Tiger Woods at the 2011 FRYS.com Open
Robert Galbraith/Reuters
By Gary Van Sickle
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Have a question for Gary? E-mail editor@golf.com or ask it on Facebook.

Remember the good old days of professional golf when winning the money list was still a big deal? It's interesting that Phil Mickelson, despite all his accomplishments, has never finished No. 1 on the money list. Or been named the Player of the Year. Thanks again, Tiger.

I like it that Webb Simpson is playing the McGladrey Championship this week. After months of endless and pointless FedEx Cup points chatter, Simpson is making it a race for this year's money title. He is only $69,000 behind Luke Donald and after shooting an opening-round 63 to take the first-round lead, he's got an excellent chance of charging into the No. 1 spot after this week. Would that make Donald play at Disney in the season's final stop? I don't know, but this money race is turning old school. I like that.

Meanwhile, here's what hit the fan this week from the Van Cynical Mailbag:

Hi Gary, I can't see this happening. but assuming Tiger's poor-ish form continues, what will be the first major that he is not exempt for?
—Stuart Williams, U.K.
Masters and PGA champions are exempt for life and British Open winners can play until they turn 61. The U.S. Open invites winners of the last 10 Opens, so as I figure it, the 2019 U.S. Open would be the first major in which Tiger might not be exempt. In other words, no need to panic yet, Stuey.

Gary, I read this from Brad Faxon on Tiger: "As soon as he makes playing great golf more important than making perfect golf swings or making a perfect putt, he'll be fine." People heap so much negativity onto Tiger's swing changes, maybe it's not the swing, it's his mentality. Do you think Tiger should spend less time with Sean Foley and more time with Bob Rotella?
—Kevi
Tiger is never going to let down his guard and tell any sports shrink his innermost fears, if he has any. That would shoot down his aura of invincibility (which, coincidentally, the public no longer believes in). Tiger's swing will be fine. Maybe he should spend less time with Foley and more time with Faxon—to work on his long-lost putting confidence.

Gary, Generally I think you are right on the money, but could you please stop noting that TW was two putts away from winning the Masters? So was Adam Scott. So was Jason Day. We're not doing that sort of dreaming for other golfers, so why keep doing this for TW?
—Tim Delaney
Because a vast majority of so-called experts aren't predicting that Scott and Day will never win again, but they are with Tiger. With his game in utter shambles, Tiger still was in position to win the last two Masters and even had a shot at the Open at Pebble Beach. Those with zero attention spans (pretty much everybody but you and I, apparently) who are trying to write him off should remember that.

Gary, Rickie Fowler's win, although not as sweet as a win on the PGA Tour, is still a "W" and it shows that he's playing well right now. I say that if Stricker can't play the Presidents Cup, Couples should pick Fowler, not Keegan Bradley. Fowler's a bigger draw for the event, has a ton of team-play experience (including the previous Ryder Cup), and he's playing well when it matters (now!). What Keegan accomplished was impressive, but it doesn't mean he's a good fit for the team because it doesn't mean he's playing good golf when it matters. Your thoughts?
—Kevin
If you're worried about current form, how do you feel about Tiger, Furyk and Mickelson? They're not playing well when it matters. Using your flawed logic, Fowler might be a better option than any of them. And Fowler's a bigger draw? I'm glad you're more concerned about gate receipts than winning. Get serious. Bradley won two events, including a major, in playoffs. That's a guy who's proved he can handle pressure. I'd like to see Fowler on the team, too, but not at the expense of Bradley, who deserved to be picked. Rickie versus Keegan isn't even a close call.

Gary, Is Rickie Fowler a nice guy, humble and interactive with his fans? Also, when will he get his first win?
—Alec, Fresno, Calif.
This is why you've got to visit Golf.com more often, Al. I predict that Rickie will get his first pro win in Korea last week. Hey, what do you know? I'm already right! Keep up, man. Yes, Rickie is as nice and humble and approachable as anyone on tour. Everybody loves Rickie. He's fantastic.

