Alan Shipnuck's Mailbag: Drugs in golf, Tiger, Phil, Stricker and more

"Drug Barron, sorry, Doug Barron hasn't made a cut all year on the Nationwide Tour. What the heck was he taking? Mogadon?" -- Paul Mahoney Duog-barron-shirtless That's a funny line, but I know Tim Finchem isn't laughing. I, for one, am glad someone finally got caught, which is proof that the Tour's drug-testing program works. Of course there are pro golfers taking performance-enhancing drugs. They cheat on their wives and their taxes, but they're not going to indulge in a little chemistry that could significantly boost their careers, just because it's a game of honor, etc.? I never bought that argument.
The most interesting aspect of the Barron suspension has been the reaction of other players and various Tour apologists. They have offered Barron's pudgy physique as proof that he couldn't possibly have been using PEDs. This is so silly. A lot of baseball players who were juicing were pitchers. They didn't want to get yoked; they wanted to help their bodies recover. Might a golfer who hits 500 balls a day be looking for the same help? PEDs don't necessarily make you bigger and more muscular, they just provide extra endurance.
If that means more 400-pound bench presses, then yes, you're gonna wind up looking like Barry Bonds. But if all that athlete is doing is hitting a bunch of golf balls, then he can still look like Doug Barron, even while breaking the rules. "Does Tiger have a set tradition after winning a tourney? Is there champagne on the plane...does he give his wife $100k? What goes on after a win?" — Mitchell Page Yes, there is a tradition. He goes to sleep, wakes up the next morning at 5 a.m. and begins practicing for the next tournament. The 2007 PGA Championship is instructive. The week before, Tiger won at Firestone, in Akron, Ohio. By the time he finished all the interviews and ceremonies it was after 7 p.m. The next morning at dawn he was on the first tee at Southern Hills in Tulsa, about a thousand miles away. That's the kind of dedication that makes him Tiger Woods. "I live near Madison and want to know if Steve Stricker is that nice all the time or does he have a side of him that is a jokester or less serious than we see him on TV? I mean, come on, is he that humble all the time?" -- Stuart
Unfortunately, yes, which means there's nothing salacious or controversial to write about the guy. Stricker might be the nicest human being on the planet. The only group of people who are gossipier and cattier than Tour wives are Tour caddies, and I've never heard anyone from either of these tribes say a single bad thing about the guy. I think we're all gonna have to just accept that Stricker is the Mother Theresa of golf. Woods-mickelson-china "Tiger and Lefty seem to be getting along better lately. Is this just my imagination or are they starting to respect each other more?"  -- Roy You know what Tiger respects? Achievement. When Phil blew him away on Sunday at the Tour Championship, that definitely got Tiger's attention. But no question their bond has been strengthened this year. It began with Amy Mickelson. Don't forget that Woods lost his dad to cancer. After Amy's diagnosis, Tiger sent Phil a number of heartfelt text messages that touched the Mickelsons deeply. Throw in their co-starring roles at the Presidents Cup, and this year has definitely brought Tiger and Phil closer together. "At one stage Stack and Tilt seemed to be all the rage on Tour. Lately it seems to be fading out, especially after they lost Aaron Baddeley (who happened to be on the cover of their expensive DVD). What's the verdict on Tour? Has it been exposed as just another silver-bullet gimmick or does it still have a devoted following?" -- Marc  A little of both, actually. As noted by another reader, Mike Weir has also jumped off the bandwagon. He and Baddeley both struggled with the driver during their S 'n T days. It's a swing that promotes a pretty steep swing plane, which can lead to solid contact with irons but inconsistency with the big stick. Beyond that, you have to remember that Tour players are lemmings. As soon as something seems to work they'll all try it, whether it's the Claw or Twitter or saucy tennis players. Then something new comes along and many players move on. When Dean Wilson wins the Masters, S 'n T will surely enjoy a comeback. "What are the chances that we can get a game together where we have all of these super young guns pitted against each other on live TV for some serious cash? I'm thinking 21 and under here so it would be Rory McIlroy, Ryo Ishikawa, Rickie Fowler, Danny Lee and Jamie Lovemark. It would be quite a show featuring the future of the sport. And just think of the potential ramifications—it could start a MUCH needed rivalry that golf needs to make itself more relevant." -- Michael This is the best idea I've heard in a while. Maybe this batch of youngsters could bring the Skins Game back from the dead. The problem with golf is that the compelling head-to-head matchups we crave happen so rarely. With their varying home bases and exempt status, the above Fab Five will only be in the same field a handful of times next year. The chances of even a couple of them showing up on the same leaderboard is remote. The made-for-TV spectacles have always focused on the same tired big names, but someone—Golf Channel?—should organize a series of Wonderful World of Golf style matches with all these intriguing young talents. Will it happen? I doubt it, but we can dream. "Same question I ask every week: Why does only Tiger and no other player wear bright red on Sunday? Happy for anyone to tell me. Must not be Alan." --  JC JC, I was hoping you would take the hint, but apparently not. So once and for all: Tiger wears the red shirt because his mom, Tida, did some kind of Thai-style voodoo and discerned that red is Tiger's "power color" and therefore he should wear it on Sundays. Once he won a few times, a tradition was born. It is funny how he has taken ownership of the color. I remember when Luke Donald wore red on Sunday at the '06 PGA when he was paired with Tiger. Polo had scripted Donald's outfits weeks in advance and he chose not to deviate. A lot of folks took that as him being uppity, which is ridiculous—it's just a shirt! A funny post-script was the Monday playoff at Torrey, when Rocco busted out red, assuming that Tiger would wear his only on Sunday. Wrong. Woods wore red for a second day in a row, and when he saw Rocco at the range before the round he muttered, "Nice shirt." Only in Tiger's universe can you talk trash about a guy's sartorial selection.Photo: (Barron); Getty Images (Woods, Mickelson)

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by Kevin Cunningham