Enjoy the inaugural edition of the Van Sickle Mailbag. It may become a regular feature here on Golf.com, if you're not careful.
I am starting to think that Rickie Fowler is the Anna Kournikova of men's golf. He is making a lot of money, has the PR, colorful outfits, and everybody wants to watch him, but he has no individual championships. I know he is young, but hype isn't getting it done. Your thoughts? Tim Forbes
Actually, the hype is getting it done for Puma. Fowler has almost singlehandedly put them on the marketing map. Meanwhile, drink a bottle of patience, Tim. The reality is, 22-year-olds don't rip through the Tour unless they're phenoms like Tiger and Rory and Sergio. You're spoiled. Fowler was 27th in the World Ranking after the PGA, ahead of Tiger and Ernie Els, among others, and he made a run at the British Open. You might also check out last year's Ryder Cup singles matches. He got it done there. At least give him until he's 25.
\nDo you think Tiger's phone was hacked when he was in Australia in 2009? And if so, is that why he got caught? Christian Bora, Philadelphia
Well, it was pretty easy figuring out his password ...er, I mean I don't know anything about his phone being hacked. It was the National Enquirer, not Murdoch's horde, that blew the whistle on Tiger. It wasn't phone hacking as much as it was inevitability, given Tiger's habits.
It's safe to say that Tiger Woods has lost his AAA rating as a golfer. Is it possible that Tiger's biggest problem is denial? These days, the thing that stands out is that he is fooling himself.
He came close to admitting something close to that after the PGA Championship, at least as close as he's going to come to admitting anything. His biggest problem remains his physical health. He's a range rat who needs a lot of reps, and for the last three years, due to physical woes and an international scandal, he hasn't practiced much. That hurts his confidence, which hurts his on-course performance. But he was definitely kidding himself that he was ready to play in Akron.
If Tiger's putting woes continue, can you see him going to the belly butter, or do you think he'll resist for a while longer? Stuart Williams, U.K.
I don't think the traditionalist Tiger will go to the belly putter or a claw grip until he can't make any four-footers. So check back next July.
\nGary, I'm not a Tiger hater, but I wonder where you and other media members get the idea that Tiger is still relevant, such that we care about his new shoes from Nike, his new caddie, how his old caddie is doing, his relationship with his new swing coach, and how his most recent comeback is going? Could golf benefit if the media started treating Tiger like the mediocre golfer he's become? David J. Hogue, Minot, N.D.
I agree with you, David, but there's one problem with your theory: The public still does care about Tiger. The numbers say so. Check the TV ratings or Web traffic. Anything Tiger-related blows everything else out of the water. So until the rest of the world catches up to your illuminated reasoning, the media will keep writing about Tiger. Until then, we're still living in Tiger's world.
\nHey Gary, I didn't think it was possible, but Stevie's big mouth has made me feel just a bit sorry for Tiger. Do you think this squabble could cause more of the public to get behind Tiger? John Sinclair, Stillwater, Minn.
Stevie's account of learning how he was fired sounded legit to me, or at least more legit than Tiger's account. Tiger's true believers, who are legion, likely dismissed the whole he said-he said dustup, while Tiger's critics aren't going to give him sympathy for any reason. In the end, I don't think it will change people's perception of him one way or the other.\n