Alan Shipnuck's Mailbag: Bandon Dunes marathon, FedEx Cup, Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup picks

Alan Shipnuck’s Mailbag: Bandon Dunes marathon, FedEx Cup, Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup picks

Alan-shipnuck-bandon1a So, Bandon. In case you missed it, a few days ago my boyhood friend Kevin Price and I became the first dudes to play all four courses at Bandon Dunes on the same day. (We knocked in our putts on the 72nd hole at the exact same instant, so there wouldn't be any dispute about who was the first to summit, a la Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.) It was a crazy, giddy dawn-to-dusk adventure. I'll give you the long version sometime soon here on, and you can watch us on "Golf in America" on Golf Channel, Monday Aug. 9 at 9 p.m. Eastern. In the meantime, allow me to address a few questions about the day and plenty of unrelated queries, too. (Click the images to enlarge.) How much did the pace of other golfers on the courses affect you? Did they let you play through?
– Dave Andrews
When I hatched this plan, my initial thought was to play the courses in the order they were built, but there was some maintenance work being done on Bandon Dunes that precluded us from beginning the day there. So Todd Kloster, the resort's P.R. whiz who handled the logistics, sent us off Pacific Dunes first. Kevin and I played that round in 2:35, which was crucial. The first scheduled tee time at Bandon Dunes was 10 a.m., and we were off well before that so there was no one in front of us for either round. There was a lot of play at Old Macdonald in the morning, but we didn't peg it there until around 1:30. We blew through another twosome on the third hole and didn't see anyone again until 15. The last few holes were slow, but I didn't mind catching my breath a little. Trails was deserted when we teed off there after 5 p.m. So in four rounds we had to wait on four holes. Bliss. What was your favorite course?
– T.C. Ford
Well, I loved them all. Shortly after completing the epic day I tweeted that Pacific was my fave, followed by Trails, then Bandon and then Old Mac. As I've replayed the rounds in my mind since, a lot of the holes I think about are at Bandon and Trails. I think I need more time to let it marinate—it was sensory overload! Alan-shipnuck-bandon2b What did you eat/drink to keep your energy up without crashing later or getting sluggish now?
– Kristen Wi
lliams At the excellent breakfast buffet I basically had four of everything—eggs, bacon, hash browns, fruit, cereal, a muffin. It was ridiculous. I didn't have another bite until midway through the second round. Then I pretty much never stopped eating, in this order: Builder's Bar, apple, banana, big turkey sandwich (after the second round), chips, humongous chocolate chip cookie, apple, Builder's Bar, two hot dogs (after the third round), banana, almonds, Snickers. Plus various waters, waters with Cytomax, Gatorade, and, on the back nine at Trails, a Pepsi for extra energy. Then, at 10 p.m., Kevin and I had a big dinner. Gawd, I'm getting a stomach ache just typing this.
OK, a few non-Bandon items… As highlighted by last week's "Confidential," why are so many of the writers so eager to bash the FedEx Cup setup? Maybe it is overhyped, but it seems that most people appreciate it for what it is: week after week of top-flight golf. You could easily say this is the best month of the year for golf. But it gets ridiculed, people are always complaining about the scoring, and now there is a death watch for when the sponsor will bail. Is it just resistance to change?
– Brian Sullivan
I've taken a few shots at the FedEx Cup over the years, but I agree with Brian's basic premise, that the Cup has added a quartet of excellent tournaments during what used to be a dead time of year. Yes, the scoring is cumbersome, and yes, the Tour badly oversold the “playoff” concept, but I think we're all ready to move on. Last year's Tiger/Phil double-dip at the Tour Championship was a big moment for the FedEx Cup, and this season's edition should be the best one yet. Tiger's ongoing search for form will be a big story, and the player of the year race will be determined during the Cup unless Mickelson, McDowell or King Louis wins the PGA Championship. The biggest subplot has would-be Ryder Cuppers auditioning for captain's picks, which will be announced halfway through the FedEx playoffs. So, I for one, can't wait for the whole thing to kick off. Does the Solheim Cup matter anymore when Asian countries can't play in it?
– Anonymous
Of course it does! It's a crucial event for women's golf and has been an important proving ground for young Americans. The lack of Asian players doesn't devalue the Solheim, it just underscores the need for a second event modeled after the Presidents Cup, in which the U.S. would take on the rest of the world (minus the Euros). There have been ongoing discussions about just such a competition, and I have no doubt it will get done in the next few years, especially now that golf is back in the Olympics and the women's game is becoming more global with each passing year. Who are your 4 picks for the Ryder Cup team if you're captain? I say Fowler, Mahan, Couples and Barnes.
– Brian Rosenwald
Well, you got one of them right. Mahan is a given if he doesn't play his way into the top 8 in the points race. (As of this week, he's 9th.) To me, there are two other no-brainers in Stewart Cink (13th) and Zach Johnson (20th), major champions and stalwarts of recent U.S. teams. So that leaves maybe only one more pick. Fowler is a strong candidate—fearless birdie machines are always helpful at the Ryder Cup. But it's a big-time gamble to go with a player who hasn't won as a pro. (In this category, I'd rather have Fowler over Barnes.) Freddy would be a popular choice, but his back limits him to one match a day, and that jabby putting stroke is worrisome, too. If you're going to go old, I'm not sure that Kenny Perry isn't a better choice. Sean O'Hair has many of the same virtues as Fowler and a lot more winning experience, plus he's coming off a strong performance at the Presidents Cup. As of this moment, he'd be my pick, along with Cink, Z. Johnson and Mahan. But there's so much golf left, it's hard to forecast who will get bounced out of the top 8, and how that will affect the captain's picks. One final thought: Tiger Woods better play his way onto the team. Don't forget, the wives are a big part of Ryder Cup week, and they're all pissed at him. Given Woods's so-so track record at the Ryder Cup, the shaky state of his game and all the distractions he brings, I wouldn't pick him if he falls out of the top 8. And I have a feeling Captain Pavin won't, either.Photos: Kohjiro Kinno/SI