Despite popular demand, let's dip into the Van Cynical Mailbag one last time before we ride those cable cars halfway to the stars next week at the U.S. Open in San Francisco.
Reading Peter Alliss's recent comments about Tiger's swing and also from listening to his commentary over the years, it seems that he feels that modern golf teaching is too technical. I know your son is a very good golfer. Did you give him the fundamentals and then just let him play and develop as a player or did you go with the normal-lessons-plus-more-lessons-plus-a-coach approach? Based on what you know now, would you alter the approach you went with?
— Stuart Williams, UK
It's hard not to get technical with all the video and technology available now. As you suggested, Stuart, I gave my son lessons and let him play. Golf is supposed to be fun. Not many kids think pounding balls on a range or doing putting drills is fun. Playing golf is fun. Let kids play the game and enjoy it. If and when they want to get better is the time to start lessons or coaching.
Why are alleged golf experts so not capable of giving credit when due? Tiger was praised by the Golden Bear, who will in the very near future relinquish his long-held major-wins record. So would it not be prudent for the writing experts to get their head out of their —– and admire History being created on the course? Or could it be just prejudiced one-sided reporting where opinions dominate the actual performance of the athlete? I am not a Tiger super fan, but I am a fan of his ability and the beauty of the game.
— Russell Reina
I'm not sure which experts you're talking about. I thought Tiger got plenty of credit. I wrote the game story for SI Golf about Tiger's win at Memorial and mentioned just what you said. In fact, the story's last line was, "History is waiting." I wrote a long piece two years ago comparing Tiger to Ben Hogan as his generation's consummate shotmaker and I stand by it. Woods is in a class by himself and I've never had a doubt he would recover his swing. The scoring end, the putting, is the only question. You're right, we're watching a guy trying to play the game the way it's supposed to be played, actually chasing perfection, and that sets him apart. Love him or hate him, he's a golfing marvel.
Okay, so Woods made some clutch birdies and won, but if some of the best golfers in the world had, for once, played like some of the best golfers in the world, it might not have mattered. Over and over during his career, the players with the gaudy rankings have fled the field and left challenging Woods to people like the five who finished behind him at the Memorial, whose rankings ranged from 77th to 338th. It is difficult to remember an example of Woods beating a top-ranked golfer who was playing to his ranking. However, I am beginning to believe what people say about the depth of talent on today's Tour because only players from the depths seem to be able to get near to Woods on Sundays.
— Curt Fredrixon
The fact is, very few of the "other golfers" you're talking about win more than two or three times a year. That's why the rankings are so bunched. Right now, it doesn't take much to rank among the top 20 in the world. That said, come on, the man has won 73 times. It doesn't matter who he beat, he's done it 73 times — 14 of them in majors, and a lot of them in World Golf Championships where the fields aren't deep but they are top-heavy. You can only beat the guys who show up and Tiger has done that like no one else in modern times.
I love the blimp shots, but sometimes the noise from the blimp (I assume) ruins the viewing experience. It's so loud, you can hardly hear the announcers! Love the "PGA Tour Confidential." It's my first read Monday morning.
— Bill Shanks
Actually, Bill, that's your refrigerator door. You left it open again. I keep telling you to shut it, but you never listen.
The solution to the cell-phone dilemma is to set up tents in strategic locations on the tournament site where a patron can go in and be assisted in silencing their phone for both ring tones and photo taking. Signs should be posted at the event entrances and information printed on tickets that the tournament has the right to confiscate any phone/camera not in silent mode. Like the Rules of Golf, patrons would be encouraged to police themselves, but violators of the policy that ignore the rule should be turned in by their fellow patrons. The new policy could be included in all the advance PR initiatives, and consistently administered from event to event. If the Tour wanted the service paid for, I'm sure a number of carriers (Verizon, AT&T) and/or manufacturers (Samsung, LG, Apple) would pay for the rights to assist the patrons. It wouldn't take long for the attending galleries to get the message and change their behavior.
— Brian Beck
Good idea, Brian. It's based on logic and common sense. But the fact that no one wants to admit is that people are selfish. The rules apply to everyone else, not them. They don't care what the rules say, they're going to get their photo or their video of Phil Mickelson hitting a shot. You're not going to change their behavior, period. People will use their cell phones if they have them. I've seen fans making calls at tournaments and when they're caught, they still don't hang up, they just turn and walk the other way because their call is SO IMPORTANT. The only way to stop cell phone use is to not let fans bring them on the grounds, like the Masters does, but that requires expensive metal scanners. You can educate the fans, Brian, but you can't make them grow up and act like adults.
Mr. Van Sickle, I read your article about second-guessing Tiger. Wanted to ask you a question about Jack Nicklaus's description of Tiger's chip on 16. I suppose we can all be forgiven for a little hyperbole in the heat of the moment, but I wanted to know if you agree with Jack Nicklaus's observation that Tiger's chip-in on 16 was the "most unbelievable, gutsy shot [Nicklaus] has ever seen." During the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Jack was in the clubhouse watching Watson chip in on 17. Jack Nicklaus saw that shot. Wouldn't you agree a shot to snatch the U.S. Open away from the greatest golfer the game has ever known, out of the spinach, at Pebble Beach, is more befitting Jack Nicklaus's glowing praise? If you agree, set the Golden Bear straight.
— David J. Hogue, Minot, N.D.
Tiger's chip-in was one for the ages, sure. As I pointed out in this week's story, I'd rate Bubba Watson's hooked wedge out of the trees at the Masters in the playoff ahead of it. So Tiger's shot isn't even the most unbelievable shot this year. Watson's chip-in was up there, given the circumstances, not to mention the 1-iron that Jack used to hit the stick at Pebble's 17th and win the '72 Open. The only downside to Tiger's shot is that now Jack probably won't fix that hole to make it playable — only 10 of 71 professional golfers hit that par-3 green in regulation in the final round.
Why can't the solution for cell phones at PGA events just be that the players get used to it? The rest of us have. There are carts driving on the course, people yakking on phones, phones ringing, etc. Half the courses now give you a cell number so you can call in your lunch order from the ninth tee. You think that is good for the guy putting out on the sixth green near by? Welcome to 2012. Add a sound track with camera clicks to your practice sessions and suck it up.
— Brian Della Torre
You talk tough, Brian. I like it. I suggest you try a dose of your own medicine, however. Have a friend fire off a motor-drive camera (that snaps off shots with machine gun-like speed) at an unspecified time during your backswing for every shot during your round — especially the putts. I think you might change your opinion. It's maddening as hell.
What do you think about Tigers chances at the Olympic Club after his vintage Tiger performance of old?
— Jeff Ernst via Facebook
As the headline on my story about Tiger's win in the current issue of SI Golf says (and it's available on newsstands for the first time so buy two copies, in case one breaks!), "Bet against Tiger at your own risk." Read it.