#AskAlan mailbag: Should there be a fifth major for the winter?

October 3, 2019
Augusta National's Amen corner balnketed in snow in a Masters-Game of Thrones teaser video from April.

In this installment of the #AskAlan mailbag, GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck answers your questions about Cameron Champ’s recent win, a possible fifth major in men’s golf, Tour pro complaints about course setups and more.

“This will be the greatest moment in my golfing career.” I assume you are giving Cam Champ a pass for his phrasing in his emotional post-round interview? [email protected]

What a moment that was! Even fall golf can have resonance when there are likable young players and deeply personal triumphs. My major beef is ‘golf/golfing’ as a verb. It is far less offensive as an adjective.

It’s funny Alan, I had just been thinking about Champ – is this kid the real deal or just a kid who gets it done once in a while on easy golf courses? [email protected]

We need a slightly larger sample size to render a definitive verdict, but two wins in the span of 11 months, with a wrist injury in between, is no joke. Most impressive about this latest victory was that Champ led the field in scrambling. (Driving distance is a given.) If he is going to be that efficient on and around the greens…look out!

Cameron Champ captured his second victory at the 2019 Safeway Open.
Getty Images

What happens to the non-conforming drivers? Could they be easily found in a dumpster at the tournament venue? Asking for a friend. [email protected]

Yeah, I’ve been a little confused about people saying these non-conforming drivers will hurt the reputation of the players and the equipment companies. I don’t think either notion is true. This is not a corked-bat situation; the players don’t build the drivers and don’t have a way of verifying the COR on their own. If a driver fractionally crosses the line I don’t think that impugns the player. And what a marketing tool for the equipment companies! Our drivers are so hot they are on the very threshold of illegality. Sign me up.

For once a serious question. The Dunhill is not full of celebs. It is full of blue bloods and dot com billionaires. Would it not help if they opened up a few spots to the club golfer? Make it a bit more open to all? [email protected]

This is the fundamental problem with all big-time pro-ams: none of us care about the rich guys who buy their way in. A few sports stars/Hollywood types are fine, because it gives us someone to root against, but the nameless, faceless CEOs are just clutter. I’ve been advocating for decades that the Crosby Clambake go down to Pacific Grove muni and pluck a couple dozen plumbers, roofers, school teachers, etc. and put them in the field. They would be charming and easy to cheer for and give the tournament an emotional center. Same goes for the Dunhill Links.

With U.S. Open courses being too hard and now European courses being too soft, are professional golfers more demanding than Goldilocks? [email protected]_Hamburglar

Yes, it’s increasingly hard to find the right setup, because the modern game has so overwhelmed its ancient playing fields. You need exactly the right combination of wind and firm greens, which is hard to summon in an outdoor game that is often played near the sea. I’ve kinda resolved to stop kvetching about course setup because, honestly, it’s a never-ending problem with no real solution. I hope Rory follows suit.

Should other Tours get involved in the outrageous 3-year suspension of Bio Kim by the Korean PGA? [email protected]

There’s not much the other Tours can do, other than welcome Kim, who is a good player and now a subject of intense fascination. There’s nothing to prevent tournaments on the Euro or Asian or even PGA Tour from extending invitations to Kim. In a weird way this may be the best thing that’s ever happened to his career.

Which tweet is giving you most grief: 2018 Ryder Cup prediction, the term “golfing” or your hole-in-one deficiency? And what tweet will round out that foursome in 2020? [email protected]

I have a lot of supporters per “golfing” and my inability to make an ace mostly elicits good-natured pity, so the answer is clearly the Ryder Cup. The recent one-year-away festivities have stirred up the expected Twitter trash talk. It’s true the U.S. team was pathetic in 2018, but let us not forget that I made a long-range prediction about American dominance. I believe the Yanks will win in 2020, which will give them two out of three. By 2022, the core of that team will still be decorated major championship winners in their late-20s/early-30s, while the key Euros are well past their sell-by dates: Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson will be 46, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose both a high-mileage 42. As we finally get away from the tragic triumvirate of Tiger-Phil-Furyk, hopefully the U.S. team culture will improve. Somehow the Americans always find a way to torpedo deeper talent, either through bungled pairings (take a bow, J. Furyk) or dysfunctional relationships (here’s looking at you, P. Reed) or both. That’s gotta change, right? If not my related Twitter venting will probably get me in more hot water.

