#AskAlan: Who will be the first player to displace DJ as World No. 1?

September 7, 2018

The picks are in. (Yawn.) U.S. captain Jim Furyk had the easiest job in recent memory. The only lingering intrigue is if a Xander, Kisner or Zach Johnson were to win this week, would that be enough to bump the presumptive pick, Tony Finau?

Blessedly, European captain Thomas Bjorn opened himself up to some needed second-guessing by going straight chalk with four familiar veterans in varying form. Amazing how it has upgraded the reps of those who were not picked: suddenly Matt Wallace, the Notorious RCB and T. Pieters are being treated like royalty, even though they didn’t play well enough all year to actually qualify for the team.

The best thing to happen to this Ryder Cup since a certain GOLF Magazine column is that man-child Sergio Garcia is now on the hottest of hot seats. Emotionally volatile in the best of times, Garcia will now be the keynote player for Europe. If he can recapture the dominant form that made him a Ryder legend from 1999-2006, he gives Europe a fighting chance against a powerhouse U.S. squad. If he lays an egg, it’s hard to see how his team can overcome it, and the criticism of Bjorn will be delicious. What promised to be an epic Ryder Cup just got even more intriguing. Now, to other matters at hand…

Will Bryson’s recent success have a knock-on effect for the next generation or even some of the current ones? He’s proved that orthodox mechanics and aesthetics mean jack sh*t surely. #AskAlan -Danny (@ShiteInABucket)

This is such an interesting moment in golf, as all the old orthodoxy is crumbling. Look at the equipment of the players who won majors this year — all had mixed bags. Look at new-school swing instructors like George Gankas and Trackman Maestro, who are using science and unconventional ideas to teach a modern, more efficient swing. And now we have Bryson, exploding every golf cliché with his beautiful mind. Even if the masses don’t embrace the Golf Machine or his quirky clubs, he has certainly emboldened golfers everywhere to do things their own way and drown out the annoying opinions of stodgy traditionalists. For that reason alone he is the most refreshing figure to come along in ages.

Do you think more golfers will give single-length irons a chance with Bryson’s success? I know I ordered me a set this week! [email protected]

Well, you’re a year late – I’ve been playing my single-length Edels since last fall and I loooooove them. I can confidently say I’ve never hit so many good 4- and 5-irons in my life, and am more consistent from 100-150 yards, too. (My only concession to tradition is that I dropped the Edel sand wedge and have kept my standard-length one, because on touch shots from 30-90 yards I prefer the shortie.) Because I have a bunch of kids and travel a lot for work, I almost never hit balls. So with my old set I would step on a golf course and every club felt different, since it was: the 9-iron shaft being shorter and the head heavy and chunky, while the 4-iron felt as long as a fishing pole with a tiny, light head. Every club forced me to stand a tiny bit differently, and every swing arc was of a varying length. Now, every club is an identical length and weight – all I have to do is make the same swing over and over and over. So many variables have been eliminated it’s impossible not to be a more consistent ballstriker. And if I do run to the range I only need to take one club, since they all look and feel the same. I can’t imagine any scenario where I ever go back to a traditional set.

Bryson DeChambeau
According to Shipnuck, Bryson DeChambeau has the most potential staying power atop the world ranking.

Who will get to No. 1 first: Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau or Jon Rahm? #AskAlan -Brentley (@GolfWeekBRomine)

Rahm got off to a strong start in 2018 but missed cuts at both Opens is indicative of a good-but-not-great year. Given his mathematical edge at the moment, it’s hard not to pick Koepka. But who will spend more time at number one over their careers? I’ll go with Bryson. Brooks has clearly become golf’s big-game hunter, but the World Ranking rewards week-in-and-week-out consistency and DeChambeau has found the magic formula. And while Koepka clearly thrives on competition, I don’t think anybody in the game today loves golf the way Bryson does. He’s chasing the game’s secrets harder than anybody this side of Ben Hogan and I don’t see that passion/obsessiveness waning any time soon.

Why is Johnny (practically) the only announcer that ever talks about the money? Does the FedEx deal mandate they ignore the monetary reality these guys are grinding for late on Sundays in favor of these maddening projections? I’m only half kidding with that. -Brian (@hailflutie)

The Tour hammers all of its stakeholders about highlighting the FedEx Cup points race, and all of the other announcers have clearly drank the Kool-Aid. The Tour has gone so far as to legislate the money list out of existence – all exemptions and other qualifying criteria are now tied to points, not money. But Johnny has a strong IDGAF streak so he continues to obsess over money, which was the measuring stick in his heyday.

