Next week’s mailbag will be a Ryderpalooza so this time around we’ll take a needed break. Every week there is a surplus of good questions that I can’t quite squeeze into the column, so I drop them into a Word file with other orphaned queries. Today they’re getting a loving home. I wish I could see the faces of the chosen ones, some of whom have surely forgotten they sent in these questions months ago…
If Spieth, Koepka, and McIlroy dominated the majors like Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic dominate the tennis majors, would golf be more fun or less? – @David_Troyan
Both. Dominant players clarify the storylines and help draw in casual fans, because they are attracted to sustained excellence and don’t want to have to do the work to try to appreciate the Frankie Molinaris of the world. I think all of us would love the electricity of Rory going on another big run, and Spieth contending at a major is always high drama, so that would be good fun, too. And the historical element is cool – winning five or more majors gets you into very rarified air. But for us golf nerds, it’s always refreshing when a Frankie Molinari breaks through and we can focus on their particular gifts and backstory.
As we finish the season: 1. Who is your biggest surprise player, 2. Who is your biggest disappointment, 3. Who will make the big jump next year? #AskAlan – Mark (@cottonmc)
1. I can’t say Bryson because I’ve been expecting this all along so I’m going with Webb Simpson. I know he’s won a U.S. Open but it had been five years since his last victory and not only did he dominate the Players but he backed that up with strong performances in the majors and fought his way onto a stacked Ryder Cup team.
2. It has to be Jordan. It seemed like he was battling his game practically every week, which accounts for the zero wins. But twice he caught a little magic and could have salvaged his year but stumbled badly. As electric as that 64 was on Masters Sunday, I can’t get over that Spieth came to the last hole with the green jacket potentially hanging in the balance and a) yanked his drive off a tree and b) missed a do-or-die 8-footer. And then at Carnoustie he made a mess of the final round to kick away the Open.
3. Matt Wolff. I’m all in on this guy. He’s already got a national championship and has won the first two tourneys of his sophomore year. I think he’ll turn pro next spring (if not sooner) and come out like gangbusters on Tour.
Looking ahead to next year: Is there more pressure on Rory to win at Augusta or the Open at Portrush? #AskAlan –@JoshColey
Portrush for sure. I think part of Rory – maybe a big part – has already accepted that it’s not gonna happen for him at the Masters. For all his firepower, that course amplifies McIlroy’s weaknesses: putting and distance control with wedges. But he’s only going to get one shot at Portrush in what is supposed to be his prime so there will be a ton of pressure on Rory to make a run there.
What cities/markets that don’t currently have a Tour stop should absolutely have one? – @MackRenner
Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Philly (sometimes), Chicago (sometimes).
How many major titles does Tommy Fleetwood finish his career with? #AskAlan – Andrew (@a_h_davies)
I’d put the over-under at 2.5.
Would love to know about the logistics of players who don’t fly private. Do they reserve flights on Sunday and then scramble Friday if they miss cut? What about hotel reservations? I know they get courtesy cars…does your agent handle the rest? #askalan – @CarterLyons
It would be pretty sad if they booked in advance a flight home for Friday night! The Tour has various arrangements to make things easier for the players, notably relationships with airlines that give the players discounted fares with no change fees. I’ve heard plenty of stories of guys who are struggling during the second round ducking into a port-o-potty to call their wife or agent to tell them to change their flight to that night. Pre-smart phones, there used to be a dedicated travel agent who was stationed in the player locker room to help with such things but that person disappeared eons ago.
If you’re a big-time player you have an agent or other handler more or less permanently on call to help with such trifling matters. The Tour’s middle class handles it themselves or leans on a significant other. Hotels are a little dicier. For each tournament there are a couple of “official” spots at which the Tour has negotiated lower rates and they, too, have more lenient policies for check-in/check-out. But some guys want privacy, or to be closer to the city center, or points, so they crash elsewhere. Most players traveling with families prefer to stay in rented houses. If they miss the cut and go home early they usually have to eat the unused nights.
