Van Cynical Mailbag: Predicting Who Wins Remaining Majors, Olympics

May 3, 2016

This seemed like a good time to look back on some of my predictions for the 2015 golf season, especially since I don’t have any other ideas for a column.

Let’s see how I did:

Yankees go home. Well, I predicted that at some point last year, only one American player would be in the world ranking’s top 10. Then came Jordan Spieth, who shot that prediction in the ass. It once wasn’t that far-fetched. Right now, there are only four players in the top 10—Spieth, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson.
Maybe I meant to say LPGA players—nope, there’s two Americans there, Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson. So this pick didn’t work out.

On the side: I predicted that you’d see at least one ex-long putter give sidesaddle putting a try once the anchored putting ban took effect. Adam Scott had been asking about it, apparently for his dad, and Tim Clark reportedly tried it, but no tour players have taken it on the course. I messed with sidesaddle—or face-on putting, as experts prefer to call it—but I suppose that doesn’t count. And tour rookie Bryson DeChambeau is expected to break it out but not until he nails down exempt status. So, sort of wrong again.

REVEALED! Check Out SI’s Anonymous Players Poll

Miller time: I said viewers would miss Johnny Miller on the U.S. Open telecast. Wow. Things went so badly in the Fox Sports era that Greg Norman got the boot after one season and Joe Buck now has a cohost, tour player Brad Faxon. So yes, Miller was missed and will be even more so this year at Oakmont. Nailed it.

Call the Feds: I said nobody would pay attention to the FedEx Cup points race. Which is a lot like an old George Carlin weather forecast: Short term, night. Long term forecast, summer. Quick, who won last year’s FedEx Cup title? You don’t really remember, you just guessed Spieth because he won everything else. Lucky guess.

Tiger down: I said Tiger would win again unless he reinjured his back or his knee or his achilles. The doctors agree, I was right. Unfortunately.

Ladies Day: I predicted a 15-year-old would win the U.S. Women’s Open. Well, it was an unknown 22-year-old, In Gee Chun. Last week, however, a 14-year-old amateur, Karah Sanford, made the cut in the Volunteers for America Shootout and tied for 52nd (next to last). Close enough. I’m counting the win.

Road hole: I predicted John Daly’s endorsement deal with Rock Bottom Golf would prove to be ironic. Count the basket.

The Missing Roars: For some reason, I picked Rory McIlroy to come back strong and win two more majors. Nah, he pitched a shutout and doesn’t really look like he’s close, still, to major-winning form. Totally dead wrong.

A Phil shot: I examined Phil Mickelson’s dreadful stats from 2014 and weaseled out with a lame prediction—that he’d turn 45 in June. C’mon, man, serious attempts only.

Debbie Downer: Golf courses would continue to close at an alarming rate, I said, and that the Western drought and the water issue in general would start putting some courses out of business. Right, right and right… though I’d rather be wrong.

Debbie Downer, Part II: Foot Golf and TopGolf, I said, wouldn’t help create any more golfers and the game’s decline would continue. Even the number of baby boomers golfing fell last year, a sign of the coming apocalypse. 

MORE: Take the SI Anonymous Players Quiz Yourself!

Slow good: Well, my call that the USGA’s “While We’re Young” ad campaign would alleviate all slow play in the world was a little off base. No, wait. I actually said it was a big waste of time and money. Right after all.

Farewell: My latest prediction that you wouldn’t read all the way to this paragraph is hereby wrong. But that one’s on you, pal.

Hey Van Cynical, What is Donald Trump’s real golf handicap?—Brad Ford via Twitter

Well, Fairlane, this sounds suspiciously like a trick question. I watched Trump play a few holes at Spyglass during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in the ‘90s—I hustled out there after he’d made an ace and, being Trump, he held a press conference with a few writers on one of the tee boxes. I remember he talked about how much his girlfriend (fiancée, maybe) Marla Maples really, really loved him. It was fun and weird and uncomfortable at the same time. See this year’s primaries for details. Trump is a big guy, and he could hit it then. He claimed to be a single-digit handicap, but he raked in more non-gimme putts than a mob boss, or so I’m told, so those 74s were probably more like 79s. His official handicap at Winged Foot in 2011 was 3.9. Uh-huh. Not sure how he plays now but he’s got some age on him, so I’ll put him at a 10, which is not bad. In a golf match versus Obama, I’d go with the Donald.

Van Symmetrical, I got bored watching the @Zurich_Classic so thinking ahead of the majors and Olympics, please predict your 4 winners!—The Bogey Train

Luckily, I can accurately predict the weather months in advance so I know exactly how each course will play. Oakmont: Jason Day. You’ve got to handle all facets of the game at Oakmont, the ultimate test, and I believe Day is the best golfer out there. British: You’ve got to expect some wind at Royal Troon. It could be an iron player’s contest with slow-ish green. Upset of the year, Lee Westwood pulls a page out of Darren Clarke’s playbook and steals a major. PGA: Baltusrol, heat and softer greens, maybe dormant conditions, I’ve got Rory McIlroy racking up another major. The Olympics: Jordan Spieth has to win something. A gold medal isn’t all bad. 

Hey Custom Vans, Why does Jenny Shin talk with a British accent?—Jeffbogus via Twitter

Blimey, I shan’t say I know, old chap, but I shall endeavor to look into it. She moved from South Korea to Torrance, Calif., and I don’t believe they speak the Queen’s English there, old boy. The mystery deepens. Come, Watson, we haven’t a moment to lose! Cheerio.

Van Cynical, Never mind John Daly for the Golf Hall of Fame. What about Ian Woosnam and 52 worldwide wins?—I Woosnam Supporter via Twitter

Daly in the Hall is a non-starter for me. He never made a Ryder Cup team in 20 years, so he was never one of the 12 best American golfers at any given time? That’s not Hall stuff. Fifty-two wins, a Masters? Woosie should’ve gotten into the Hall before Monty, hands down, no questions asked. There’s no height minimum, right?

Van Shanksalot, Do any golf writers have a Snapchat account as good as Rickie’s?—David Collins via Twitter

No, since hardly any writers know what Snapchat is. But AC/DC, let’s see Rickie try to file a story via a telecopier sometime. Six minutes per page to send. So tedious.