm shift that would diminish the Korean dominance.

Alan, from what little I know about Ben Hogan, he was an intimidating
and rather curt person. Not being nice didn't hurt Hogan's legacy. Do you
believe Tiger really has to start being nice a decade and a half into his
magnificent record to have a legacy?
—Omar Shehryar

Tiger's legacy as a
golfer is secure. At worst he's going to go down as the second greatest player
of all time. Trying to be "nice," among other things, is more about how he'll
be remembered as a man. Hogan didn't live in the tabloid era, so his
personality defects were not obvious to his legion of fans. The crucial
difference between Woods and Hogan is the event that altered the trajectory of
their careers. Hogan was hit head-on by a bus, and, as the legend goes,
heroically threw himself across his wife, sparing her major injury. The
resulting sympathy and goodwill never waned. Woods's travails are completely
self-inflicted and have alienated huge chunks of his fan-base. To be a hero
Hogan just needed to get out of his hospital bed, and rise he did. Woods has to
become a completely different person. Based on the early evidence, I'm not sure that's
possible.

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