The PGA Tour’s next big star, Rory and Caroline, and the most-asked mailbag question of all time

March 17, 2012

The anticipation builds. You know what’s coming soon. I know it, too.

That’s right, it’s almost time for another Shell Houston Open. Followed by some half-field event in Georgia. While you’re waiting, check out this week’s Van Cynical Mailbag … if you dare:

Why do all of you guys, television media as well, continually use the word “clearly”?
—Wade White

You’re clearly imagining that, Whitey, and clearly haven’t been reading my stories over the past 30 years. It’s a word that I clearly try to avoid. Even though it carries a certain gravitas and emphasis without any real meaning, your pet-peeve word clearly is overrated and we media hacks try to avoid it. I hope, thanks to my explanation, that you can see clearly now.

Tiger Woods would benefit massively, both emotionally and probably in his golf game, if he returned to Stanford to get his degree. He denied himself a more normal existence and much-needed time to grow up. Looking back on his rich life, he will regret not having finished the job.
Vilma Pallette, Santa Clara, Calif.

You’re right, Vilma. He should definitely give up the day job that at one point had built his net worth close to $1 billion, and get a college degree. Preferably in public relations. No, wait—journalism!

Something I haven't seen talked about much is the effect that caddie Joe LaCava is having on Tiger. I think LaCava has had a very big impact on Tiger's game since they teamed up. And all his experience at Augusta with Fred Couples will help even more when the Masters rolls around. What do you think?
Scott Fort, Hoover, Ala.

Well, my dear Fort, there’s no real way for us outsiders to measure how much a good caddie helps or hurts a player. Only Tiger and Joe know for sure. That said, Joe is one of the most respected and liked caddies on tour and has been for more than two decades. He sure as hell knows what he’s doing and he’s one really nice guy. Tiger made a good choice when he hired Joe. I don’t know if that’ll make much of a difference at Augusta, though — Tiger has done all right there in the past a few times, I seem to recall.

Now that Rory is No. 1 in the World, who is the next big thing?
Chris McDaniel, via Facebook

Keep your eye on Kyle Stanley, a former Clemson star. You may remember him as the guy who messed up a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, lost in a playoff and then bounced back the next week to win convincingly in Phoenix. He’s long, he’s a great ball-striker and he’s a workaholic. That’s usually a pretty good combination. He’s already got one more win than Rickie Fowler.

What effect will having a tennis star like Caroline Wozniacki as a girlfriend have on Rory McIlroy?
—Joe Callaghan, Clearwater, Fla.

Sooner or later, Joe, Rory’s backhand is going to improve. Mark my words.

Can you tell Johnny Miller he is an idiot for thinking that six holes of separation mean nothing? Had Tiger and Rory been paired together, the outcome would have been different (in hindsight).
—Brad Loomis

Hey, Brad, legendary sportswriter Dan Jenkins once wrote in one of his football novels, “What could’ve happened did.” Go back in time and change even the smallest item and who knows what affect it might’ve had. If Rory and Tiger had been paired at Honda, maybe Rory would’ve won by nine instead. Who knows? Maybe Tiger wouldn’t have played as well. Until you invent a time machine, we’ll never know. So hurry it up, man.

Do you think Tiger will break Jack's record of 18 major wins? Why or why not?
Spence Hudon, via Facebook

Novel question, Spence. Sometimes we’ll got a whole week on the Van Cynical Mailbag or PGA Tour Confidential without discussing that topic. Tiger’s game was looking major-ready before his Achilles injury at Doral. I believe he’ll win again. If he can get to 15 majors, he can get to 18 or 19. The question now is, Can he stay healthy enough to play long enough to break the record? Getting that 18th major would be the most Herculean win of them all, and yet No. 19 would be exponentially more difficult, assuming Tiger gets that close. I wouldn’t bet on it, but then there is no wagering allowed here at Bushwood anyway.