Gary Van Sickle's Mailbag: Phil and the U.S. Open, Tiger's chances at the majors

Gary Van Sickle’s Mailbag: Phil and the U.S. Open, Tiger’s chances at the majors

Will Phil finally win a U.S. Open this year? Gary says yes... and no.
Robert Beck/SI

MARANA, Ariz. – Too bad you missed another orange-turned-rose-colored sunset over the majestic mountains here in the desert near Tucson, which I think is French for "middle of nowhere." Absolutely gorgeous colors, plus a sliver of a crescent moon almost directly overhead as if somebody Photoshopped it in for effect.

Now that the Accenture Match Play Championship has settled down with the second-round exit of Tiger Woods, we can all focus on the task at hand — answering fan mail directed to the Van Cynical Mailbag. Your questions are appreciated, as always. Psst. I think they bought that last sentence. Really. Also, thanks for not asking how my match-play bracket looks. Remember, Flounder, I did warn you that trying to predict 18-hole matches was a difficulty on the order of juggling flaming two-headed rattlesnakes.

On to the alpha mail…

Is Olympic Club the type of U.S. Open venue that sets up well for Phil to finally get his first Open title?
— Mark Miner via Twitter

The laws of physics and logic don't apply to Phil Mickelson. The Open has always been about hitting fairways and greens and Phil has gone weeks at a time without stepping in a fairway. Next to the British Open, where Phil's high-flighted shots get blown off-line, the U.S. Open would seem to be the least likely major for Lefty to win. Yet he's had a record five runner-ups and could easily be sitting here with three Open titles. You can't explain it. Olympic Club has a lot of bendy fairways — pardon my technical jargon — so you've got to work the ball both ways off the tee (but not on the same hole, thankfully!). That isn't Phil's forte. So based on history, yeah, I like Phil at Olympic.

Van Cynical,
Is Commissioner Tim Finchem immune to viewer boredom with slow play? The latest entry is Keegan Bradley's pre-shot cha-cha. BORING!
— Bob Cayne via Twitter

Finchem is largely immune to everything, including actually answering questions, but he's pretty sure he fooled you into thinking he did.

Here's a question: Why would a guy drive his rental car while wearing noise-canceling headphones? #sawyou
— Laura Hill, PGA Tour, via Twitter

What was that? You'll have to speak up! I'm listening to music. Go back to your lunch plans.

The Heat-Knocks game average ticket price is around $800. Wouldn't you rather go to a day at the Masters instead?
— Ed @hoppustom via Twitter

Ed, I'd possibly consider going to an NBA game if you paid me $800. I said, consider. Besides, $800 isn't going to get you into the Masters unless it's a practice round day. But if you're asking would I rather spend a day walking a hilly, iconic golf course while the world's best golfers compete for a nice jacket versus going to an indoor arena with lousy parking and stale pretzels to watch guys who almost never actually run until maybe Game 3 of the playoffs, the answer is yes, I'll take Augusta.

If I gave you 20-1 odds on Tiger winning a major championship this year, which side would you take?
— Tippet523 via Twitter

I'd put it all on red at the roulette table. Does that answer your question? Oh. Well, I've been writing for months that Tiger's return to the winner's circle will be based on how far his putter can carry him. So far, I'm not feeling the love from Tiger's putter. His putting stance is much narrower — he just doesn't look like the old Tiger. I think that's a big, big concern. If he was better with the putter, he could've won last year's Masters…but he didn't. If his putting comes around, he's an odds-on favorite to win more majors. He's at that age where it's possible it may never come around again. From what I've seen so far on the greens, I'd have to go against him. But it's a long year and Tiger has plenty of time to practice for Augusta's slick greens. My long-standing rule is, never bet against Tiger Woods. For the last 15 years, that's been like betting against Apple. Although I regret not taking the fire hydrant giving 3.5.

Now that it's Sweet 16 time at the World Match Play, if somebody drains a 30-footer to close out a match, does Raferty appear and yell, "Onions!"
— Bill @puttandpintclub via Twitter

If by Raferty, you mean veteran hoops analyst Bill Raftery, no. If, by Raferty, you mean would-be standup comedian David Feherty, then the answer would be no. And if, by "Onions!" you mean, "Dagger!" then the answer would be… no.

My wife and I attended the Masters last year. During the Par 3 Contest, we were impressed by how nice some of the golfers were, including Brandt Snedeker, Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson, and how others acted like you weren't there. What other pros are known for being good/bad guys?
— John Odorzynski via Facebook

Well, Phil Mickelson has been known to hand over his wristwatch and a couple of hundreds to fans he pelts with errant shots. He also signs tons of autographs and grossly overtips. People love that. Sir Nick Faldo is cheery in the broadcast booth now, but he was never warm and fuzzy with fans. Lee Trevino loved to play to the gallery with his fun-loving line of patter but you'd better not make the mistake of talking back to his monologue — noooo. Most players are good guys most of the time — they're used to mingling and playing in pro-ams. Most of the bad guys are the ones in the process of shooting trunk-slamming 76s and playing their way back to the Hooters Tour.

Write if you get work, people.