Gary Van Sickle's Mailbag: Tiger what-ifs and disc golf tips

Gary Van Sickle’s Mailbag: Tiger what-ifs and disc golf tips

One reader asks Van Sickle where he thinks Tiger's career would be if he never hurt his knee.
Fred Vuich/SI

Have a question for Gary Van Sickle's mailbag? E-mail [email protected] or ask it on Facebook.

Back despite popular demand, here is this week's installment of the Van Cynical Mailbag. You're welcome:

The what-if game: What if Tiger never left Butch Harmon, never had any knee surgeries, never cheated on his wife Elin, and his dad never died. How many majors do you think he would have by now?
— Jon from Pennsylvania via Facebook

That's a staggering what-if, Jon, on the order of "What-if chimpanzees evolved to the highest level instead of man?" For starters, Charlton Heston would've been robbed of one of his greatest roles and in "Bedtime for Bonzo," Ronald Reagan would've played the adorable pet. If Tiger never had any knee surgeries? That's easy. He wouldn't be playing golf, he'd be limping around with a cane and on disability, unable to play. If he never left Butch, presuming he continued to listen to him (a big presumption if you're read Hank Haney's "The Big Miss"), and he didn't hurt his knee playing with Navy SEALs, Tiger would already have broken Jack's record. The others? Who knows? How about this: What if a tree fell on one hand clapping in the forest? Would it make a noise? And if it did, would anyone be able to applaud?

The Valero course was tough. Why put a huge bunker in the midst of a par-3 green? Why not put a small trout pond in a green to really mess with the pros? Or maybe a TV camera that hovers on wires like the NFL?
— SandyDaBagger from Treesdale

Trout pond in a green? That's stupid. It's got to be a bass pond. You're really showing your golf ignorance, Bags. Greg Norman really missed a design opportunity. He could've done a better course if he'd routed the holes through that amusement park the Texas Open used to be played next to. The roller coaster and the Ferris wheel might as well be in play. This course is Exhibit A in why golf is dying. If it's too hard for the best players in the world (and with minimal rough), what chance do you think recreational golfers have there? And who would spend $5 to play it? Bags, we've got the camera wire thing covered. It's called a blimp. I think it should occasionally strafe the fairways just to keep the players alert.

I see Westwood taking some heat for playing in the Far East and Oosty just won in Malaysia. Sure it's a money grab and Westwood's been doing it for years, but winning is winning. Is it not better to learn how to win against lesser fields and take that knowledge with you to the big tourneys? The Nationwide Tour is a good example of this as well.
— Tim Delaney

I miss those Guinness commercials where the one guy comes up with goofy ideas and the other one keeps saying, "Brilliant!" TD, you're brilliant. Not only does Westwood get practice at being in contention — brilliant! — and get practice at winning — brilliant! — but he scores a nice appearance fee and gets paid twice (prize money, too) to practice winning.

Carl Pettersson won the RBC Heritage last week. He was born in Sweden and is #35 in the World Golf Rankings. Why is he not listed on the European Ryder Cup points lists?
— John Jenkins

Carl dropped his European Tour membership because he lives in the U.S. and plays the PGA Tour full-time. It's a pretty strong schedule to try to play the minimum number of required events on both sides of the ocean. He doesn't want to travel that much, which hasn't earned him any brownie putts with the European Tour.

I'm playing in a charity scramble tomorrow, and I'm wondering how we can gamble in our team. Any suggestions? We're thinking that a player should win a buck every time we use their shot.
— Jeff Kaufmann via Facebook

That would work, Jeff, if you've got four players of similar handicap levels. But if you've got a 4 and an 18, that's going to be no contest. You're not going to use the 18's shots hardly ever, except maybe on the greens. It also may lead to disagreements over which shot to use, since there's money on the line. You don't need that, especially since you're supposed to be on the same team! And the guy who putts first has a big advantage-he can win the money if he holes out. You're better off trying to get bets against some other teams, whom you could text between holes for updates and presses, as long as it doesn't slow down play.

Would the PGA Tour considering turning a few events into off-field events and co-sponsoring more world events like the Scottish Open?
— Kristopher Barrie via Twitter

The new World Golf Championship event in China is the start of just such a trend. I envision a series of 10 or 12 WGC events around the world on all of the tours, possibly rotating status. One year, the Scottish Open gets the WGC designation, the next year it moves on to the BMW PGA. If you have two WGC events each in the United States, South Africa, Europe, Australia and Asia, then you've got a world tour. Since it's going to involve sharing revenue and power between several different tours, though, it may not happen. Only a big pile of TV money can overcome all that.

Disc golf is growing at a rate well over 200% a year in the number of participants. Can golf learn from its success?
[email protected] via Twitter

Yes. Any form of golf that doesn't require golf clubs, golf balls or physical skill is much easier to play and has wider mass appeal. Golf should take a lesson from that, definitely.

What are players saying about the new MDF rule-made cut did not finish-put in place this year?
— Matthew [email protected] via Twitter

It's not new, Matt. It's been in place since 2008. Everybody would rather play and try to improve their position, obviously. Players aren't pleased but since they still get paid, they can live with it.

What's up with Steve Marino, once the best player without a win but now the best player without a win who never actually plays?
— Len Hochberg via Twitter

Sounds like somebody is an unhappy fantasy-league coach. Marino had surgery on his right knee last October (always Google a guy before the league draft!) and his recovery has encountered a few glitches. His knee still isn't feeling right and he has said he's not coming back until he's sure he's ready. Marino is even more bummed about this than you, Lenny.

Have a question for Gary Van Sickle's mailbag? E-mail [email protected] or ask it on Facebook.