#AskAlan mailbag: What made Tiger Woods an effective Presidents Cup captain?

December 19, 2019

In this installment of the #AskAlan mailbag, GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck fields your questions about Tiger Woods’ Presidents Cup captaincy, Patrick Reed’s week in Australia, the golf year of 2019 and more.

We hear a lot about the role of the captain in team events. There’s a lot involved: player and vice captain selections, pairings and singles lineup strategy, coaching, inspiration, psychology, course management, etc. What did Tiger bring to his first captaincy? [email protected]

The cult of personality. The players on his team love and idolize Tiger and were deeply determined to win for him. He didn’t do everything right — picking Reed was certainly a disaster. In fairness to Tiger, he couldn’t have known a cheating scandal would erupt the week before the Cup, but Reed always represented a high degree of risk. To keep doubling-down on Reed when he was playing poorly and seemingly affected by all the bad juju was a display of stubbornness by Tiger that hurt his team. Still, I liked that Capt. Woods had the steel to bench his buddy Bryson as well as DJ, the second-highest ranked American. His singles lineup came up aces. He did enough to win, which is what matters. In the final analysis, the emotion that Tiger displayed, and evoked in his players, is what we’ll remember about this Cup.

Will the 2019 calendar year in golf rank as one of the most memorable years in golf history?#AskAlan [email protected]

Tiger’s Masters victory automatically elevates it to highly memorable. The Solheim Cup pushes 2019 to another level. So does the deep feeling, and indelible images, of Shane Lowry’s victory at The Open and the incredible play and sportsmanship at the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. The Presidents Cup nudges 2019 further into rarified air. Brooks at the PGA Championship, Rory’s breakthrough at the Players, the superb run of J.Y. Ko — yeah, it was a helluva year.

Fess up: Weren’t you choking up a bit watching Tiger seeking out people to hug? Like he was making up for lost time? [email protected]

I wasn’t quite choking up but I was certainly moved. Kyle Porter had a perceptive tweet that captured the moment: “Tiger’s life has been weird as hell, and I think he’s genuinely enjoying what a lot of us figured out in high school or college: That all the achievement in the world isn’t worth much if you don’t have a good community to share it with.” For most of his career, Tiger erected a fortress around his inner-self. When golf was taken away from him he was left to rattle around an empty mansion, with only his trophies and Call of Duty for companionship. In this final act of his career it has been quite meaningful to see him connect with his colleagues and other folks in the game.

Has the PGA Tour’s habit of Jaywashing inconvenient deviations from its carefully scripted propaganda program reached a tipping point? [email protected]@TireWorld

That was one of the takeaways from the Reed fiasco: When the Tour fails to police the players then mob justice will prevail — on Twitter or in the gallery, or both. Unfortunately, the Tour has staked its entire business model on selling “perfect gentlemen.” To not only acknowledge misbehavior but to discourage it with public suspensions would force the Tour to admit that some of these guys are not, in fact, always good. Tour brass simply refuses to go there, which is creating this weird dynamic where fans are frustrated by the lack of accountability and taking it out on the players…who would probably prefer a short suspension so they can enjoy the good P.R. of the inevitable comeback tour.

Whose Presidents Cup performance has you most excited for their 2020 season? #AskAlan [email protected]

I’ve been a huge Sungjae fan going back to this year’s L.A. Open, when I watched him shape shots at Riv and we shared a ridiculous amount of Korean BBQ in K-town, so I can’t pick Im because I was already excited to see how he builds on his ROY campaign. I’m gonna go with Justin Thomas. He never got it going in the majors this year but it feels like he’s ready to explode. With Spieth’s slump, Reed’s woes, and DJ’s malaise, Thomas needs to step up and become the elite American who pushes Koepka. After his breakthrough 2017, Thomas has played quite well over the last two seasons, but I want more from him.

If Royal Melbourne was a golf course in central Wisconsin or the NW would we be complaining about the lack of rough and all the short par 4’s? [email protected]

Perhaps. It is clearly way too short for the modern professional game, but that’s not Royal Melbourne’s fault — every course that currently exists on this planet is also too short. It still presented a fascinating, artful test and looked great on TV. Unlike, say, Erin Hills, it played firm and fast, and unlike, say, Chambers Bay, the greens were utterly pure. But I’m interested in your citation of the lack of rough as a bad thing — that made the course play tougher, because balls could roll (and roll and roll…) into the fiendish bunkers and off the shoulders of the greens, leading to some hellacious recovery shots.

In theory, there is clearly room for the PGA Championship to occasionally go global and play it at a highly regarded place like Royal Melbourne. But is there *really* room for it? The $$$ factor tells me no way. #AskAlan [email protected]

Well, the PGA Championship is run by an organization called the Professional Golfers Association of America. It has a constituency of 27,000 pros, and the flagship tournament is where many of them gather. It was the former boss of the PGA of America, Pete Bevacqua, who first floated the idea of taking the tournament global. We spoke at some length about it and the biggest pushback he got was from PGA pros who didn’t want to miss out on the annual chance to network and host friends and clients. Since the PGA brass essentially works for the pros, you can’t overstate how important the membership’s voice is on this issue. What makes the most sense to me is move the World Golf Championship out of the bustling metropolis of Memphis when the summer schedule is utterly slammed and take it to Royal Melbourne every December. This would be a highlight of the season and also lure more top players to the Australian Open, a proud tournament that deserves stronger fields.

Is Patrick Reed the biggest villain in golf history? I guess I can’t think of another player with such a dreadful public persona. [email protected]

Mid-90’s Colin Montgomerie was so much fun to mock because he was the perfect caricature of the huffy, puffy Brit. But, really, his biggest offense was getting mad at a blimp and/or destroying the U.S. at the Ryder Cup. John Daly trashed plenty of hotel rooms and was involved in innumerable controversies but he was so open about his demons that many (most?) people wound up rooting for him. There have been plenty of players through the years who were prickly or anti-social or just not very nice but that doesn’t rise to the level of villainy. For now, I think Reed reigns supreme as the baddest of the bad guys.

When can we expect a sequel to The Swinger featuring a caddie, his petulant boss, and unruly fans? [email protected]_59

I continue to hector Bamberger about this. It’s going to happen. It must. A pudgy antihero with some dark secrets sounds compelling. I’d like to go deeper on the Will Martinsen character — he’s a quirky fellow with a lot of baggage! Perhaps we have a golf-obsessed President who, prior to taking office, lured Will into some shady financial transactions involving a golf course development in Moscow. We could have a hot-blooded Spaniard with anger-management issues. A lanky American superstar with a wandering eye. We could delve into the shady underbelly of Jupiter life. The possibilities are literally endless.

Player of the decade? [email protected]

It’s an easy call: Inbee Park. Rory would be the second choice.