Alan Shipnuck's Mailbag: Laying up with new grooves, can Phil lure Tiger back, dream foursome and more

Alan Shipnuck’s Mailbag: Laying up with new grooves, can Phil lure Tiger back, dream foursome and more

Here's a question, Alan: Everybody has been quick to blast Bubba Watson, Tim Clark, and now Michael Sim for laying up in crunch time. Isn't this exactly what the new grooves promote? Rather than going for it in two (and subsequently facing a pitch or chip from the thick stuff around the green), I would think that players will be more inclined to play it safe and keep it in the short grass on risky par-5s, no? People can criticize Michael Sim all they want, but it seems to me that his style of play (focus on accuracy) was exactly what the PGA Tour and/or USGA were trying to promote. – Alex Heinrich This is so insightful I can't believe I didn't type it myself. There's no question the short-side penalty is much more severe with the new grooves. For my recent grooves story in SI, I talked to pre-eminent bomber Dustin Johnson and he amplified this point, saying that instead of mindlessly trying to reach every par-5 as in the past, he was now regularly laying up to 100 yards like a latter-day Tom Kite, minus the goofy glasses. So, maybe the thinking of Sim and Watson has evolved, unlike that of the disapproving golf cognoscenti. I haven't heard or read anybody suggest this, but I'm convinced that the greatest value to the Tour a hot start by Mickelson would bring isn't a spike in viewers who love Lefty. It's that it'll bring Tiger out of hiding even sooner. Tiger's personal reputation has been shattered. I don't see him sitting around in Orlando (or Hattiesburg) while some loopy lefty threatens his professional standing. Unfortunately, Mickelson would rather thumb his nose at Dick Rugge than win golf tournament(s). Agree? — Mark, Columbia, S.C.

I think Elin is going to have a much more profound effect on the timing of Tiger's return than Phil, but I agree that Woods's ferocious competitiveness could conceivably speed up the timeline. In '06 I wrote a long essay for SI about the complicated dynamics of the Phil-Tiger relationship, and one of the takeaways was that throughout his junior days Tiger was always chasing Phil's records, and he took particular delight in surpassing Mickelson's accomplishments. He's never stopped enjoying administering beat-downs. So if Phil were to take over as No. 1, there's no question it would get Tiger's attention.

Who would be your perfect foursome and what holes (from any courses) would you like to play with them?
— Gerald

I gotta go with Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus, simply because I didn't get to see any of them play in their primes. (My backup foursome would be Marissa Miller, Megan Fox and Sofia Vergara.) I could spend all day trying to come up with a global list of my 18 favorite holes, and along the way I'd probably get a migraine. So for simplicity I think I'd keep it local in the Del Monte forest: the 8th and the 11th-17th at Cypress Point; the first five at Spyglass Hill plus 14 and 16; the 8th, 9th, 13th and 14th at MPCC Dunes; the 6th, 7th, 10th, 11th and 13th and 15th at MPCC Shore; and 4-10, 14, and 17-18 at Pebble Beach. That's more than 18 holes, but hey, I wouldn't want that day to end. Would you?

