Welcome to another #AskAlan. Hey, I didn't come up with the name, I just work here. In the late 20th century, back when we were all using dial-up modems, I wrote a golf-centric weekly Mailbag for Sports Illustrated's nascent website, then known as cnnsi.com. It had a nice run but the 'Bag was eventually retired. Well, it's back, baby. Since we've entered the doldrums of the wraparound schedule I thought we should take the 'Bag out of storage -- we're calling this iteration #AskAlan -- and see if it still works.
"Does Tiger contend in the majors in 2017? If so, prediction on how many he will win?" -@BeatSC
OK, let's get the obligatory Tiger question out of the way early. It's a very interesting slate of major championships this year: the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, a long, quirky, untested track; the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, maybe the truest test in the rota; the PGA at Quail Hollow, where Woods had some success in the old days but more recently some notable struggles. Quail Hollow will be narrow and choked with rough, while Erin Hills demands a ton of drivers off the tee. Given that Tiger's driving has been a weakness for years, neither would seem to suit him. Birkdale is a thinking man's course that plays short. At the Hero Woods's iron play was the sharpest part of his game, so the Open is probably the best fit among the summertime majors. Though who knows how Tiger's body will be holding up by then after months of grinding? Given his track record at Augusta National you have to say that the Masters is the most likely place for Woods to contend.
It's looking like Woods's early season schedule will be Dubai, Riviera, Honda and Bay Hill -- that's only four tournaments to piece together his game ahead of the Masters. Hard to imagine he can find it by then. To answer the question, I certainly don't see him winning a major, but his best chance to at least get in the mix will be at the Masters and British Open.
"Best feel-good story of 2016? Worst/most salacious story of '16?" -@IronForty
The biggest warm fuzzy has to be Vaughn Taylor's incredibly emotional win at Pebble Beach, though Gene Sauers's triumph at the U.S. Senior Open is a very close second.
"If you have to pick just one $500 course in Vegas - Cascata or Shadow Creek? Thanks!" --Filip (@fbis29)
Cascata is a perfectly nice course but Shadow Creek is the no-brainer here. It's much more of an experience and is a nice pelt for big-game hunters who like to compare the courses they've played.
"Should Walker Cup teams from both sides be comprised of more career Amateurs over pre-pros?" --Ron (@golfdinosaur)
There is a certain romance baked into this question. It's nice to imagine that the teams could be filled by 10 graying career amateurs on each side of the pond who own leather-bound copies of "Down the Fairway" and still carry persimmon drivers. But if you want the best players you need to have some of the college studs. It certainly adds to the lore of the event when Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Danny Willett, Webb Simpson, Rickie Fowler, Chris Kirk and Billy Horschel are part of the same Cup, as happened in 2007. But even on those stacked teams thirtysomething career ams Trip Kuehne and Nigel Edwards of Wales played key roles. There will always be a place for these cagey veterans and their scarcity makes every appearance more appreciated.
"Which American golfer makes the jump to major championship/Ryder Cup level? I'm on Daniel Berger." --Ryan (@Rbaroff427)
Berger is a solid choice -- I like his all-around game and his swagger. Justin Thomas is certainly another talented youngster due to take the next step, though like Berger that would mean contending more often and winning a couple of tournaments, not necessarily reaching the rarified air of majors and Cups. I'm going to take Scott Piercy, who this year contended until the bitter end at both Oakmont and Firestone. His game travels -- he drives it beautifully and has a deadly wedge game. Piercy, 38, was a very late bloomer who is just entering his prime. I think he'll make a lot of noise this year.
"Your early guess for POY in '17?" --Anna (@AnnH247)
Let me answer by asking a few questions of my own: Matsuyama has already peaked, right? Can Spieth recapture that certain magic he had in 2015, even as he's giving up so much yardage off the tee to other guys in the top 5? Will Rory's putting (and interest) hold up across a long season? Can JDay remain healthy? The only guy who has more answers than questions is Dustin. I think 2016 was just the beginning and next year he will be an even more dominant force. And so he's my (admittedly very early) pick for POY.
"Will you be employed in 2017?" --Paul (@ghostofhogan)
In fact, I'm going to be busier than ever in January. I'll share further details soon but we have exciting things in the works: something that will be a must-read for every dimplehead on the planet. Stay tuned!