#AskAlan mailbag: Are others at fault in the Billy Mayfair rules controversy?

November 13, 2019

In this installment of the #AskAlan mailbag, GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck fields your questions about the Billy Mayfair rules controversy, Tiger Woods leaving Phil Mickelson off the Presidents Cup team, golf under the lights, Eddie Pepperell’s golf ball imbroglio and more.

Billy Mayfair blamed the rules official in his group for not alerting him that he was bumping up against the three-minute threshold for searching for a lost ball. Isn’t it Mayfair’s responsibility to watch the clock, or, at the very least, his caddie’s? Are others at fault in this controversy? [email protected]

It is ultimately the player’s duty to abide by the three-minute threshold but in these situations I put a lot of the onus on the caddie. The player has just hit a crappy shot and their head is full of noise. Why else is the caddie there if not to help navigate these tricky situations? Of course, there is a big difference between the allowed three minutes and the nearly five minutes that Mayfair took — both him and his caddie should have had alarm bells going off in their brains about a possible infraction. As for the other penalty Mayfair incurred, that is all on him, and his opaque statements about both infractions did not put Mayfair in a positive light. I think the rules officials did their job quite well, asking all the right questions after the fact and garnering all the evidence to render a just verdict.

Golf under the lights, yay/nay? [email protected]

Yaaaaay. I wouldn’t want to see the U.S. Open decided by the shadow of a flagstick, but I think it’s good fun for an everyday event. It could be especially beneficial to push golf into prime time and attract more viewers. The Thursday/Friday broadcast windows are not helpful for those with office jobs — who among us wouldn’t want to watch live golf whilst eating supper?

Should Lucy Li have played in college for a couple of years? [email protected]

The easy answer is yes. We all benefit from being exposed to new people, ideas and, uh, experiences. But in the post-Lorena world it seems like LPGA players are feeling pressure to make hay at ever younger ages. I mean, when Lydia Ko was 16 she was talking about retiring at 30 and she now seems burnt out at 22. Yani Tseng was a legend at 21 and then a year later lost her way, never to find it again. So in that context I can understand the urgency Li feels to get started as soon as possible. But you have to wonder if Ko and Tseng had gotten away from various pressures and had fun in college if they could have enjoyed longer, more fulfilling careers.

The International team of the Presidents Cup only gets together every two years. Differences in language, food, equipment, culture, and personality are all issues the USA doesn’t have as their core plays every year. Let’s say any U.S. Ryder Cupper can’t play #PrezCup the next year! #leveltheplayingfield [email protected]

I sorta love this idea — that means this year’s Presidents Cup team would feature Wolff, Morikawa, K. Na, Kisner and sundry others. On the other hand, I think I’d rather have a Prez Cup with Tiger, Brooks, DJ, and JT in lead roles. Maybe there’s a happy medium: only six Ryder Cuppers can play in the ensuing Presidents Cup? That would definitely add some new blood to the proceedings.

It seemed a lock that if Phil didn’t make the team, he would fill out that last spot for a Vice Captain. Now not so much. Whose choice was it? Will there be any lingering issues ? [email protected]

To paraphrase Stuart Appleby’s old line, Phil is like a bag of prawns on a hot day…he doesn’t travel well. I can totally imagine Mickelson telling Capt. Woods that he’s not keen on flying halfway around the world for a lopsided exhibition. On the other hand, this could be Tiger exerting his alpha status. Phil takes up a lot of the oxygen in any room, and he’s been more of a mentor to many of the young players on the team. Maybe Woods didn’t want his message muddled or his authority compromised. Mickelson’s absence is certainly noteworthy given that him and Tiger will be a huge part of the leadership of many future Cups. They’re off to an awkward start.

First question: why the hell did Kisner not make the squad? Second question same as first. [email protected]_anonymous

Don’t ever underestimate how cliquey the PGA Tour is. A sportswriting legend once called it high school with private jets. (Okay, fine, I was the one who said that.) Kiz has never been part of the South Florida cool crowd. The reasons we all love him — he’s a spiky, loose-lipped son of a gun — might be what made Woods wary. After Tiger’s nude selfie leaked online, Kisner, in front of a handful of other players, joked to Woods that it had to have been photoshopped because, er, some of the proportions were off. Woods laughed, but maybe he decided he wants a little less of that jocularity in his team room? The other explanation is more prosaic: the two times Kisner has had a chance to win a major championship he crumbled on Sunday, shooting a 74 at the 2017 PGA Championship while holding the 54-hole lead and another 74 at the 2018 Open Championship when he again began the round with a share of the lead. For Tiger the majors are the ultimate measuring stick and Kiz has come up short.

Alan, if Reed has a poor showing at the President’s Cup, will this make leaving him off the 2020 Ryder Cup an easy decision? Also, will the “snub” of leaving Fowler, Na and Kisner off the roster spur one of them on to bear down and win a 2020 Major and if so, who? Thanks – @forearmshivers

Reed is definitely on double secret probation, on and off the course. You gotta figure this is his last freebie so, for his sake, I hope he uses it wisely. Of the players you mentioned I think Na is a closest to a breakthrough, and now he does indeed have a little extra motivation. Na has gotten in the habit of winning and now married reliable ballstriking to one of the best short games on the planet. That works on any golf course.

Is there a number of balls it’s considered poor form to make your caddy keep in the bag? And more generally, are players generally confident (and should they be) that *anything* they ask a caddy to schlep around will stay between the two of them? [email protected]_the_real_k_man

In the wake of the Eddie Pepperell imbroglio I asked a couple of Tour caddies what is the typical number of balls most players have to begin a round, and 9-12 was the consensus. Some players are superstitious and will take a ball out of play after every birdie (Ernie Els) or every bogey (Bob Estes). The more conscientious of players want to be sure they have a few pristine balls left at round’s end to autograph for the walking scorer and other volunteers. Unless you’re a 30+ handicap, or playing in high winds at Whistling Straits or Kiawah’s Ocean Course, anything more than a dozen balls is too much. And caddies will definitely talk smack about any excesses. I’ve been chided for having too many metal ball markers (!) and at Bandon this year I was carrying Advil, Tums and a CBD rub and my caddie called it “a f—ing pharmacy.” So choose your accoutrements wisely!

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