Tiger Woods' Flubbed Chips and Why 2014 Was a Great Year for Golf in the Van Cynical Mailbag

Tiger Woods’ Flubbed Chips and Why 2014 Was a Great Year for Golf in the Van Cynical Mailbag

Tiger Woods hits a pitch shot on the sixth hole during the second round of the 2014 Hero World Challenge.
Getty Images

TUCSON, Ariz. — This week’s random rants, insidious slants, bad pants and no Jim Nantz, plus the Van Cynical Mailbag, where all questions are answered to your satisfaction or money-back guaranteed.

Even though Tiger Woods was sick as a dog during the Hero World Challenge, he appeared to be swinging and walking pain-free. So forget the awful chip shots. He’s going to be fine. He’ll contend and probably win in 2015. I’m not surprised his short game was ragged — ugly, even — when he’s surely been focusing on some new swing thoughts. His putting stroke would be my biggest long-term concern. Tiger will go as far as his putting takes him. And give him credit for not withdrawing when he was sick even when he clearly would’ve been entitled to do so…

It turns out that reality show Fat Guys in the Woods isn’t about recreational golfers. Who knew?…

Here’s a statistic brought to my attention by the kind of guy who used to be known as a Figure Filbert (note dated reference from the ’50s): Golf had been racking up first-time major-winners at a record clip. At least, until 2014, when Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy (twice) each had already won a major. That phenomenon hadn’t happened since 2000. Then, it was Tiger three times and Vijay Singh once.. Before that, you had to go back to 1980 with Jack Nicklaus twice, Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros. Before that, 1972. I recall writing a column here about the Best Players With Only One Major and suggested that these guys needed to begin filling in their resumes. Maybe it’s happening. Anyway, this rare feat meant 2014 was actually a vintage year for golf even if some golf observers considered it boring…

Last weekend’s golf was just a reminder how much television relies on Tiger Woods. It would’ve been a good case study to see how many shots of each player in the field were shown. My guess is Tiger leads the way, even more than winner Jordan Spieth. It’s called giving people what they want…

Waste Management signed a deal to sponsor the Phoenix Open for 10 more years. That’s a stunningly long deal given the contraction of recreational golf and the apparent decline in interest in the game. That said, there’s no decline in interest in Scottsdale, where tourney week coincides with Super Bowl week — it’s across town in Glendale. Next year’s WMPO is sure to smash its own all-time attendance mark. See you there, if I can find a hotel room for less than $495 a night…

If you take away the top hat and shave off the mustache of that iconic Monopoly game figure, doesn’t he kind of remind you of Bernie Madoff? I always suspected that Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues were some sort of Ponzi scheme…

Still no comment from the International Mimes Guild…

Just played Tucson’s Randolph Park over the weekend and it’s definitely in my top 10 of municipal golf courses. There’s nothing spectacular about it but it’s green, it’s got trees, it’s very forgiving and it doesn’t have three-tiered greens, carpet-bombing patterns of fairway bunkers and repeated forced carries. It’s exactly what public golf should be, a pleasant experience. It’s also got history, as the PGA Tour’s Tucson Open (with celebrity sponsor Joe Garagiola) and the LPGA’s Welch’s Open were held here. It’s a nice facility that includes a decent range, practice greens and a second 18, the Dell Urich course. If I moved to Tucson, I’d probably forego a club membership and set up camp at Randolph Park…

You’ve probably seen the video of a baboon charging at Luke Donald in that South African tournament last weekend. A surprised Donald nimbly jumped out of the way. I half expected the baboon to shout, “You da man!” afterward. Didn’t happen, though…

Teed it up yesterday at Tucson’s La Paloma Resort, a manly Jack Nicklaus track. The resort has undergone a $35 million upgrade. I haven’t stayed there in a dozen years but it was pretty good then. The course is in excellent condition for early December. The fairways get tight in places, a few bunkers are defyingly deep (when jumping down into them, remember — hit AND roll!) and the greens are mystifying. Our scramble foursome was baffled most of the day. Definitely worth a return trip, if not just for the tacos at the turn…

Let’s check the Van Cynical Mailbag (after first carefully scanning them for metal objects):

Van Cynical, What is your best round when you were throwing up/dry-heaving all over the course? (Flu or hangover.)
–Brian Bailey via Twitter

As a recreational golfer and ordinary citizen, Bailbonds, I’m under no obligation to play when I’m that sick. So I don’t. I have suffered extreme gastronomic distress on the rare occasion. There was one bathroom-less suburban Milwaukee course where I had to charge into the bushes. Hopefully, that golf towel was never found.

