#AskAlan: Who should captain the next American Solheim Cup team?

September 17, 2019

In this installment of the #AskAlan mailbag, GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck fields many questions about the Solheim Cup and the start of the PGA Tour season. For more #AskAlan, check out this week’s episode of the Drop Zone Podcast, where Shipnuck answers more questions he didn’t get to in print.

The Solheim Cup was fantastic viewing. Congrats to both sides. Hard to ignore the fact that the bulk of the top-ranked players were missing. Would Asia dominate a Rest-of-the-World version of the Solheim Cup vs. either the USA or Europe? #AskAlan [email protected]

In the post-Se Ri Pak world, it’s harder and harder to keep Asia out of these conversations. For sure, that would be a powerhouse team. But Europe or the U.S. would still have a fighting chance. Through the years I’ve had a couple of Korean writers explain to me that match play is not part of the golf education or culture there. With most of the top women turning pro as teens, they don’t play college golf, either. So Team Europe or U.S. would have a big advantage dealing with the vagaries of match play, to say nothing of the accumulated institutional knowledge from decades of Solheim Cup preparation. Mike Whan should use the political capital from this spectacular Solheim to establish a Presidents Cup-style extravaganza that finally gives international players in general and Korean ones in particular the showcase they deserve.

Is Viktor the best player not to have won on the PGA Tour (after a few months!)? If not him, who is at this point? #askalan [email protected]

I love this Hovland lad as much anyone but he still needs more of a body of work before we declare him the best of anything. My colleague Sean Zak nominated Tommy Fleetwood for this honor. Solid choice. Barn Rat would have to be in the discussion, too. Matt Wallace has more of a body of work, as does Eddie Pepperell. Now, Hovland may have more upside than anyone in this paragraph, but let’s give him more time before we declare him the game’s premiere Nearly Man.

Who should be the next U.S. Solheim captain and why? [email protected]

I love Juli Inkster and she did a helluva job across three Cups but since she says she’s stepping down we’ll let her ride off into the sunset without a fuss. How about Michelle Wie as a successor? She’s clearly transitioning into a post-playing career. She was a strong Solheim Cup competitor and is close to many of the players on tour. Fair or not, the Solheim still needs to attract more eyeballs. We’ve seen how much buzz a Tiger Woods captaincy has brought to the Presidents Cup. Wie could move the needle, too, and think how much fun we could have with a Millennial in charge: everyone would get a participation trophy!

Can you please keep all swing instructors away from Joaquin? Obviously what he is doing works. [email protected]

Yes, how about a little love for our guy J. Niemann. Per Justin Ray, this is the list of players born outside the U.S. since World War II who have won a Tour event before the age of 21: Seve, Rory, Joaquin. Strong to very strong. All three are very natural players with a bedrock belief in their game. Here’s hoping Niemann can always play with such freedom and abandon.

Joaquin Niemann earned his first Tour victory as a Ping equipment staffer.
Getty Images

What would the fallout be if Sergio Garcia said his “fried chicken” remark in 2019 and not 2013? [email protected]

I’ve wondered about this a few times, how Garcia more or less skated on his ugly racial slur of Tiger Woods. I guess he’s lucky Twitter was not such a powerful force back then, so he didn’t feel the full forces of outrage that would accompany such an offensive comment in today’s world. And in 2013 Woods’s sex scandal was much fresher in people’s minds; he was a less sympathetic character as opposed to the beloved elder statesman he’s become through all the travails and triumphs that followed 2013. And think of all obnoxious things Garcia has done since, further wearing out his welcome in the golf world.  No one will ever again give him the benefit of the doubt, as he somehow enjoyed six years ago.

#AskAlan We’re hearing a lot of “sure thing” and “can’t miss” labels being placed on young players right now (Wolff, Hovland, Niemann, Morikawa). Add this to still-young Bryson, Xander, JT and Jordan. Is there really room for them all to be superstars? [email protected]

I think we’re going to have to downgrade our definition of a superstar because, as you point out, the depth of young talent is nuts. (Jon Rahm didn’t even rate a mention in the question!) And that’s to say nothing of the insanely talented, slightly older generation of Brooks, Rory, DJ, Woodland, P-Reed and Cantlay, plus still dangerous (relative) old-timers like Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari and Paul Casey. Five wins used to be the unofficial definition of a monster year, but as we saw in 2019, three victories was good enough to be POY. It’s never been harder to win on Tour than right now so we’re going to have to remember that when we’re handing out superstar honorifics.

What’s your worst injury related to parenting that affected your game? #askalan [email protected]

Well, just the other day my pooch Monty was trying to grab a stray pine cone, his favorite chew toy. The problem is that it makes an almighty mess on the carpet. So I went to kick the offending pine cone off the deck with my foot, beyond his reach, but I topped it — the pine cone rolled forward only a few inches and my right foot landed on top of it, wrenching my ankle. I’ve been hobbling around ever since and it’s affecting my turn, transition and leg drive!

Following Pettersen’s lead, what would make the greatest golf walk-offs considering all current golfers? [email protected]

That’s easy: Phil returning to the scene of the crime, Winged Foot, and finally winning his U.S. Open, the same week he turns 50. Rory nabbing a green jacket and then calling it a career would also be epic and more analogous to Pettersen walking away while still young(ish) and healthy.

Where does the Solheim Cup rank in major golf events of 2019? Certainly top 2 in my opinion, and there’s a real argument for it being #1 considering there was incredible suspense until the bitter end (whereas everyone knew Tiger had secured the jacket after his second on 17). [email protected]

Yeah, it’s a funny thing about this year’s majors: they were deeply impactful but the 72nd hole at each was rather tension-free. Brooks secured his place in the pantheon, Lowry’s win was utterly epic and Tiger’s triumph may be golf’s signature moment of this decade, but there was a lack of truly memorable shots during their final rounds, save Tiger’s tee ball at 16, which, sadly, is becoming commonplace to that pin position. The Solheim, meanwhile, was riveting, defined by gutsy shotmaking and then a bang-bang finish so dramatic my head was spinning. I felt nervous throughout the entire back nine of the Masters but no moment this year hit me harder than the denouement at the Solheim.

#askallan would you rather play golf at Trump National or go golfing at Cypress? [email protected]

This is evil genius. I think I’ll peg it at Pebble.