Gary,
Big fan of the PGA Tour Confidential every Monday morning. However, after today, not such a big fan. My son and I watch a six-hole playoff, with clutch shot after clutch shot... you don't even mention the PGA Tour event of the year!
—Matthew P. Ford, associate professor, Univ. of Alabama—Birmingham
Matt, Tell Dean Wormer that the Frys.com event, despite being very entertaining (especially if you like missed birdie putts in playoffs), was hardly the PGA Tour event of the year. Perhaps the dean missed Bill Haas getting up and down from a lake to win $11 million recently? Keegan Bradley's dramatic comeback at the Byron? The rise of Jhonny Vegas? Nick Watney? Webb Simpson? Luke Donald at the Match Play? Any of the majors? I'm sure we would've had a rousing debate on the merits of Briny Baird and Bryce Molder if we'd gotten around to it, which unfortunately we didn't. Personally, I'm still wondering how a West Coast event (a 3 p.m. finish there is a 6 p.m. finish on the East Coast, per standard procedure) nearly ran out of daylight before the finish. Even with a prolonged playoff, it shouldn't have been close.

Gary,
As for the ball marks on greens, why can't the tour put one (or two) people on spike-repair duty at each green? When a group leaves the green they have until the next group is ready to approach to fix whatever marks they find or two minutes, whichever comes first. Get a couple of assistant pros or groundskeepers from local courses to volunteer. That way you know they are repairing properly and you only need 36 or so for the tourney. Curious to hear your reply.
—Jim Barling
And I, Barling dear, am curious if you've ever attended a golf tournament. The next group is usually waiting—and waiting—in the fairway to hit. There would often be no time to do repairs on spike marks, which would be extensive after most pros do their customary 360-degree walks around the cup while surveying putts. I'm also not sure how you figure you need only 36 volunteers. What, those volunteers are going to work 12- or 14-hour shifts for the full-field days on Thursdays and Fridays while taking four days off from work? And how about tourneys such as the Bob Hope, which is played on four courses? Now you're looking at 144 volunteer assistant pros, although it's probably more like 288 since you're going to need two shifts. Oops, the Hope and Pebble Beach have pro-am formats, so you have spike marks from amateur playing partners to repair in each group, too. J.B., I'm afraid your plan is utterly unworkable. Besides, these guys play for big money. They can putt over the occasional spike mark... and like it.

Gary, What's wrong with the LPGA today is that there is very little vested interest from American fans because we have no idea who these folks are. How would you make the LPGA must-see TV event, aside from the obvious—tell the Americans to play better! Every idea I've heard or read so far comes off as kind of racist.
—Jerry, Groton, Mass.
I don't have an answer, but golf is ultimately a niche sport in America with or without Tiger Woods, and women's golf is a niche of a niche. Right now, the LPGA is out of sight, out of mind. The tour needs more tournaments in the United States, for starters. A Nancy Lopez-like star would help, but you can't just invent a phenomenon like that. She has to happen. Maybe it'll never be must-see stuff, but the LPGA needs to be innovative. Golf Channel has no live tournaments to televise Monday through Wednesday. Maybe that's an opening the LPGA should take advantage of in an attempt to get a bigger share of the spotlight. The LPGA also has a serious pace-of-play problem, which was exposed again at the recent Solheim Cup. That doesn't make for good TV and all golf tournaments are now TV shows first and foremost. A shot clock might help (and the inevitable controversy would help generate attention). Maybe the LPGA needs to truly go all-world with some kind of a split schedule—six weeks in the United States, six weeks in Europe, six weeks in Asia—and reward the top players from each section with a spot in some kind of three- or four-event playoff format. More tourneys and more TV equal more exposure and more opportunities to create stars. But until someone is willing to pay for something like that, it's just an idea.

Gary,
You once more called the FedEx Cup a money grab? Since when is playing for the offered prize a money grab? I will wager that baseball players in the World Series will not turn down their money-grab winnings. Same with the NBA playoffs and Super Bowl. Those extra winnings are nice on top of pretty nice guaranteed salaries, which dwarf the average pro golfer's winnings, which is dependent upon performance. I do not remember, but I bet you were one of the scribes lambasting the LPGA for playing a free tournament this year.
—Ron
You lose that last bet, Ron. The FedEx Cup is a money grab because it's about the money and nothing else and because it's not based solely on performance. Only 125 players teed it up in the FedEx Cup playoffs but 150 received FedEx Cup bonus money. Everybody got a check, even some who won't be exempt in 2012. Unlike the FedEx Cup system, no Boston Red Sox players will cash World Series checks this year. And by the way, Ron, there's no wagering here at Bushwood.



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