It's good to be back in the saddle again -- I've missed all of you Mailbag pen pals. My Golf.com overlord's New Year's resolution is to have me file the 'Bag more regularly. My counter-argument is that if Tiger only plays 18 or 19 tournaments a year I shouldn't be expected to work harder than that. We'll see who prevails. For now, smoke 'em while you got 'em. "I was not real surprised to see TW get the cortisone shot for the ankle. Makes sense that his body is falling apart after years of trying to compensate for the knee and his legendary stubbornness over changing his training routines (guys with bad knee should not be running). Cortisone shots don't treat the problem--they just cover it up...ask Brett Favre. Am I over-thinking this one or do you see more injury issues for TW?" —Tim Delaney, San Antonio No one here at the 'Bag can ever be accused of over-thinking, Tim! For all the talk about his swing overhaul and suddenly shaky putting I think the question of whether or not Tiger gets to 19 majors will hinge on his health. You make good points, and another factor is how pumped-up he's become. Tiger has a tiny waist and the wrists and ankles of a little girl. On this delicate frame he's packed a lot of extra beef. That puts serious stress on his body, particularly knees and ankles, where he's now having chronic problems. And we don't even know the full extent of his injuries or aches/pains because Tiger is so weirdly secretive about his body. The cortisone shot would not have been made public but for the fact that on Twitter I reported the rumor (clearly identified as such) that Tiger may have injured his Achilles. I took a lot of shrapnel but in the end his people admitted to the shot as a kind of rebuttal.
"Your thoughts on the LPGA's Founders Cup event (no paychecks) and the Tres Marias event possibly being cancelled because of safety concerns?" —Dave Andrews, Concord, N.H. I think the Founders Cup is a cool idea but it's being utilized by the wrong tour. So many LPGA players are struggling to make a living it's a big ask for them to play for free. But I give commissioner Mike Whan bonus points for a bold idea. It will certainly generate a lot of positive publicity for the tour and bring attention to a tourney that would otherwise be overlooked. I'd love to see the PGA Tour do something similar –- those guys can definitely afford it!
As for the Tres Marias, the LPGA's official stance is that the tour is still gathering info, but privately I'm hearing there's almost no way it will get played due to fears of the spreading narco-violence. The players are fine with that, to say the least. It was not a popular venue and minus Lorena Ochoa the tournament has little pizzazz. "Do you see the Twitter craze with all these golfers helping the PGA Tour? Do you think the Tour will let them tweet on course?" —Christopher Daley, New York I think Twitter has been a game-changer in how fans follow a global sport. A few months ago most Americans probably thought of Lee Westwood, when they thought of him at all, as a nice player and who was rather reserved on the course. Since he got on Twitter, Westwood has shown the public what a fun-loving, trash-talking guy he really is. Beyond getting an unfiltered look at the players, Twitter offers breaking news every day, from players' equipment-tinkering and injury updates to subtle changes in the weather. Not necessarily earth-shattering stuff, but interesting nonetheless.
No matter how popular Twitter becomes, players will never tweet from the course. Slow play is a big enough problem without Ian Poulter pecking out his thoughts on his Blackberry on every hole. It'd be a bad look, to say the least. Also, it opens up a can of worms for competitive reasons. What if an @reply mentioned the break on an upcoming hole? I love Twitter as much as anybody, but only outside the ropes. "At The Open Championship presentation, the words "The winner of the gold medal and champion golfer of the year..." are uttered. Has anyone seen the gold medal?" —Bob Henry I have. It's gold. And round. Just as you'd expect. "How many tournaments will Rickie Fowler win this season?" -Eric Sedransk A special shout-out to our prolific friend, Eric, who sent me six different questions. Fowler's continued development is one of the season's big subplots. For a guy who has cultivated such an edgy persona I thought that when he had chances to win last year this former BMX racer eased off the throttle. His play was too careful and conservative. I think that his play on the final holes of Ryder Cup singles was monumental for young Rickie. He showed no fear and if he can bring that same swagger to PGA Tour Sundays he will definitely win this year, and maybe more than once. "I enjoyed watching the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay, and I thought it was a great match play venue. I am interested to see how it will handle stroke play for the US Open in 2015. Could Chambers Bay ever be a Ryder Cup venue? Or would there be a perception that the links feel would give an advantage to the Euros?" -Brian Richmond The Belfry, K Club and Celtic Manor are all American-style courses in Europe and the U.S. got waxed on each, so I don't think a links feel would disqualify Chambers Bay. Just don't serve warm beer or showcase bad orthodontics—we don't want the Euros to feel too at home. "Will you admit that you delight in seeing a diminished Tiger on tour?" —Juan Esteban Ignacio De La Fuentes I won't admit it because it's not true. Every tournament is more fun if Tiger is on the leaderboard. Watching him struggle for a season was fascinating and riveting, but I don't want ten more years just like it. I will admit that the pre-scandal Tiger was getting pretty boring to write about. His unrelenting brilliance was fun to watch but it had become a like a one-joke movie. His Thanksgiving crack-up was an everlasting gift to all sportswriters. Now there are endless subplots and he's a much more interesting human being. There's nothing in sports quite like Tiger at the height of his powers. I hope to see it again someday. "Who will win the Masters?" —Ivan Bulic, Vienna You're pushing your luck, pal. Ask me in March. (Photos: Ric Tapia/Icon SMI, Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)