Alan Shipnuck's Golf Mailbag: Fresh-baked answers for the re-launch

Shipnuck-78x73 I know this is merely week one of the much ballyhooed Mailbag re-launch, but I have to say I was expecting a little more pep from the readership. My cheeky mission statement was written in the third person to add a sense of gravitas but instead appears to have led to widespread confusion.Someone named Little Chuck wondered, "Who is this 'author' to whom you keep referring?" Uh, that'd be me. Meanwhile, reader Rene' asked, "So where are we supposed to contribute our questions for Mr. Shipnuck?" Right where you typed that question, actually. (And since we're singling out readers here, perhaps in the future y'all can include last names and hometowns, the better to identify the guilty.)And then there were the quirky requests, my favorite being the reader who wants me to sign his copy of "Bud, Sweat and Tees" when we're both at Hazeltine next week. Journey to the media center, David, have me paged and I'll gladly graffiti your sacred text.Now to the questions, such as they are:"2 things: (1) What's your take on golf potentially earning a spot in the Olympics? Will we see Ryder Cup drama or a meaningless exhibition? (2) What will the LPGA look like in 10 years? Do they need a dominant, 'Tigeresque' American to save the tour in the U.S.?"I've talked to a couple of people close to the Olympic bid, and from what I'm hearing it's a done deal that golf will be added for 2016. This is a great thing for the game because as soon as Olympic glory is up for grabs, sporting federations around the globe will start pumping money into producing golfers, Ivan Drago style. The trickle-down effect will be considerable: helping the various professional tours secure tournament sponsors; propping up the sagging equipment industry; touching off a boom in course construction; and, most importantly, providing a multitude of possible boondoggles for enterprising golf writers who like to visit exotic lands but are loathe to actually pay for a real vacation. As for the atmosphere of the Olympic competition, I'm going to reserve judgement. I was dismayed that the format put forward in the bid was 72 holes of stroke play. This may be the fairest way to select a gold medalist, but it is totally unimaginative and will do nothing to distinguish Olympic golf from other tournaments, including those with a lot more history and built-in interest. I would  have liked two or three rounds of stroke play to cut the field down to, say, 32 players and then cut-throat match play the rest of the way. That would have added a bit more pizazz. Two-man teams playing a couple rounds of alternate-shot and better-ball would have been fun, too.As for the LPGA in 10 years, it will look like it does now, only more so. It will be the only truly global tour, with maybe only a third of the events in the U.S. I could see a merger with the struggling Ladies European Tour, leading to more tournaments in Europe to balance a heavy Asian swing. There will be fewer events in the U.S., but they will be in bigger markets with better TV exposure. Every sport needs a dominant player for the public to fixate on and to provide a running narrative from season to season. It certainly helps with U.S. audiences if this headliner is American, and telegenic, and charismatic. There will never be another player of either sex who will have the impact of Tiger Woods, but clearly Michelle Wie can be an important crossover figure for the LPGA, bridging the American and Asian markets. In 2019 she'll be only 29 and presumably by then she'll have won a tournament. Maybe a bunch of them, which would be huge for the LPGA, and golf. But I suspect that by then the No. 1 player in the world will be Alexis Thompson. In 2019 she'll be 24, at least six feet tall, with long blonde hair, a bubbly personality and about half a dozen majors in the bank. Sounds like someone worth paying attention to, no?"Ship, I hold a lot of respect for Peter Kostis and his breakdown and analysis of Tour swings. Do you have a feel for how much (if at all) the pros hold the same esteem and whether they watch tape of previous rounds to get insight on their swing and what they should focus on fixing? I thought Peter's comment today that Tiger's real problem centers around grip and setup more than anything were quite interesting. Will Hank and Tiger take that into account or ignore?"Most of us think of Kostis merely as a TV guy, but among the players he is a respected teacher for his work with Paul Casey, Grace Park and others. To me he is by far the best talking head when it comes to analyzing the swing, and plenty of times in the locker room I've observed players listening intently to Kostis's comments. Tiger Woods, however, is not a fan. You may recall a few years ago he was boycotting Kostis's post-round interviews because he was unhappy with some of the analysis. So, no, I doubt Tiger DVR'd the Buick telecast so he can enjoy repeated viewings of Kostis's nuggets."If Tiger wins next week, and finishes, say, third at the PGA, is he still not Player of the Year?" - Kristopher OdjickIf Tiger doesn't win the PGA Championship (and neither does Cabrera, Glover, or Cink) it sets up the unimaginable: the FedEx Cup might actually mean something. Woods will almost surely have more victories than anyone else at the conclusion of the, ahem, playoffs, but without a major his peers might be swayed to vote for someone else. Say Kenny Perry wins one of the playoff events and takes the FedEx Cup. He'd have three victories to, say, five for Tiger. Objectively Tiger would have had the better year but the sense that he failed to live up to expectations — his own and others — might swing the the fickle voters to Perry, an overachiever and sentimental favorite. Doesn't make it right, but it could happen.Composite-shipnuck "Care to comment on your ever-changing appearance? The passport ID photos that have accompanied your articles over the years are so vastly different you're a borderline chameleon."Yes, the real Alan Shipnuck perished in 1997 after over-swinging with a 6-iron and plunging off the cliff at Pebble Beach's 8th hole. All the photos that have followed were digital renderings by SI's art department, which might explain the preposterous gravity-defying hairdo in the current picture, at far right in the composite above. No way that's real. Rumor has it that the leadership has ordered a replacement photo to be rendered when the staff gathers the week of the PGA Championship. So however unsatisfying the Mailbag may be, at least you have that to look forward to.Have a question you'd like Alan to answer? Leave it in the comments area below and check back next Tuesday.

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by Kevin Cunningham