Alan Shipnuck's Mailbag: Tiger Woods, new groove rule and more

Alan Shipnuck’s Mailbag: Tiger Woods, new groove rule and more

Alan, does Peter Kostis wear a rug or not? We have been debating this very important factoid for a couple of years now. Please settle this for us, for you know all. Thanks. —Steve Johnston, Salinas, CAIf you check out the thumbnail pics of the various contributors it should be obvious that my thick, luscious head of hair is an anomaly. How to explain all the chrome domes? Perhaps golf media types spend too much time on the windswept linksland, loosening their follicles. Or maybe sitting through too many Tim Finchem press conferences inflicts unseen damage that causes one's locks to fall out, much like chemotherapy. Whatever the causes, hair is a precious commodity in the golf media, so Kostis's mane is certainly suspicious.  Does he or doesn't he? All I know is that thing on his head looks like it Stimps at about 9.5.Alan, please, give us 3 players who in your opinion will profit most from the grooves change, and 3 players who would struggle most.  —PeterWinners: Brian Gay, Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson. Losers: Dustin Johnson, J.B. Holmes, Charley Hoffman.Gay and Johnson—you could sub in Justin Leonard for either one—have thrived despite giving up dozens of yards off the tee to most contemporaries. Now the new grooves will accentuate their skill sets: straight driving, distance control, fantastic wedge play. Bombers will now pay a steeper price for their inaccuracy—or switch to softer balls, thus reducing their advantage off the tee. Either way, Gay's and Johnson's brand of lethal small-ball will only be more effective. I threw Phil into the mix because the new grooves demand more skill, creativity and panache around the greens, and no one has more shots than Mickelson. His talent level will separate him from many pretenders who have become overly dependent on technology.Johnson, Holmes and Hoffman are all wayward bombers who used to spin the ball an incredible amount out of the rough, allowing for aggressive recoveries. We'll see if they are able to adapt to a changing game.A lot of players have downplayed the significance of the new grooves but subtle changes in technology have often reshaped golf's world order. The introduction of the 60 degree wedge helped end Seve's dominance. Suddenly a lot of guys could hit the shots that previously only he had mastered.  Similarly, Nick Price's and Greg Norman's stays at number one were shortened by the introduction of larger driver heads, which reduced their advantages as the two best drivers of the golf ball of their era. I think it is going to be fascinating to watch the subtle evolution of the Tour this year.If you had to rent an RV and drive from Torrey Pines to Bay Hill what four current tour players would you take with you and why? — LeftyI think I would be quite happy to make the trip with just Maria Verchenova of the Ladies European Tour. Or maybe Jeehae Lee. Or Erica Blasberg. But I'm guessing you mean dudes, so I'll take Tommy Armour, because he'd know every good steakhouse, cigar bar and strip club along the way; Geoff Ogilvy, a very smart, funny guy who's always good for lively conversation; Charles Howell, who makes me laugh more than any other Tour pro; and Tiger Woods. Maybe in this environment he'd loosen up and finally reveal himself.[Thanks to the Vanity Fair pictures] I see Tiger getting a whole new set of sponsors and fans–kind of like those who support the Raiders. I'm kinda liking that new Tiger nasty image . . . you?   —SteveNot sure if "like" is the right term, but it's going to be riveting to watch Tiger in the future, assuming he ever comes out of hiding. I saw a survey a few weeks ago where 15% of respondents said they will root for him more in the future. Certainly this reflects the frat boy element that has enjoyed ogling the racy pictures of Tiger's harem of naughty cocktail waitresses, but I think it also reveals a deeper truth that people are relieved Tiger has finally been revealed as human. Before his crackup Woods had been deified to an almost absurd degree, and he fed this with his frequent boasts about 5 a.m. daily wakeups, 12 hour days in the gym, etc. There was something holier-than-thou in the way he lorded his work ethic over other players (and the rest of us lazy mortals.) Now we know definitively he's one of us, just a guy with an amazing talent and some serious flaws. Over the last 11 years Wood's march on Nicklaus's records had become an increasingly joyless trudge, the brilliance of his performance somehow blunted by the predictability. Now, when he returns, he will be humbled and chastened, and I think the victories will be much sweeter.