How amazing of a stat is it that at age 48, Phil is 2nd on the tour in strokes gained putting and 4th in birdie average? -T.J. (@TheRealTdotJdot)

Rather amazing, and this is exactly why he will be very dangerous in the Ryder Cup, where birdies are the coin of the realm.

Who’s on the Mount Rushmore of golf? [email protected]

Jones, Palmer, Nicklaus, Woods.

What info could there possibly be in the yardage books that would help Tour players with a four foot putt? DeChambeau was using it on Sunday on short putts and it was driving me nuts! -Ron (@ronjfitz)

Yeah, a right-edge four-footer is just a right-edge four-footer. Unfortunately, checking the book has now become an ingrained part of the pre-putt routine, so plenty of guys now do it mindlessly before every putt, even when there is nothing to learn.

#AskAlan Has there ever been an athlete in any sports that has given more press conferences / interviews than Tiger? -Oskar (@tallboy199)

Let’s run some numbers: in a typical tournament week Tiger will give five (pre-tourney scrum or presser, and comments after every round.) If he plays 18 events a season that’s roughly 100 interviews, rounding up for the stray practice round gabfest. The only possible competition could come from a baseball player who has 162 games a year. But having spent some time on the baseball beat for SI, I know that many of these guys hide in the trainer’s room or manager’s office or shower or other nooks of the clubhouse that are off-limits to reporters. Even a superstar like Derek Jeter didn’t talk on every game day, and even Hall of Fame baseball players will have much shorter careers that Tiger’s. So, when all is said and done, it’s a safe bet that Woods will have given more interviews than any athlete, ever. Now, how much did he actually say? That’s an entirely different question.

The playoff venues are boring re-treads (Ridgewood, TPC Boston, Aronimink, East Lake). Where does Commissioner Schnazzy Hair think the Tour should go? A traveling road show, east to west coast, could be appealing. [email protected]

Hahah, I’m gonna get that printed on my business card. I don’t entirely agree with your assessment. Yes, East Lake is the dregs, and TPC Boston is a bit played out, but I like Ridgewood and *love* Aronimink. But the overall geography is indeed a major problem; obviously one of the “playoff” events should be played on the Best Coast. I’m really not sure why the Tour is married to East Lake, which is a boring course that always has zero energy outside the ropes. If the Tour Championship purports to be golf’s Super Bowl then it needs to follow football’s example and move to a new part of the country every year, which would generate a lot more buzz.

A bomber’s test on a 9,500-yard course? Why not?

A better Pay Per View idea: Tiger vs Phil, or DJ vs Brooks on a 9,500 yard course? #AskAlan -Brian (@bmlynn1)

Given the lack of on-course personality by Brooks and DJ I’m afraid that would make for dreadful television, though it would be delightful to watch them have to hit a few long-irons into the par-4s.

Golf’s greatest ball striker, Ben Hogan, struggled on the greens at the end of his career. Is this now Tiger’s reality? -Eric (@smithr13a)

It’s certainly trending in that direction, though at their respective peaks Tiger was a vastly superior putter. Let’s face it, almost no one putts better in their 40s, owing to frayed nerve endings, diminishing eyesight and the gnawing certainty that the window is closing so every putt means a little bit more. There have been stretches this season when Tiger has putted beautifully but the maddening inconsistency seems to be the new normal.

If I’m on a date with a guy who plays golf, what are some good questions I can ask him? (Preferably, ones that make me sound informed and won’t result with me putting my foot in my mouth. Thank you in advance.) [email protected]

Honestly, it’s about time we merge Ask Alan with Dear Abby. The mind reels at the possibilities. But to the question at hand, golf is endlessly fascinating but nothing is more boring than a golfer talking about their own game. Now, if you’re a passionate golfer yourself, it’s always fun to compare favorite courses, which is as revealing as looking at someone’s Netflix queue. But if you’re looking to plumb the emotional depths of the dude sitting across from you, ask him how he learned the game. Chances are it was his dad or grandfather who taught him and you might get a moving response. A generic question that can lead to a fascinating answer is,”Why do you love golf?” Nature, male-bonding, self-improvement, competition – there’s a lot to unpack here. But if he says,”Cart girls” I suggest you crawl through the bathroom window and Uber home.