#AskAlan: Would Tiger Woods be better off without a driver in his bag?

February 21, 2018

Love him or hate him, the golf world is undeniably more interesting when Gerry Lester Watson, Jr. makes the scene…

Does Bubba Watson’s win propel him to a spot on the Ryder Cup team? #AskAlan [email protected]_5

Well, he went from 60th to 10th on the points list, so he is certainly in the conversation and will continue to be. In his three Ryder Cups from 2010-14, Bubba was a hard guy to pair up because of his highly unorthodox game and idiosyncratic personality. But his stint as an assistant captain in 2016 was vital for him to build relationships and become more one of the guys. If he doesn’t qualify on points you have to think he’ll be a pick, whereas in ’16 he was overlooked in large part because of interpersonal reasons. Which leads us to…

Is Bubba still a big phony? -Daniel (@68shooter)

I don’t think Bubba is a phony, though I recognize how his obvious love of material objects can seem at odds with his frequent talk of serving a higher power. But if anything he has been too real, in that he doesn’t really know how to do small talk or engage in social graces. One time at the Hero World Challenge I was walking a practice round with two twentysomething stars when, at the turn, Bubba jumped in front of them on the tee box and played away. It was slightly awkward and he made it more so by saying something to the effect of, I don’t want to be behind you guys making you feel rushed. A more normal way to play it would have been, Hey, mind if I join? After Bubba disappeared down the fairway one of the players said, “He’s not a bad guy. He means well. But..

“…he’s just socially awkward,” said the other.

That captured Bubba’s essence. He’s always been an outsider, and even two green jackets can’t change that. But I think after a decade on Tour he’s finally feeling a little more comfortable in his own skin.


Best story to come out of the West Coast swing? -Wyatt @WJZangl

The continued ascension of Jon Rahm rates a mention. Jason Day’s resurgence added some juice to this season. Phil Mickelson’s consistently fine play has been a revelation, even as his victory drought endures. But I think the answer has to be Tiger Woods’s good health. He’s looked strong and relatively spry. Obviously there are some serious holes in his game, but it looks like Tiger is going to be healthy enough to make this comeback a long-term proposition. That alone adds a ton of intrigue to 2018.

Can you compare Chloe Kim to any golfers? Young and successful. Seems to have great mental toughness. What’s your take? [email protected]

When I was interviewing Kim she reminded me of a goofier version of the circa 2016 Lydia Ko: down-to-earth, charming and utterly carefree because they know the world is their oyster. Of course, Lydia discovered that being the best in the world can get complicated. I hope it’s a smoother ride for Chloe.

Should golf really be played in complete silence? What other sport demands fans keep still and quiet? [email protected]

Tennis, at least for every serve. But to me, the prevailing silence is the most intense part of being at a golf tournament. In this noisy, cluttered world we live in, you simply never get to experience that kind of stillness while being among so many people. When I took my kids to their first tournaments this was their favorite part, the delicious tension that comes with having to be utterly silent and then the release of screaming your head off when something cool happens. I’d hate for golf to lose this thing that makes it so unique. As we’re seeing, all it takes is a couple of yahoos to shatter the experience for the players and fans. I hope aggressive actions by the Tour and zero-tolerance policing by fellow fans will get us through this fraught moment.

Does Tiger have a better chance competing with 13 clubs or 14 clubs? I’m serious. His score Thursday at Riviera certainly would have been lower without a driver. I get that he’s always been a bit wild, even in his prime. But it’s really bad right now. [email protected]

And that same round he was bombing his 3-wood long and straight, which made the misbehaving driver even more painful. In fact, Tiger hits his 5-wood farther than Zach Johnson hits his driver. I’d love to see Tiger be more conservative off the tee, because through the rest of the bag he looks pretty solid. But he’s not ready to concede 30-50 yards to the DJs and McIlroys of the world. Part of that is tactical; he knows it’s tough to beat guys ceding that much yardage. And part of it is vanity; Tiger is simply too proud to capitulate. So, we’re all gonna be along for this wild ride as he continues to try to figure it out.


Does Tiger hit it straight on the range…? [email protected]

He hits it like a golden god.

What would you consider a good baseline for what a great career is? Matt Kuchar’s career? Geoff Ogilvy? Zach Johnson? -Michael (@asuluv8)

Well, winning at Augusta National and the Old Course is a pretty spectacular career, especially for a short-hitter in the era of bomb and gouge. Ogilvy has a U.S. Open on a classic venue, two Match Play championships, a win at Kapalua and four more Tour victories, as well as a victory at his national championship, the Australian Open. Given his extravagant talent, perhaps he should have won a bit more. But it’s still a pretty great career. Kuch’s is not quite great, though still very, very good. He has seven Tour victories and gets bonus points for the quality of the events/venues: Players, Match Play, Memorial, Hilton Head, Barclays. Another coupla wins – or, obviously, a major – and we can upgrade Kuch’s career to a great one, especially since he’s a late bloomer who had exactly one Tour victory at the age of 31.

Would you be able to break 100 on a Tour setup? -Kasper (@thegranncentral)

Depends on the event and the setup (and if I get my USGA-mandated maximum double bogey, lol). I could get it done on most of the West Coast venues, though a bad day off the tee on Torrey South, at 7,500 yards with juicy rough, well, that could get ugly. But brick-hard greens and wind at PGA National, or Copperhead, or Bay Hill…I hate target-golf and flat Florida courses so any or all of those venues could get in my head. The more I think about it, I’m glad this is a hypothetical and I don’t have to suffer the indignity of trying.