#AskAlan: With the PGA’s move to May, does the U.S. Open lose some luster?

May 23, 2018

So I spent Monday morning hanging out with Phil Mickelson in Rancho Santa Fe, Cal. for an upcoming Golf Magazine cover story. One of us was wearing flip-flops. It wasn’t me. We raced around town in his suped-up golf cart, reaching speeds of 50 miles per hour. Phil assured me it was safe, but on some bends in the road, whilst the tires were squealing, he encouraged me to “lean into the turn.” You know, so we wouldn’t flip over. It got me wondering that, if we had died on the roadway, would I have rated a mention in the headline anywhere other than GOLF.com? That might be the only existential dread that has ever intruded upon the meticulously-maintained artificial reality of Rancho Santa Fe. Now, to the questions at hand…

Does Trinity Forest realize how bad it looked on TV? #AskAlan [email protected]

Well, one of the worst courses on the planet for watching tournament golf — on TV and in person — is the Old Course. Television flattens out the terrain and the course loses much of its charm and nuance. I’m afraid Trinity suffered the same fate. But once the ball was rolling on the ground, whether it was the rippling fairways or heaving greens, the course came alive. I thought it was a refreshing change of pace.

The PGA Tour caved again to complaints from the players about Trinity playing too firm and fast. They watered the course on Thursday. The course was not designed to play wet and slow. Will the TURE ever stop catering to whiners? -Bill (@DjohnsonSwag)

Well, the Tour exists to serve those whiners, so probably not. But the softening of the course was more of an indictment of pace of play than it was an architectural or agrinomical decision. Basically, Tour players love caveman golf: get a number, make the same swing over and over to hit it that exact distance. Trinity asked different questions, and demanded a lot of thinking and strategizing for each shot. No wonder things slowed to a glacial pace — even with a softened course the first two rounds took around 5.5 hours to play. If the course had been a racetrack and balls were bouncing all over the place it would’ve taken even longer, which is a bad product. And so the course was slowed down. Sigh.

Have you ever been friendzoned in public like “poor” Aaron Wise? [email protected]

I can comfortably say no, because in the history of the world no one has ever suffered such a savage friendzoning.

Does Aaron Wise continue this form and make the U.S. Ryder Cup team? #AskAlan -George (@_the_burns)

Last week I offered a very detailed look at the U.S. team and, unless Wise goes crazy and qualifies on points, there’s no room for him. This time. But this kid is an absolute stud and I expect to see him on the team in 2020 and beyond.

Alan, if you would be so kind, could you please retrieve your crystal ball and give us what the top 5 in the OWGR will be at the end of the 2021 season…. [email protected]

This one made my brain hurt. But here goes: 1. Jon Rahm 2. Bryson DeChambeau 3. Dustin Johnson 4. Tommy Fleetwood 5. Norman Xiong

What happened to all the good golfer nicknames? Is Sergio the Shaky Spaniard? What would DJ’s nickname be? – John (by text through high school friend @anoorani)

The former Golf World writer Jim Moriarity once described DJ as possessing “the oily gait of a jungle cat” — Oily Jungle Cat is a pretty bitchin’ nickname, though I think Tron Carter of NoLayingUp may be the only person who has ever actually called Johnson that. I would offer Big Smooth if North Carolina basketball legend Sam Perkins hadn’t already claimed it. I don’t know, I think I’ll solicit further ideas via Twitter. I agree that the golden age of golf nicknames has passed: Dr. Dirt (Brad Bryant), Mr. X (Miller Barber), Boss of the Moss (Loren Roberts), Boom Boom (Fred Couples), Mofo (Jim Thorpe), The Walrus (Craig Stadler), The Black Knight (Gary Player). “Beef” (Andrew Johnston) is a decent nickname. I like Lumpy (Tim Herron) and Smallrus (Kevin Stadler), too. But beyond these jolly, big-bodied fellows, it’s pretty slim pickings.

Why does the golf media try to make NCAA golf a thing? Unless you have a connection to a school playing, who cares? #AskAlan -Gus (@CCGabriel1)

Um, we make it a thing because it’s awesome. Tons of young talent, a quirky format, the aroused passions that comes only from college sports — what’s not to like? Years ago I made a cameo when the NCAAs were at Riviera but I’ve decided next year I’m gonna go and provide wall-to-wall coverage. Hopefully I can change your feelings about the event!

Did you write the Barn Rat story yet? -Mike (@mdarmstrong)

I did, and I dare say it’s quite a fun read. It’ll be in the July issue of Golf Magazine, which is presently at the printers. It’ll hit mailboxes and GOLF.com in a week or two. Don’t worry, I’ll put up the Bat signal to trumpet its presence.

Do you think the USGA brass privately hates the reality of the PGA move to May, as the U.S. Open may lose some of the pre-championship anticipation/coverage that came from having 9 weeks between majors? #AskAlan [email protected]

No doubt — I’ve personally heard a couple of blue coats kvetching about this. The build-up from the Masters to the U.S. Open was always exquisite torture. Now that our national championship is crammed between the PGA and Open Championship it’s going to feel a little less special.[image:14144439]

What’s the rationale for creating “marquee” pairings? Seems like it packs too many spectators following one group, and few can actually see any of the play. Convenient for TV coverage? [email protected]

I don’t think it makes a difference for TV — the cameras will always the top players, wherever they are. And you’re right that the clumping of the biggest names makes for a poor spectating experince. I think the whole rationale boils to down to one thing: buzz. It gives all of us something to talk about on the eve of the tournament and it helps stoke rivalries and storylines. So, I’m afraid we’re stuck with the concept until the end of time.

Does Danny Willett make it back into the world top 30 again (ever) ??? #AskAlan -Andrew (@a_h_davies)

Right now I’m working on a story about Shaun Micheel and it’s really poignant when he talks about the burden of his similarly unexpected breakthrough, how the pressure (internal and applied by peers and reporters) robbed him of his love of the game. No doubt Willett is felling pretty beaten-down, too. But he’s only 30, and the Masters win wasn’t a fluke — he already had four Euro tour victories by then. So Willett has plenty of time and plenty of game to be the player he once was. But part of what made him so good was a chip on his shoulder the size of Yorkshire. He was a gritty grinder who played with a palpable hunger. Now he’s financially secure and has a lifetime invitation to the toast of Augusta. Does Willett want to grind hard enough to fight his way back? Only he knows the answer to that.

If I’m living life “under par,” doesn’t that mean I’m below average? #AskAlan [email protected]

That’s more like subpar, which is a tiny bit different in useage. Either way, I’m in awe of how hard the Tour is trying to make this work but, really, the whole thing feels… slightly below average.

Given that you’ve never had a hole-in-one, would you accept the following terms: You get to spend all day, or at least up to the point until you’re happy with the outcome, hitting balls toward TPC Sawgrass’s 17th green. If you don’t make an ace you must donate $1,000 to charity. [email protected]

Your timing is amazing: I have been working on this exact scenario for a Golf Mag column / GOLF.com video. I asked my friends at Pebble Beach about using the 7th hole but they’re very protective of such sacred real estate so they politiely declined. Now I’m talking to the Tour about using the iconic 17th hole. Hopefully they come through. I like your idea of a charitable donation but it’s kind of redundant — if I spend all day *not* making an ace isn’t that punishment enough?

When will I know that I’ve found my feels? -Peter (@pmmacalu)

You need more reps. It’s a process. But if the feels never come, remember: It is what it is.