Before Wentworth, Tony Finau suggested there should be another major to plug the long gap between the Open Championship and Masters. Why not a fifth major, maybe in Australia or the Far East? I could see that working. I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts, Alan. [email protected]_Metcalfe

I don’t want to hear about moldy Western Opens or long-ago British Amateurs. There are four majors, just like there are four Spice Girls. Some things are fine the way they are. No offense to Memphis, but clearly the WGCs should be more worldly. Rotating that tournament through Australia, South Africa and South America would be an awesome way to add sizzle to the fall or winter while avoiding the scheduling redundancy ahead of the FedEx Cup. We don’t need a faux-major to build on Finau’s fine suggestion.

With all the heated talk about drivers not passing the test, do you think any players would be interested in an 18 hole tournament with persimmon drivers and old-school clubs? Have to wear old school threads, too. JT and Jordan vs Rory and Rahm would be fun to watch. [email protected]

The thought of Rahm in plus-fours just sent a shiver down my spine. Of course, the players’ corporate masters wouldn’t dig it, and the guys would probably fear being exposed by less forgiving gear. In other words, we gotta make it happen.

What would it take for rules of golf to change club limit from 14 to 10? [email protected]

Just imagination and political will. It’s clear we have to make the game more challenging for Tour players and this is an interesting concept that would bring more shotmaking and creativity into the game. It dovetails with ongoing whisper campaigns to make driver heads smaller for the pros and even ban hybrids. We’re long past the tipping point. To make the game harder for Tour pros, and thus more fun for us to watch, is going to require some bold changes.

More excited for new Sheep Ranch or Payne’s Valley to open next year? [email protected]

Oh, Sheep Ranch for sure. Having recently toured the site with co-designer Bill Coore I can say with confidence it’s going to be mind-blowing. Tiger’s design at Payne’s Valley looks cool but not much different than what already exists at Top of the Rock.

The view from the 17th tee box at Bandon Dunes' Sheep Ranch, tipped-out.
Ashley Mayo

Why is it legal for Justin Rose (or others) to tuck their sleeve under their armpit on putts? If I used my glove or my hat or anything to “stay connected” it would be illegal. But Rose does it on putt and it’s fine. Just a small thing that bothers that no one asks. [email protected]

Gawd, I love that you’re stewing about this. I mean, Rose has to wear a shirt. I think this is more of a nervous tic than a swing aid. Does it remind him to do certain things during his swing? I ‘spose. But he’s not striking the ball with his shirt sleeve.

Merge Ryder/Presidents Cup into a yearly Ryder Cup. Losing team sits out. Winning team keeps playing. Euros win 2018. They play International team in ’19. USA gets winner in ’20. Who says no to that?? [email protected]

I do. The Ryder Cup is golf’s Super Bowl—why on earth would you want to mess with it?

When will northern Michigan get its full due as a golf destination? My friends and I just enjoyed another four days of great golf courses. [email protected]

Yeah, I’m dying to get back up there. I’ve only played Crystal Downs, which is mind-blowing, and Arcadia Bluffs, which is awesome. Two of my closest golf buddies count Forest Dunes as among their favorite courses in the world, I love the idea of the Loop, and I know there another ten courses worth seeing around there. Do some scouting for me, please.

Do you think it would be possible for Steve Stricker to gently tell Bubba Watson to “get lost” if he somehow qualifies for the Ryder Cup? His record is 4-10, and even in his wins, he has been carried by his partners (see Jeff Overton). [email protected]_eagle1988

J. Overton! Man, haven’t thought about the erstwhile Boom Baby in ages. Yeah, Seve pulled this stunt with Miguel Angel Martin back in ’97, but to say the least, Stricker does not have Ballesteros’ ruthlessness. And Bubba loves the ol’ red, white and blue so much he’d love one last Ryder Cup, especially since he’ll be almost 42 by the time we get to Whistling Straits. The good news for Cap. Stricker is that Bubba hasn’t won for a year and a half and missed the cut at six of the last eight majors, so it seems like a longshot for him to make the team.

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