#AskAlan mailbag: Which recent Masters champ has the best chance of winning again?

September 27, 2019

In this installment of the #AskAlan mailbag, GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck fields questions about which recent Masters champion has the best chance of winning another green jacket, Rory McIlroy, the Champions tour POY and more.

Is Rory the best backdoor top 10 player of all time? #AskAlan[email protected]

I used to think it was Furyk, but McIlroy is making quite a bid for this bad news/good news title. It’s highly commendable that when Rory gets off to a slow start he keeps grinding and patiently plays himself onto the first page of the leaderboard. The maddening flip side is why isn’t he more ready when the bell rings, especially in big events?

With Willett’s return to form making it more interesting, which of the last five Masters champs (Tiger, Reed, Sergio, Danny, Spieth) do you think has the best chance of winning another green jacket? [email protected]

Oooh, this is interesting. I’ll take the guy currently playing the worst: Spieth. Jordan putts Augusta National’s crazy greens better than anybody this side of B. Crenshaw. He is too smart, tenacious and too talented not to figure out his swing woes. When he does, look out.

If I told you that since the ’16 Masters, Spieth would win a major and have two other top-3s in majors, and Willett wouldn’t have another top 10 in majors over that stretch, would me telling you that Willett now has a higher OWGR than Spieth make you laugh, cry, or vomit? [email protected]_bud

It would certainly make me question your sanity. But all credit to Willett, who has won a couple of big tournaments in the last calendar year. There are plenty of other ways to slurp up World Ranking points besides high finishes in the majors.

How effective will Billy Horschel be in getting other American players to compete at Wentworth? He seemed genuinely thrilled with his experience.#AskAlan [email protected]

Word of mouth among players (and caddies and wives) is massively important to the success of any golf tournament. So is the venue and the date on the schedule. All three factors are suddenly working in favor of the Euro tour’s flagship event. I fully expect a bunch more very-good-if-not-quite-great Americans to make the trip in the future, and the occasional superstar may be tempted, too. That’s good news for a tournament that deserves a stellar field.

What tour will Akshay be playing on in the ’20-’21 season and why? Boom or bust? #AskAlan
[email protected]

I’ll say the Latinoamerica Tour — even if it’s just Mondaying — which is a perfectly respectable place for any young player to ply his trade. I love the kid’s swing and attitude but, man, professional golf is way more cut-throat than the Matt Wolffs of the world make it appear.

How close to a par-4 hole measuring 507 yards does a beefy Spaniard have to hit it before the R&A closes down golf for good? [email protected]

Just a few more yards, apparently.

Champions Tour Player of the Year race is quite interesting with five weeks left. Stricker has two majors, Langer has two wins including a Senior Open. McCarron with 3 wins and Sutherland with 2 titles. If you had a vote, who has been the best player on the tour in 2019? #AskAlan [email protected]

Who has been the best player or whom is the player of the year? The Koepka-McIlroy dichotomy has shown that people think about these things differently. From start to finish, McCarron has displayed the most consistent excellence, with 13 top-10s compared to eight for Langer. It’s not an accident that McCarron leads the money list by a wide margin. But I would vote for Stricker, even though he’s made only 8 starts so far (he’s also made four cuts on the PGA Tour). Stricker won the most important tournament of the year, the U.S. Senior Open. Double-dipping in the majors is a big deal. Now, if McCarron (or Langer) picks off another win or two and takes the season-long Schwab Cup, it will be another very interesting POY vote.

What’s the one invite you had to turn down that you still haven’t played? If one exists! [email protected]

Haha, there have been a few. Next month I’m going on an epic New Zealand/Australia journey and will cross off a bunch of mind-blowing courses that have been on my to-do list for years. With that in mind, this is my current bucket list, roughly in order of lust: Fisher’s Island, Maidstone, Cabot(s), Oakmont, Chicago GC, Diamante Dunes, Morfontaine, Swinley Forest, Prairie Dunes, Sawgrass Stadium.

#AskAlan At a yearly Member/Guest who pays? I don’t belong to a private course so I can’t reciprocate in kind. [email protected]

I think this has evolved just like how the check is handled on dates. In the old days, the inviting member was more or less expected to pay for everything. After all, you are the “guest.” But built into the social contract was the expectation that the guest would reciprocate at some point with a similar offer. Nowadays, I think it is more common to split the bill, and it certainly make sense in your case. You should certainly offer. If the host still insists on covering the cost, arrive with a very, very nice gift.

