Phil Mickelson’s U.S. Open Chances, Rory McIlroy’s Ryder Cup Future

May 19, 2015

This is the week that was in the Van Cynical Mailbag. Play away, ladies and germs:

Van Cynical, Is Phil Mickelson showing signs of life? — Kevin Montminy, via Twitter

Let’s run through the Official Phil Checklist, Monty: 1: Plays his way into contention with a slew of birdies. Check. 2: Blows himself out of contention, repeatedly, with an untimely double or triple. Check. 3: Says he’s really close to playing well. Check. 4: Finishes runner-up in a major. Check. Yup, Phil is right on schedule. Not bad for 44.

E-Vancipated, Now that ten years have passed, what did the pros really think about my home course, [Greater Milwaukee Open site] Brown Deer Park?—Tom Kister, via Twitter

They thought it was a birdie-fest, which wasn’t all bad. And on another positive note, I never heard anybody at Brown Deer say they missed Tuckaway, the tourney’s previous site. On the negative side, players considered it the worst practice facility—range and putting green—and the worst locker-room on tour. It was also the worst-promoted event on the tour and had almost no signage.

Sickleodeon, I can’t see anything positive in 500-yard par 4s. Can you see any reasonable path to reining in distance?—Lionel Mandrake, via Twitter

Reasonable, yes. Realistic, no. The USGA and the R&A don’t have the guts to take on the ball manufacturers, who would lawyer up in the legal fight to end all golf legal fights. Plus, with recreational golf declining, the USGA can’t limit ball distance for amateurs and thus make the game even less appealing, if that’s possible. The only solution is separate equipment rules for pros and amateurs, like wood versus aluminum bats in baseball, but the traditionalists at the USGA oppose that. Never mind that for most of the 1900s, Brits used a smaller golf ball than the model played in America. With two sets of rules, you could limit the pro balls while letting the struggling hacks buy hotter clubs and juiced-up balls. But it won’t happen. For a baby step, I’d try limiting balls to 336 concentric dimples, for example, which might take a tiny edge off distance and maybe make errant shots curve a bit more.

Van Cynical, How many Ryder Cup points will Rory McIlroy win in his career? I hope he defects to the U.S.—Brian Bailey, via Twitter

If you were really trying to undermine Rory’s edge in a Ryder Cup, you’d go to a short, rinky-dink golf course where everybody could reach the par 5s, it was a total birdie-fest and he’d have to holster his driver. You can’t worry about one guy in the Ryder Cup, Bailbond, because you might get lucky and that’s the week he happens to play poorly. Rory already has nine Ryder Cup points from a 7-3-4 mark but the scary part was, he didn’t lose a match last year. He won three, halved two. Yeah, he’s a force and Fidel Castro will play golf with Warren Buffett before Rory is allowed to defect.

Van Cynical, Should some of the young players learn from Spieth and Rory about playing more, which seems to improve play? Guys like Brooks Koepka and others don’t seem to be over-taxing themselves, schedule-wise. — Brian Rosenwald, via Twitter

Koepka pulled out of Bay Hill with a sore wrist and played the Masters despite the injury. He may have needed some recovery time since then. Everybody is different. Phil and Rory tend to get sharper the more they play but four of the top ten players on the PGA Tour money list have teed it up ten or fewer times—Rory, 7; Bubba Watson, 8; Jason Day and Dustin Johnson, 10. Danny Lee has played 21 events and ranks 57th in money. Guys like Daniel Berger and Justin Thomas, 19 events each, fit your theory. Hey, if you’re playing well, why take a week off? Keep playing while you’re hot. Factor in the travel, the Wednesday pro-am and the practice rounds, it’s easy to see why players can get mentally fatigued.

Vans, I’m a Wake Forest guy but Webb Simpson plays at a snail’s pace. — Michael O’Connor, via Twitter

Webb is clearly one of the tour’s turtles but I’m sure he can afford the fines that he probably incurs every year.

Yo, G-Van, What’s the most important thing when relieving oneself on course — stance, grip or ball position?—Dave Conlon, via Twitter

I’d go with aim and distance control, Con Man, but an even more important part would be finding an actual restroom or Port-a-John and showing some respect for your fellow hacks.

Vans, With Spieth, McIlroy and Fowler being such good guys, don’t we need more D-bags to start playing better to spice things up? — Michael O’Connor, via Twitter

Nah, golf has never really had any serious villains although in the ‘90s, some American fans looked at European players that way after the Ryder Cup heated up. To spice things up, we need the same guys to pile up wins in big numbers instead of finishing their career with 13 wins and waiting for their Hall of Fame induction notice.

Pop Sickle, Thanks for the tip. I finally got my High Heat driver, changed the grip and took it to the ASU Karsten course. The sound is different but the ball flight is great! — BigMark, via Twitter

The High Heat, an off-brand driver developed by former Navy man Dean Knuth, is a pretty sweet club. I wrote about it from the PGA Merchandise Show. It just became available — mine showed up in the mail two weeks ago. I’m rehabbing from knee surgery, however, so I haven’t been able to try it out yet. But I am drooling. (Which isn’t unusual for me.)

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