News

Alan Shipnuck's Mailbag: Masters, Couples, Grooves, FedEx Cup and more

 I was dreaming of Pebble when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray. Got a text message from a
buddy tonight. It read: "We need a fourth tomorrow, Cypress Point and Pebble. Any chance?" I told him I needed some time to think about it. Like two seconds. So today, Friday, my putts will be tracking through the dew at the Point. I would rather have skipped the golf to stay home and do house projects, but I figured I'd go play because the readers have a right to know. Stay tuned for some excruciating play-by-play ... Are all the other guys nuts who don't ask questions that just deal with the Masters? How can you have
anything else on your mind? Don't they know what time of year this is? — Steven Hartung
Hallelujah to that! Houston's a nice little tournament, but I've definitely got Augusta on the brain. This is actually the hardest week of the year, as the anticipation builds and the days crawl by. Every Masters is a treat, but with Tiger's return this one should be epic. At least until Brandt Snedeker wins. Fred-couples-cap-cana-sneakers_372x248 I like Couples as much as the next golf fan — I grew up playing Jefferson Park in Seattle, just like
Freddie — but for the love-o-pete can people stop using his 3 wins on the geriatric tour as evidence that he's going to contend at the Masters! I've read several articles explaining how razor-sharp his game is, but not-surprisingly all of them seemed to overlook the fact that his toughest competitor on the old-guys tour has been Corey Pavin! I suspect Tiger, Phil, Ernie and company will prove a bit a bit tougher. — Robert
Anderson
I agree that Senior wins
are overrated, but the fact is Couples has not only been playing error-free golf
but he's oozing confidence. Winning breeds winning, and in the last decade on
the PGA Tour Couples only had a few chances to win a year, and he rarely
converted. Now, suddenly, he believes again. His ballstriking remains
top-shelf, and no one knows Augusta National better. With Freddy it's all about
how many 5-footers he can coax in. If his putting holds up, I think he'll hang
around the bottom of the leaderboard. But that's a long way from actually
winning. Did the PGA tour make the
Florida swing courses too easy by chopping the rough down? The thinking was
that the rough should be shortened as a compensation for the grooves changes.
However, we saw players go lower at the Transitions and Bay Hill than they did
the previous year by a significant margin. I thought the entire purpose of the
grooves change was to see the players struggle a bit more out of the rough, to
have an actually penalty for not hitting in the fairway - a preventative
measure to stop the bomb & gouge game the younger players have used to
maximum advantage over the last decade of tour play. To my eye, with the
reduction in rough length I don't see the purpose in changing the grooves. — Kevin Barton
Ah, the groove change.
That's such a quaint stroll down memory lane, circa February. In my mind, the
purpose of the rule change wasn't to protect par, it was to encourage
shotmaking. I commend the Tour for chopping down the monotonous rough and
letting the players play. Does anyone besides Kevin really care what the
winning score is at Transitions or Bay Hill? It's nice to see guys hitting
shots again. Since the beginning of the year, various players have pointed to the Masters as the ultimate
test of the new grooves. If the National is firm and fast, every RPM will be
precious. I'm definitely curious to hear what guys have to say next week about
the new grooves…in part because then we don't have to talk about it ever again.
Or at least until the USGA changes the rules again. For 11 months of the year,
the Fed Ex standings are ignored. I don't think the current system is giving the
sponsor the payback they were hoping for. What can the PGA tour do to keep the
sponsor interested or attract a new one? I think they have to acknowledge there
are two tiers of events, those with Tiger and those without, and come up with a
system around that. — Donald Spry
Wow, this is like oldies night – a FedEx Cup question! It's true
no one cares about the points standings; I get paid to follow this stuff and I
haven't glanced at the list all year. The problem with the Cup is really one of
hype and expectations. It was so overblown in the beginning it was destined to
be a letdown. Bottom line: it's created good tourneys at the end of the year,
compelled Phil and Tiger to play more and given all of us something to bitch
about. What more could you want? I'd like to see Adam Scott win again. Swing is still perfect, and his personal life seems OK
now. Any chance this year? —"Pigstuy," via Twitter
He's certainly off to a good start in Houston, but we'll see how
long it lasts. As is noted here, Scott still looks so pleasing with a club in
his hand that it can fool you into thinking all is well. Though he's had some injury
and swing problems, Scott's issues all seem to be mental. I'm just not sure how
much he loves golf. He's good at it, it provides a tremendous lifestyle, but watching
Scott I'm often left with the feeling that he's just punching the clock. It's a
chicken-and-egg question: a few victories would probably do wonders for his
attitude, but until he improves his attitude he probably won't win again. Who will be the first "team Tiger" staffer to leave for "other opportunities" —Mike O'Bryon, via Twitter Depends on whether or not Elin reads Vanity Fair!Have a question for next week? Leave it in the comments section below. Photo: Darren Carroll/SI

More From the Web
by Kevin Cunningham