Does Reed deserve all the hate? Is he just complicated like Bubba? If we give Tiger multiple second chances then don’t we owe it to the other players as well? – Mary (@Mergett1_mary)
Does Reed get that much hate? I think it’s more like benign eye-rolling, or mild poking of fun. The well-documented estrangement from his family is awkward and unusual but do fans hate him for it? I don’t feel that; more like it just adds to the widespread belief that he’s a different kind of dude.
Certainly Reed’s life is complicated but he himself is not – he’s a good ol’ boy who loves BBQ, his cowboy boots, his wife, and making birdies. Bubba certainly has more layers. There is a central conflict between Bagdad Gerry, the God-fearing, small-town family man who does lots of admirable philanthropy, and Augusta Bubba, who loves fancy watches, fancy cars and other trappings of success. Add in his social anxiety and attention-deficit disorder and you get some highly unpredictable behavior. Tiger is certainly a template for forgiveness, and I think Reed and Watson benefit – for all their little controversies and gaffes and rough edges, I think both remain pretty popular.
How much do you like or dislike Tiger’s new attitude? Seems more engaging and open to fans and media, or will that change when he is more back in the flow of Tour golf? – @MattBare23
It’s been a delight to see up close Tiger’s metamorphosis from a golf robot into an actual human being who shares his thoughts and emotions. I’d like to think it lasts forever, but I keep flashing back to the scene at the 2010 Masters, laid out in one of the tell-all books, when Woods’s agent grouses that Tiger, who was trying to make nice in his first post-hydrant tournament, can’t win another green jacket unless he reverts to being a jerk. (I’m paraphrasing.) Woods played at such a high level this year yet didn’t win; something metaphysical was holding him back. At his peak he was monstrously selfish. He felt he was entitled to all of it: wins, money, women. He deserved the spoils simply because he was Tiger F’ing Woods. This was a problematic worldview, clearly, but it did help him play the most dominant golf of all time. Tiger is a completely different person now. Can he still be a champion? I hope so.
Do writers prepare advance copy for the deemed likely storylines, or scramble from their existing notes? – Paul (@LiveTweetGolf)
Yes to both. Assuming we’re talking about game stories at a major, it’s always good to have a plan, and you can bet on the outcome and write a big chunk of your story before the leaders even tee off: what brought the player(s) to this point, thoughts from caddies/swings coaches, scenes and observations that paint a picture of the week, etc. But things usually go pear-shaped and you have to scramble. That’s the fun part!
If you could go for a beer with Rory, Jordan, Justin (Thomas, not Rose) or Dustin (Johnson, not Gee) who would it be and why? – @MarkTownsendNCG
Rory. He’s a great talker, deep thinker and has an edge, but, at the same time, is a pretty relaxed dude.
Hey Alan! I have a question for #AskAlan. What is the average lifespan of a ball for a PGA player? If they don’t lose it/damage it, do they keep it the whole round? Or are they switching every hole? Thanks! – @JeGronka
This is a highly personal thing. Ernie Els believes every ball has only one birdie in it, so as soon as he makes one he swaps out the ball for another one. Some guys do it by rote, changing every three or six holes regardless of how they’re playing, on the assumption that tiny, unseen imperfections can affect the ball. Brad Faxon once said he tries to use the same ball for the entire round, because if you’re finding the center of the clubface it should remain unscathed.
What’s your opinion on a Ryder-Cup type event for Champions Tour golfers? Langer and Monty vs Freddie and Lehman, et al. ? – @ShootingYourAge
I love it, because these guys already have so much history at the Cup. The old grievances would add some dramatic tension. And given their already fraying nerve endings, can you imagine the yippy strokes we’d see coming down the stretch? It would be riveting theater.
Based solely on the hype it received going into the round, what course is the biggest disappointment you’ve ever played? #AskAlan – Steve (@_SMisner)