Alan, where in the world is Trevor Immelman? By the way, I purchased a copy of your Rich Beem book, is it any good?
Immelman battled a wrist injury throughout 2009 and finally succumbed to surgery last October. He's one of the better tweeters among pro golfers and has been giving periodic updates about his recovery. It's been slow going but in the last month or so he's begun practicing again so I expect we'll soon be seeing him again on Tour. I hope Immelman makes a full recovery because he's a classy, agreeable guy and I'd like to see him build on his now-forgotten breakthrough at the Masters.
As for the Beem book, why don't you send me a review after you've read it, Francisco, and I'll let you answer your own question. What country would you suggest is best for a golfing vacation outside of the US?
— Josh Klipfel
The answer really depends on a lot of variables: Is this trip pure golf or should it also entail other sightseeing? Do you want to stay in one or two centrally located spots or roam more far afield? Are there significant others involved? The greatest golf city in the world might be Melbourne, Australia. Kingston Heath and Royal Melbourne are as good a one-two punch as there is, and another half dozen outstanding courses are in the vicinity. The golf is reasonably priced, Melbourne is a fun town and it could be a jumping-off point for further adventures at the Reef in the Outback.
But it's obviously a helluva long way to go. The Dominican Republic has a lot of excellent golf, beginning with one of my favorite courses, Teeth of the Dog, and you can fly there non-stop from the East Coast. If you're looking for somewhere tropical and exotic, this is it. In one of the great boondoggles in SI history I did a story about teeing it up around Lake Como, Italy. There are some memorable alpine courses, and though the overall quality of the golf is not world-class, there are obviously a lot of other reasons to take the trip. I love Ireland, too, for its spectacular linksland, the warmth of the people, the pub culture, and the beautiful countryside.
But if you're gonna take one big golf trip overseas it's gotta be to Scotland, where you can soak in the history of the game and play the glamorous courses of the British Open rota. There's nothing like the Old Course, and it's not even my favorite course in Scotland. That would be the wondrous Cruden Bay. There are neo-classics like Castle Stuart and Kingsbarns, seaside beauties in Turnberry and Western Gailes, ultimate purist pilgrimages in Dornoch and Machrihanish. Then you have Open brutes Carnoustie and Royal Troon and Muirfield and quirky gems like North Berwick (West) and Prestwick, which doubles as a living, breathing museum. Jeez, I'm getting fired up just typing this. Fore right! Should there be fines for club throwing and offensive language?
There are, but the Kremlin-like secrecy of the PGA Tour precludes any public announcement of disciplinary action. Rest assured, guys get zinged all the time, as do the players on the LPGA tour. In my forthcoming book with Christina Kim she is very candid about the thousands of dollars in fines she's racked up through the years. That represents a lot of transgressions, because in a given season players are fined $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second, $500 for the third and $1,000 thereafter. My favorite Christina anecdote on this topic, lifted from the book: “At the 2008 Stanford International Pro-Am I hit a bad shot and my involuntary reaction was to yell 'Goddamit!'” I tried to catch myself and wound up saying something that sounded like 'Gaught dane it!' When I was informed of the ensuing $1,000 fine I argued that what came out of my mouth weren't even actual words. The LPGA official to whom I stated my case was unmoved and the fine stood. I remember thinking, Great, now I'm getting fined just for the intent of saying something inappropriate!”

Do you think there's a possibility that Tiger sits out this whole 2010 season?
Sure. I don't think he would go to sex addiction rehab if he wasn't trying to save his marriage. There's obviously some very heavy lifting to do on that front, and it doesn't conform neatly to the PGA Tour schedule. If Elin stays you have to assume a lot of Tiger's other intimates have to go, so he could be looking at a sweeping shakeup in his business and personal life. Then he has to find the will to get his game back into fighting shape. The last thing Tiger wants to do is show up and struggle, further puncturing his aura. At this point I'd be stunned if he plays the Masters. If he's not back for the U.S. Open I could easily see him shutting it down until 2011. Instead of lengthening courses, narrowing fairways, growing super rough, etc. why don't the powers that be reduce the 14 club rule to 10? Then we'd see who can really golf their ball. I mean, who needs 3 wedges or 2 drivers?
—Lynn S.
I don't need three wedges, I need four. The other day I was playing an exceptionally hilly course in which carts are more or less mandatory. After a misadventure in the trees I got caught about a mile from the cart, facing a 40 yard pitch to pin tucked just behind a gaping bunker. This was a perfect shot for a full swing with my trusty 64 degree wedge, but the most lofted club I had in hand was a gap wedge. Realizing this, I felt a wave a panic run through me. I've become so dependent on my various wedges I've completely lost the ability to manufacture shots. I helplessly flew my gap wedge to the center of the green and watched forlornly as my ball scooted off the green into double-bogeyville. So I agree a 10-club rule would demand more creative shotmaking and help identify the most talented players. And if such a rule is ever enacted, I'll probably quit the game.Follow Alan Shipnuck on Twitter Have a question for Alan? Leave it in the comments field below.