Every year, your publication and others give us the Top 100 Courses in the country. With the challenges facing the game, and the growth of “wokeness” among the golf playing public, should we also have lists of the Best/Most Enjoyable Golf Courses/Experiences? #AskAlan [email protected]

To me that’s the same thing. I have a file on my computer of my own personal Top 100 that I periodically update. The ranking has one criteria: which course would I rather play? That’s it. There’s not mathematical formula and  I don’t care about “resistance to scoring”  or some of the other overwrought categories that have traditionally gone into these rankings. Is Cruden Bay more fun than Cypress Point? If you offered me one round at Pine Valley or North Berwick, which would I take? Courses move up and down the list based on these simple questions. “Best” is a bad word when it comes to ranking courses. It really comes down to pure enjoyment. Of course, some guys prefer blondes and some prefer brunettes. Ranking courses is just as subjective, but tradition demands we come up with a list, even though it’s a rather silly exercise.

#AskAlan if they both retire without another win, whose career would you rather have had, Zach’s or Dustin’s? [email protected]_crawford

DJ’s 20 career wins is an awesome achievement but Zach is an easy choice. This is the complete list of players who have conquered Augusta National and the Old Course: Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Sam Snead, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo … and Zach Johnson.

#AskAlan If Justin Leonard makes par on the 72nd hole of either the 99’ Open Championship or 04’ PGA…is he in the Hall of Fame? [email protected]_eagle1988

That would give him 13 Tour wins with two major championships (13/2), which is almost exactly Zach Johnson’s career. Zach will definitely get in to the HOF, so the answer is yes. As I’ve said before, the Hall of Fame induction is now a TV show that desperately needs content, so pretty much every marginal candidate (paging Retief Goosen) is going to be enshrined eventually. Does Jim Furyk belong? Doesn’t matter, he’ll get in. Bubba? Nothing to debate — he’s in, too. Adam Scott has 13/1, similar to Leonard, but Scott will get in on the strength of 7 Euro tour victories and a handful of other wins across Asia. Fred Couples and Corey Pavin lowered the bar to 15/1. Leonard and David Duval (13/1) have very similar resumes. DD was certainly more dominant in his heyday — and getting to No. 1 in the World Ranking is a towering achievement — but Leonard was better longer and holed maybe the most famous putt in Ryder Cup history. Does 12/1 deserve to be in the Hall? That’s basically Jason Day’s and Justin Thomas’s career right now. I can make a strong case that for four solid years Duval was the best or second best player in the world. Leonard is a tougher sell.

I’m still in awe of the Solheim Cup finish. Doesn’t it seem like that was criminally undercovered? PTI didn’t even mention it. What are the odds after all those shots, it would come down to one putt on the final stroke of the whole tournament? And Suzann Pettersen would make it? [email protected]

That’s funny, just yesterday I got sucked into a whole highlights package of the Cup. It really was the most exciting event of the year. (The Masters was the most meaningful.) It played out like a movie, which is what you can say about the most transcendent sports moments. Hopefully this Solheim will be like the Shawshank Redemption — the more it gets replayed over time, the more it is appreciated.

Give us an anecdote. The player(s) in question don’t have to be named. Gambling story. Crummy reputation. Best shot you’ve seen in person. Etc. An opportunity to humblebrag about your 25 years of access. Or outright brag. [email protected]

This was more of a fluke than anything, but here goes: At a long ago Las Vegas Invitational, when it used to be the final event on the schedule and thus determined who finished in the top 125 on the money list and kept their job, I wound up staying on the same floor of the same hotel as a longtime Tour journeyman. We knew each other a little. With a strong Sunday he leapfrogs up the money list and keeps his card by less than a thousand bucks. He decides to celebrate with a comely cocktail waitress, which is fine until his wife arrives at his room, having flown in for what was supposed to be a joyous surprise. It’s late and I’m in my room typing when I hear an almighty ruckus in the hallway. I peek outside to see what’s going in and it’s said player and wife having a shouting match. He and I lock eyes. He gives me such a pitiful look of terror that I have never put the story in print … until now.

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