#AskAlan mailbag: What Presidents Cup pairings should captain Tiger Woods avoid?

November 23, 2019

In this installment of the #AskAlan mailbag, GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck fields your questions about Brendon Todd’s career renaissance, early 2020 Ryder Cup unknowns, which pairings would be the worst for the U.S. at the Presidents Cup and more.

Can you put into context perhaps in another sport a player completely falling out of their profession and rising back to Brendon Todd’s level of success? [email protected]

He’s a second-round NBA pick from a mid-major college who sits on the bench for a couple of seasons, then averages 5.3 points per game as a reserve, then develops Markelle Fultz-like yips with his jump shot, leading to five seasons as a bench-warmer in a semi-pro league in Mongolia…then he somehow plays his way onto the Lakers roster in training camp, averages 28.7 points per game, makes the All-Star team and leads his team to the NBA Finals.

Is Tommy Fleetwood the Rickie Fowler of Europe? [email protected]

It’s a good comparison. Both are diminutive, very likable lads who always say and do the right thing. They have both enjoyed very successful careers but have one more big step to take before achieving true superstardom. As good as Fleetwood hits it, hard to believe that Sun City was the first worldwide win in 22 months for this soon-to-be 29-year-old. The putter is what holds him back. Can Fleetwood learn to will into the hole a few more of those do-or-die putts? If so, he will quickly transcend the Rickie comparison.

Tommy Fleetwood during the final round of the 2019 Tour Championship.
Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports

Ugh, all these lackluster fall events. But they’re very necessary to give guys outside the upper echelon a chance to rise (e.g., Brendon Todd). Was it better when these events were spaced throughout the year, or better now when they’re lumped together at the end? [email protected]

I’ve learned to embrace the fall for what it is: pleasant, low-key golf. There’s not one tournament that is particularly meaningful, but it could be worse: we could have to watch football.

With the big $$$$ available for the last 3 events on the European tour, why aren’t more American players following Patrick Reed’s example? Especially with the weaker PGA Tour schedule at the moment? [email protected]

Well, the Yanks have had the 10 previous months to play for even bigger money at home. Now it’s deer-hunting season, college football season and the holidays will soon be upon us – from their perspective, why miss all that and fly halfway around the world when the PGA Tour season begins again in earnest in barely a month?

After the Mayakoba Golf Classic ruling, can you break down the One Ball Rule that a high handicapper would understand? In a box of golf balls, all are numbered 1,2,3 etc., so would a Pro-V1 stamped 1 be considered a different ball than a Pro-V1 stamped 2? If yes, why? How? [email protected]_Bean

No, the numbers are expected to change from sleeve to sleeve and that’s not the issue. But from year to year manufacturers make other subtle cosmetic changes, like the length of the alignment line stamped on the ball. This indicates that a particular model of ball is manufactured to slightly different specifications (the thickness of the cover, the composition of the core, etc.) from the previous version, and that’s where the pros occasionally run afoul of the One Ball Rule. So, if you find in your garage an old sleeve of balls you should carefully compare them to the newest version to see if there are any cosmetic changes. If so, don’t mix and match the ball within a round if you want to comply with the letter of the law.

What would be the worst-suited pairings for the U.S. President’s Cup team? [email protected]

Tiger-Rickie. Because Fowler now knows the Capt. didn’t think highly enough of his game to pick him the first time around.
Bryson-Dustin. They speak entirely different languages.
Reed-JT. They’ll spend the whole time bickering about who gets custody of Spieth after the divorce.

Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler pictured at the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
Thomas J. Russo/USA TODAY Sports

Would you like to see U.S. Ryder points allocated to regular Tour events (Sept-Dec 2019)? It seems a bit harsh on all the winners to-date, especially Brendan Todd? Is this deliberate to suit the elite players while they holiday and ensure no undesirables sneak onto the team? [email protected]

Nailed it. And I’m perfectly okay with that!

Do you agree that the Big Easy could be the competitive and inspirational spark to forge an International Team victory at the Presidents Cup? And do you believe that Royal Melbourne offers the International Team any advantage? [email protected]_tv

No doubt Ernie is beloved and respected, but I think the Americans will feel more “spark” playing for (and alongside) their collective boyhood hero, Capt. Woods. Royal Melbourne is a bigger factor. It is the opposite of a typical bomb-and-gouge PGA Tour setup. The ball will run for days there, most especially after landing on the terrifyingly sloped greens. It is a design full of nuance and subtlety, where the best way to get the ball close is often by not aiming at the flag, and a drive leaving an advantageous angle is more important than bashing one long and wrong. Els happens to have won three times at Royal Melbourne and holds the course record of 60. The Internationals will have a home-field advantage but, alas, I still don’t think it’s enough to counter a powerhouse U.S. team.

Do you think the likes of Stenson and Sergio will have a chance for 2020 Ryder Cup? Where is your money for DP World Tour Championship this week? [email protected]

Man, I don’t even care about the FedEx Cup — how am I supposed to muster any interest in a lesser cash-grab? But while the Race to Dubai is meaningless, I am appreciative that we get to watch Rory do his thing on a course he has often overwhelmed. As for Stenson, 43, and Garcia, 39, they loom large for 2020. They have been the backbone of so many great European teams. Both have suffered dips in form — Stenson hasn’t won in over two years! — so Capt. Harrington’s toughest decisions will be whether to go with proven but aging warriors or pick young, ascendant talent in better form. There’s too much golf still to be played between now and Whistling Straits to know the right answer just yet.

Under what conditions do you feel you are at your best writing-wise? In a comfy chair? On a deadline? After a glass (or bottle) of wine? [email protected]

Grantland Rice won’t be impressed, but I’m more of a hot chocolate kinda guy. Anyway, I still love and look forward to the adrenaline of writing on deadline, but the time-pressure is so intense (I try to file within an hour of the last putt dropping) that reflection and analysis and interpretation has to happen at warp speed. I think the writing of my favorite features has followed a similar pattern: I fly somewhere to do interviews and reporting, then come home and make phone calls, transcribe tape and finish the research. I’m anxious to start typing but real-life intervenes: laundry, groceries, #AskAlan, tweeting, expense reports, kids, dog, etc. I’m dying to start typing but a couple of days pass without being able to find the time. Still, I’m always thinking about the story. It haunts my dreams. I find myself staring at the tile in the shower, not quite sure how long I’ve been standing there. I zone out of conversations. I start to get grouchy, like, If I don’t get to write this story something is gonna burst…possibly my brain. Then I finally get to sit down to type and the words come like a flood; to cite one example, I wrote the Camarón story in one day, and was actually done before dinner. I guess the moral is that thinking time is vitally important to the process, even as it becomes harder to carve out in this distraction-filled world. This is probably true of many jobs. Perhaps we should all unplug more…just send in your #AskAlan questions first.

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