Alan Shipnuck's Mailbag: Phil Mickelson's chances at St. Andrews, designated tournaments and Graeme McDowell's future

Friday July 2nd, 2010

Phil's chances at the Open? He blew us having a wonderful month full of Grand Slam hype and hopes, but I can't see him not contending at St Andrews, it sets up very well for him. Ivan Bulic, Vienna, Austria I expect him to contend, and wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he wins. The Old Course is a vast canvas that encourages artistic expression. So many unique finesse shots are required it is the ultimate feel-players' paradise, giving us soft-handed champions like Sam Snead, Seve Ballesteros, Tony Lema and Lorena Ochoa. Clearly Mickelson has this kind of talent. Nicklaus once said that to be considered a truly great player you must win at St. Andrews. Jack has, and so has Tiger and Bobby Jones, and Nick Faldo, too. Phil burns to be one of the all-time greats, and if he's going to conquer the Old Course he knows it's now or never, as he'll be 45 before he gets another crack at it.
Clearly Mickelson has a spotty Open record, having contended only once, in 2004. Early in his career he couldn't play in the wind because of his ballooning ball-flight but now he is so much better at controlling spin and trajectory that it's a non-issue. (And, St. Andrews has its own micro-climate that keeps it from being as windy as some other Open venues.) "The problem has been putting," Phil told me recently. "The greens over there are so different—not just the slower speeds but the grass itself, the grain, the way the ball takes the break. You can't replicate the conditions anywhere else." Mickelson is playing the Scottish Open the week before the Open Championship. Loch Lomond is a manageable drive from St. Andrews and Phil plans to spend the early part of the week and some additional afternoons at the Old Course, trying to master the greens. If he does, look out. What kind of content will you and @SI_golf team develop for the new SI iPad app? Howard Riefs, Chicago (@hriefs) In a nutshell: Lots of cool stuff. SI's iPad app just launched two weeks ago, with the issue that had our U.S. Open coverage. There were some cool bells and whistles: a two-minute "One Shining Moment" style montage of the tournament with photos and video highlights; an exclusive interview with Graeme McDowell conducted Sunday night; and some dazzling photo slideshows.
The iPad app is going to be a tremendous platform for showing off SI's pictures. At Pebble we had five photographers on hand for all four rounds and they took literally thousands of pics. Only a handful wound up in the mag. The iPad gives readers a chance to access hundreds more. It will also allow us to bring interviews to life and take readers behind the scenes as we report stories.
(It's not golf, but to see how this stuff will look check out this iPad feature about Chris Ballard's recent story on the Macon high school baseball team.)
In the can already for next week is a fun feature of Cristie Kerr doing the popular Pop Culture Grid from the Scorecard section as well as a Phil Mickelson swing sequence analyzed by a Golf Magazine Top 100 teacher.
Right now there is golf content on the iPad app only when a golf story goes in the national magazine. Pretty soon there will be a weekly presence from Golf Plus, and eventually Golf Magazine will have its own app. So, to summarize, it's a veritable orgy of golf content. I carry my own bag and have no one for advice. Do you think it would be interesting to see Tour players do the same for a couple tournaments each year? What impact do you think that would have on scoring? Micheal Westra, Denver It would be mildly interesting. I'd tune in mostly to see on which hole Kevin Stadler toppled over from exhaustion. I think scoring might actually improve, not least because pace of play would be much brisker. A lot of Tour players seem to get bogged down by too much information. It's not that hard a game, at least for these guys. Just swing the club and stop worrying about the barometric pressure.

Lots of talk now about "designated tournaments" that would require players to make an occasional stop at often-overlooked events such as Byron Nelson, Milwaukee, Wyndham, San Antonio, etc. However, in reality, what's killing these "smaller" events is Tim Finchem's brainchild: World Golf Championships. Players are compelled to add these, further eliminating the chance that the Big Boys will stop off in New Orleans or Canada or Michigan. Then add in the FexEx Cup "Playoffs" and you can see why half the tour is struggling. Alan, doesn't it make sense for the Tour to do away with the "invitational, limited-field, no-cut" WGC tourneys and thus free up players to add a "smaller" event to their schedules? Ben Storey, Seattle The toothpaste is out of the tube on the WGCs. They're an important part of the schedule and the players are not going to let those bloated purses disappear. A simpler solution is institute a 1-in-4 rule like the LPGA has while also raising the number of events to maintain Tour membership from 15 to 17 or 18. Top international players would play more over here, and all the stars would visit every city occasionally.

Is McDowell one and done, or do you think he will win more Majors in future? He's already posted decent finishes in all four. Alex Dimond, via Twitter (@AlexDimond) It's so hard to predict these things. After Fred Couples won the '92 Masters, or Davis Love won the '97 PGA, or Justin Leonard the '97 British, did anyone think that all three would get skunked in the majors for the rest of their careers? How to explain that Lee Janzen has more majors than Hall of Famer Tom Kite? Or that Larry Nelson won only ten career tournaments but three of them were majors? McDowell's game is well-suited to any course or tournament: drives it on a string, great iron player, deadly putter inside 10 feet. Clearly he can play in wind and tough conditions. So, I would hope he'll build on his breakthrough at Pebble, but history isn't much help in predicting if he can snag another major or two.

Alan, I am age 65, with a handicap of 16.5. I generally can hit my 3-wood 180 to 200 yards. However, when I have a fluffy rough lie, I tend to pop up the 3-wood, even though I'm in range of the green. Any suggestions? Guy Nerren My first suggestion is to find a teaching pro in your area, not solicit advice from strangers on the Internet. But it sounds like you're 3-wood is sliding under the ball in the rough. You could try moving the ball back in your stance, or get a new stick with a deeper face. Or do what I do: never miss a fairway.

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