Sicklemeister, I have to pick one of Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson or Jason Day in a pool You get points only for finishing within six strokes of the winner. Also, any sleepers?
–Kris B via Twitter

Fowler was the king of all Nearly Men this year, KayBee Toys, with his multiple top-five finishes in majors. He discovered a new consistency with his retooled Butch Harmon swing. The others are all capable of spectacular weeks, too, but possibly spottier. Uh, that Jordan Spieth kid isn’t bad either, says my pal Captain Obvious.

Van Cynical, How about a Van Optimistical Mailbag to end the year?
–Ben Alberstadt via Twitter

Nahh. For one thing, Bentheredonethat, it doesn’t almost sound like my real last name. For another, that’s just not me. Be true to yourself, a famous man once said. Davy Crockett, I think. Or Disraeli. I don’t know. Put on one of your Up With People eight-tracks and pretend I took a Valium.

Sickle, I couldn’t disagree with you more on world ranking points for Tiger’s Hero World Challenge. When are we going to see that many top 20 players in a tournament again? Doral? It’s the best or second best field from October through March.
–Brian Rosenwald via Twitter

There is strength in numbers, Rosewater. Eighteen players doesn’t meet my minimum definition of a tournament. It’s an outing, that’s all. If you added 120 more players from the Web.com Tour, Jordan Spieth probably still wins but he doesn’t win by 10. All these guys are good. A win over 153 players doesn’t compare with a win over 17 others. By that logic, the strongest field of the year is the Grand Slam of Golf with the four major-winners. We agree to disagree.

Vans, How can OWGR ranking points be awarded for an 18-player event? The only thing with fewer players is a Ryder Cup.
–Rick Fisher via Twitter

I think it has something to do with Tiger being the host and IMG originally putting this tournament together. The ranking points are an enticement for the players who show up, interrupting their off-season breaks in December, certainly a far bigger enticement than the appearance/prize money because most of these players already have more money than they’ll ever spend. This is just another reason why world-ranking points shouldn’t be used to determine eligibility for fields of major championships or any other events.

Van Cynical, Jack Nicklaus has a new course in Cabo (Mexico) that has a three-quarter mile cart ride. Does the world really need another unwalkable course?
–Brian Norman via Twitter

I agree with you in concept, B-Shark, but the sad reality is that without cart revenue, we’d probably be seeing an average of three golf courses close every day instead of one. It’s a dirty little secret of golf that while walking is seen as noble and pure, a lot of golfers prefer prefer riding. (See earlier “Fat Guys in the Woods” reference.) Plus there are seniors who have bad wheels and can’t really get around 18 anymore. Carts are here to stay. Caddies are in critical condition, at least in America.

Vans, When are you taking all your faithful readers and followers on a golf trip to Australia?
–Brian Bailey via Twitter

When one of you drops me a check for 500 grand, I’ll set that up. Even the unfaithful readers can tag along. I’m also waiting to be able to be beamed directly to Perth instead of sitting on a plane for 20-plus hours.

Van Cynical, What’s the best upgrade from traditional attire for golf in cold weather?
–Lionel Mandrake via Twitter

Start with a flight to Phoenix, Magician. If that’s not possible, well, I just picked up a Foot-Joy lined sweater a few weeks ago (for something like $150) and it’s strong. Throw a rain jacket on top of that and you’ve got two layers of a veritable anti-cold Maginot Line. I also like my old Pro Quip rain sweater, which repels moisture — it really works — and is also good in cold temps. To add another layer without limiting your swing, a polar vest is a good option, like any of the jackets or vests in the Zero Restriction line. I also like to start with a first layer of something light — an UnderArmour long-sleeved, tight-fitting pullover or a thin vinyl pullover or one of those stretchy Sun Mountain jackets. A thin layer to keep the heat in works great beneath a vest and a heavier jacket or lined sweater. If you need more than four layers, though, you’re going to have trouble swinging. If it’s that cold, Phoenix (or another warm destination) remains your best option.

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