Alan Shipnuck's Mailbag: Mahan and Pavin at Ryder Cup, Mickelson's longevity and more

Alan Shipnuck’s Mailbag: Mahan and Pavin at Ryder Cup, Mickelson’s longevity and more

OK, a couple of obligatory Ryder Cup questions and then it’s time to move on. There’s a lot more going on in the golf world than just second-guessing the U.S. loss. Haven’t you people heard of the Fall Series? Speaking of which, with the golf season petering out, the Mailbag is going to begin its fall hibernation. Future editions will be posted only as warranted (or under great duress by the leadership). Why is it that Hunter gets off so easy? No excuse to not at least get it past the hole. —Tim Stephens, New York City Oct4_mahan_299x195 It’s true, Mahan has taken almost no grief for losing the anchor match and, therefore, the Ryder Cup. Part of this is his own reaction; all those tears in the press conference made it pretty plain how torn up Mahan already was, so there wasn’t much need to pile on. And that last chip was embarrassing but not really decisive.
A bigger factor in the coverage is that Mahan was never going to win that match, anyway, so he didn’t really let anyone down. Greame McDowell finished a strong third in his final tune-up before the Cup and he was superb through the first three sessions. Mahan came into Wales in middling form and was benched all of Friday. Then, in the session-three foursomes, he got smoked along with Zach Johnson by McDowell-Rory McIlroy. So, to recap, Europe had one of it hottest, best, toughest players in the 12th singles match. USA had a non-major champion playing in only his second Cup who was struggling with his form. Seems to me the criticism should go to the guy who dreamed up the U.S. singles lineup. Is the importance of the Ryder Cup captain overrated? If the U.S. had won another half-point, Pavin would probably be praised for his cool demeanor, and Monty would be taking a beating for losing on European soil. —TonySee above. Or my colleague Michael Bamberger’s excellent story about the captains in this week’s SI. In the sports world we fetishize successful coaches: Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, Bill Belichick, et al are given a ton of credit for their teams’ success. Clearly strong leadership is important, even at the Ryder Cup. Europe had that, and the Americans didn’t. My wife and I are moving close to you in February. We are from Europe but have fallen in love with that part of the world and decided to make a new start. Can you recommend any hidden treasures (golf courses) that I might have not heard of? Or courses not overrun with tourists? Pasatiempo, Pebble, MPCC, Cordevalle, Spyglass are all great but what else is there? —Ivan Bulic, Vienna, AustriaDude, what else do you need? (And welcome, by the way.) Northern California has an obscene amount of great golf. Around the Monterey Peninsula, Poppy Hills is a really fun layout and a super bargain. Tee-to-green, Bayonet is as good as anything in the area but the greens are a little extreme; still, it’s a must-play. Pacific Grove Golf Links has a dunesy back-nine that makes it a poor man’s Pebble. For a really fun, sporty parkland stroll, Old Del Monte is tough to beat, and to sharpen your game I love Monterey Pines, a recently redone executive course. The San Francisco Bay Area and wine country to the north have dozens of good tracks, though the best of them—SFGC, Mayacama, Los Altos—are private. Drop me another line when you get out here and we’ll get you organized. New golf nerd the past year. Need definitions re: “Majors” vs “PGA Tour”. Suggestion for reference? Please don’t be mean. —Christine Marshall I would never be mean to a new fan—we’re happy to have you! I’ll be your reference: the majors are the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. The PGA Tour runs the weekly events in the U.S. What’s interesting about the “majors” is how they’ve evolved over time. When Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam in 1930 it was comprised of the U.S. and British Opens and U.S. and British Amateurs. Some old-timers still like to count the U.S. Amateur as a major, in which case Jack Nicklaus has 20 career majors and Tiger Woods 17, but I don’t buy into that—the Amateur lost much of its importance as soon as Jones retired.
It should also be noted that for its first century the British Open was more of a parochial tourney. Hardly any Americans made the trip over there and it wasn’t until Arnold Palmer’s first sojourn in 1960, after he had already won that year’s Masters and U.S. Open, that talk began of a modern Grand Slam. So while what constitutes a major championship has changed over the years, I can assure all of you one thing: the Players will never be considered a major as long as my typing fingers still work. Alan, I don’t see Phil having a run in his early 40’s like Stricker, Singh and Kenny Perry. Other than Tiger you have to go back to Tom Watson to find another player with a similar number of tour wins and Watson struggled past 40. I’ve been a huge fan of Phil’s since watching him win the U.S. Amateur, but can’t help but feel he is on the fast track to the twilight of his winning career. I can envision a couple of more tour wins, but majors don’t seem in the cards any longer. —JoelI think it’s too soon to write off Phil. He was one or two swings from being halfway to the Grand Slam this year. He’s dealt with huge family trauma and now a freakish onset of psoriatic arthritis. His wife Amy is doing much better—she walked every hole with him at the Ryder Cup—and as he learns to manage his own health I expect Phil will have a big 2011. But he turns 41 next year, and to keep being a force will take lots of hard work, the kind that Vijay and Stricks put in. Phil is keenly aware of his place in the game and he burns to win a U.S. Open and further burnish his legacy; as long as he’s getting results I expect him to keep grinding. I know you said Player of the Year was “not hot” a few weeks back and only PGA tour members are eligible, but didn’t G-Mac pretty much hijack POY from the PGA regulars? —David HogueI see your point and am inclined to agree that, if we separate tour politics and other concerns, G-Mac is, quite simply, the player of the year in golf. The Open and Ryder Cup heroics are enough to put him over the top, but his body of work on the Euro tour is also outstanding—a win at the Wales Open and four other top-10s have him second in the Race to Dubai standings. He gets my vote. Why doesn’t Freddie get mentioned for Ryder Cup captain? He and DL3 are tight so no harm in not letting Davis captain just yet, plus he’ll have experience with 2 (hopefully winning) Prez Cups. Or why couldn’t Freddie and DL3 be co-captains of sorts? —ConnorCouples hasn’t been strongly considered because he’s made it pretty clear he doesn’t want the job. Being Ryder Cup captain is way too much of a headache for Couples, who is famously laid-back. With the Prez Cup he gets to enjoy the fun of the captain’s experience without the pressure, second-guessing and pomp of the Ryder Cup. And without getting ripped in the Mailbag. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images