Gary Van Sickle's Mailbag: Gary's best golf tip and favorite golf book
Congratulations, readers, on setting a record by submitting only one Tiger Woods question for this week's Van Cynical Mailbag. No doubt there will be many more next week after you catch an eyeful of him as the merry and genial host (Wheep! Wheep! Wheep! Sarcasm Alert!) of his own tournament, the AT&T National.
Think he'll go up in the TV booth on the weekend like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer do at their tournaments?
I would definitely watch that. Until then, here are the highlights (just a figure of speech, obviously) from the Van Cynical Mailbag:
Gary, Tiger went back to his original Scotty Cameron putter that he won 13 majors with. Will we see him win a major in 2012 with this trusty putter or is it too little, too late?
-- Doug Schwimmer, Scottsdale, Ariz., via text
It's not the arrow, Doug, it's the Indian. Tiger has proven that he can find his old dominating form for a couple of days at a time but the Open showed that he is mentally vulnerable to the same fears and swing thoughts of regular mortals. I don't get the fact that Tiger says he's changing his chipping and putting stroke to match his new Sean Foley swing. He was the best putter in majors for more than a decade and now he's at that age, an old 36, where players quit making those eight-footers that used to be automatic. I don't see the last two majors setting up well for Tiger's game although let's face it, the way he played the first two rounds at Olympic Club, he could win any tournament on any course with that class of golf. The fact that he couldn't sustain it on the weekend has to be mental -- and that's going to be much tougher to fix than any physical swing flaw he's faced. In other words, too little and too late for this year.
What's your best golf tip?
-- Tammy Portnoy via Twitter.
This is crucial, Portnoy. Sooner or later, you're going to be cornered by a typically selfish golfer who will be under the misconception that the blow-by-blow, hole-by-hole recounting of his round is utterly fascinating. Other golfers hate it when somebody does this, mainly because it keeps them from going over their rounds shot-by-shot, which they're sure is far more interesting. It's a selfish game, I tell you, so you've got to be selfish to defend yourself. Once you realize that you're in for a full replay, interrupt the golfer's description of his second hole by asking, "Hey, I was wondering, what did you hit on 18?" The golfer will assume you're actually interested in how he played the finishing hole and he'll go over the details and bingo! The round is mercifully over. You just got him to skip 16 holes and saved 20 minutes. It is a brilliant maneuver but be warned, it may work only once per golfer. Kids, don't try this at home!
How close were you to qualifying for the U.S. Senior Open?
-- Sean Cooney via Twitter
Well, Sean, I was very, very close. I played in a U.S. Senior Open qualifier. That's as close as you can technically get. Oh, the fact that I missed by five shots makes it sound like I wasn't close at all. I tied for 12th out of about 60 players. That'd be pretty good in a tournament for an amateur hack like myself, not so much in an event where only two players advance. It was a pass-fail course and two guys passed. The rest of us failed. But in the official revisionist account, yes, I just missed. If I hadn't taken a penalty by accidentally nudging my ball when I set up for a birdie putt on a par 5, I might have been two strokes closer.
My round was utterly fascinating. On the first hole, I hit a perfect drive around the corner by the lake and...
I see the LPGA event will be played in 100-degree temps. Any other tournaments match that?
-- Dave Andrews via Twitter
Lots of them, Dave. There was Ken Venturi's famous march to victory at Congressional in the '64 U.S. Open. I don't know the temperatures but it was scorching and humid and doctors warned Venturi not to play the second 18. The Open at Oakmont in '94 was in the mid-90s but man, it felt a lot hotter than that with the humidity. There have been some sizzling early-week temps at Valhalla over the years but I'd rate the 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills as the winner of your Tournament Played on the Face of the Sun Award. It hit 107 degrees, as I recall, and it was just about too hot to touch anything. Tiger Woods edged out Woody Austin in that event. I remember walking across the club's parking lot and it felt like walking on hot lava, as if the asphalt was starting to melt. Tulsa in August? There was no chance of that PGA being under 100 degrees. Dumb and dumber.
Your ten all-time favorite golf books?
-- Steve Lyle, via Twitter
C'mon man, I don't want to write a whole article to answer one question. Ten books? Hey, you only need to know one. The best golf book ever written is unquestionably The Dogged Victims of Inexorable Fate by Dan Jenkins, a collection of His Own Self's assorted stories on golf and guys like Arnie, Jack and the Slammer. It features the best chapter ever written on golf, "The Glory Game," the hilarious and semi-actual adventures of Jenkins and his outrageous pals at the local Fort Worth pasture, Goat Hills. Read this book and skip the other nine on my list, whatever they are.
Gary, isn't it about time for a midseason update on the Van Cynical Ryder Cup teams?
-- Brian Rosenwald via Twitter
Right you are, Brian, and that'll be coming up sometime around Fourth of July weekend here on Golf.com. I don't predict which players are going to be on the teams but I do take a look at the event's shifting balance of power. You may be surprised by my conclusion. Unless you aren't.
Gary, which course would you rather play -- Congressional or Royal Portrush?
-- Golfnut Kuma via Twitter
Royal Portrush. No explanation needed, is there?