How do we know the Koepka Epoch has begun? Because he leads off this week’s mailbag…
Which career would you rather have right now, DJ or Brooks? [email protected] Marcoli
Hmmm, which guy is six years younger but has three times as many major championship victories? I know what you’re getting at, that DJ has 19 PGA Tour victories and Brooks only five, and that’s a substantial difference. But how many career victories does Tom Watson have? Nick Faldo? I don’t know without looking it up. Do you? But we can all recite play-by-play from their major championship victories.
It is majors that define a career, and in golf’s biggest events Koepka has proven to be a ruthless closer while DJ has suffered through a decade of Sunday slippage. Koepka’s haul of three Big Ones is already Hall of Fame worthy, and if he can get to five or six that puts him in Seve-Lord Byron-Trevino territory, which is to say, among all-time legends.
Meanwhile, 20+ wins with only one major is Davis Love/Lanny Wadkins territory: very good but not quite great.
Why don’t we see more American players getting inspired by the success of players like Brooks Koepka, Peter Uihliein and Julian Suri and traveling abroad to explore opportunities at the start of their careers? #AskAlan [email protected]
It’s already happening on the Latinoamerica tour, which in the last few years has become heavily American. Because the players are mostly having great experiences traveling to exotic corners of the world, I think there will be a strong word-of-mouth effect, inspiring more young players from the U.S. to branch farther afield.
The Challenge tour was Koepka’s launching pad and who wouldn’t want to barnstorm across Europe, playing so many different kinds of courses? The PGA Tour China is also likely to see change; as the Latinoamerica and Mackenzie tour (in Canada) have become increasingly cutthroat, China now offers the easiest road to career advancement, notwithstanding the culture shock.
No doubt some ambitious young U.S. players will start heading over there, too. But let’s face it: With the Web.com and numerous other domestic mini-tours, there are plentiful options for Americans who don’t have wanderlust, and life is a little too comfortable here.
What current player(s) can you see filling the role of lead broadcast analyst in the future? #AskAlan -Mike (@mknjvt91)
You gotta start with Tiger and Phil, who are both very smart and keen observers of the game. Tiger is more analytical, Phil more opinionated. Both are excellent trash-talkers. They have seen and done it all and could offer so much insight.
If I have to pick one I’ll go with Phil, simply because I think he’d be more entertaining. But neither one needs the money and I doubt either would want to commit to a full schedule, so if we’re talking about more realistic options, my first choice is Geoff Ogilvy. He’s so eloquent about how the game is (or should be) played and is always bursting with counter-intuitive ideas. Padraig would be great, too, bringing a droll wit and golf-nerd viewpoint.
#AskAlan What do you think turned around for Danielle Kang from freezing on her stroke to eking out a come-from- behind win? Is anxiety in international golf a big question that needs immediate attention? -Anand (@SportaSmile)
I loved how brutally honest Kang was about her mental struggles, and all the ways she brawled her way out of that dark place. It reminded me of Jon Rahm talking about the extensive mental preparation he did (alone and with his quasi-life coach) from Saturday evening at the Ryder Cup until his tee time the next day versus Tiger Woods in singles.
There’s so much that goes into tournament golf beyond swinging the club; in a recent podcast I did with Brendan Steele, he estimated 50% of Tour players are afraid to win and hold themselves back, consciously or unconsciously. So Kang’s struggles aren’t unique, only her candor is.
No love for Sergio’s third win at Valderrama? [email protected]
Plenty of love! It is a measure of Garcia’s ballstriking wizardry that he has now won three times on the tightest, most claustrophobic course in championship golf.
I’ll never forget following Sergio around Colonial in 2001, when he won for the first time in the U.S. I was in awe of how he shaped the ball around that twisty course, and Valderrama requires even more precise ballstriking. It’s nice to see Sergio back on top at the end of a tough year.
Which 2018 USA Ryder Cupper (if any) would have made the cut at Valderrama? [email protected]
Vice captain Zach Johnson.
Any thoughts on the new 8-round cumulative score LPGA Q Series that starts Wednesday at Pinehurst on #6 and #7? 102 players in the field, top 45 plus ties earn LPGA cards. Playing Pinehurst #6 and #7 courses. -Dave (@PopsandSunshine)
It is absolutely brutal, borderline inhumane … and I love it.
How many PGA Tour players, when playing “their best” cannot be beaten? I think there are at least twenty. [email protected]
I’d say it’s a heckuva lot more than that. Here are some of the players who won Tour events during the 2017-18 season: Ryan Armour, Patrick Cantlay, Patton Kizzire, Austin Cook, Ted Potter, Brice Garnett, Satoshi Kadaira, Aaron Wise, Michael Kim, Troy Merritt, Andrew Putnam.
All of them played their best that week and no one could beat them, and there are dozens and dozens of players in golf more decorated than any of ‘em. A more select group is players who can win when they are *not* at their best. There are maybe half a dozen of those guys, and they reside at the top of the World Ranking.
#AskAlan Which gamer would you have liked to write: ’91 Ryder Cup, ’84 Open Championship, Nancy Lopez’ rookie season, Cherry Hills, or The Match? -Oskar (@tallboy199)
These are all spectacular options but I’d have to say the Match at Cypress Point between Ben Hogan-Byron Nelson and Ken Venturi-Harvie Ward in 1956. All the other events were pretty well-chronicled at the time, but for more than half a century (until Mark Frost started sniffing around) the Match was little more than an urban legend.
I sneaked onto the grounds in 2012 when Davis Love, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, and Nick Watney did a quasi-recreation and Cypress Point stole the show. To go back in time and watch those four mid-century legends combine to make 27 birdies and an eagle — and then to be the only person that gets to tell that story to the world — would be a dream.