The Van Cynical Mailbag: Rory McIlroy's caddie, and the kinder, gentler Tiger Woods

The Van Cynical Mailbag: Rory McIlroy’s caddie, and the kinder, gentler Tiger Woods

Rory McIlroy and his caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico—I am lounging in the lobby at the fabulous Rio Mar Beach Resort here because not only does it have a breathtaking view of the ocean, it’s got free wireless in the lobby. The WIFI is $14.95 a day in the room. They’re not messing with kids here. Laptops are portable, you know. So here I am, one bump-and-run chip shot from Rio Mar’s casino, where I can undoubtedly turn my lucky number (22) into a big payoff playing blackjack.

What’s up in Puerto Rico? Next week’s Puerto Rico Open, a PGA Tour stop that is held concurrently with the Cadillac Championship at Doral. And as Donald Trump pointed out to me the other day in a phone conversation (most of which you could read in my story at, next week he will become the only man in history to host two PGA Tour events at courses he owns at the same time. Trump just bought Doral, in case you missed it, while the Puerto Rico Open is played at Trump International Golf Course, practically next door to the Rio Mar.

Of course, the World Golf Championship event at Doral will feature most of the world’s top-ranked players. The Puerto Rico Open field features everyone else. It’s actually popular with the players who come because it’s got killer fishing. Not to mention great beaches. Any chance you remember last year’s exciting playoff winner? Didn’t think so. It was Michael Bradley. You can look it up.

I’ve already learned something I didn’t know. Puerto Rico is east of Cuba. Also, you don’t need a passport to get here. And on the drive from the San Juan airport to the Rio Mar, I passed at least four Wendy’s, maybe five. Also assorted Burger Kings and KFC’s. Haven’t tried any of them out yet—maybe tomorrow after I caddie for my son Mike Van Sickle in the first of two qualifiers for the Open at Rio Mar Country Club’s Rivers Course.

Any questions?

When you use the word “champion” and a guy like Hunter Mahan in the same sentence… you must be kidding. It’s an oxymoron isn’t it? So he has one good week. A few good shots. Big deal. At best he is just slightly better than the average touring pro in the world who had a good week and won a second- or third-tier tournament. And I really don’t think you are going to find a real champion underneath that silly and stupid looking hat. MOST champions look like champions. On and off the course.
–Phil, Los Angeles

Who are we supposed to say is the champion of the Accenture World Match Play Championship—Tiger Woods? Hunter Mahan won it. He’s the champion, end of story. As for your inexplicable and nonsensical Hunter venom, it sounds like somebody lost a big wager. I don’t understand your rant at all but, hey, it was too ridiculous not to use. I mean, his hat? His hat? What’s wrong with his hat?

Gary, Why is the media giving TW a pass on the club throwing? I thought the new TW was beyond that or has Sean Foley just perfected his club-throwing swing?
—Tim Delaney

You didn’t really fall for that whole routine about Tiger changing his ways and all that upon his return, did you, TD? Clearly, Tiger hasn’t perfected his club-throwing. Those are mere flips. Let’s see him really helicopter one off a tall bluff or into an ocean. Pebble Beach would’ve been perfect. But back to your point, TD—Tiger’s right-hand grip is way too strong for properly flinging his club. He was in a much better position for that when he was working with Hank Haney.

Whatever happened to Paul Azinger? Is he going to play or be an analyst again?
–Larry Richels, Bloomington, Minn.

Since he hasn’t played a Champions Tour event since early in 2010, it appears that Zinger is pretty much done competing, although he’s welcome to change his mind at any time. Guess you don’t watch much golf, Larry, because Zinger is a frequent analyst for ESPN on their coverage at the majors.

Isn't it time Rory McIlroy got rid of his terrible caddie? I'm sick of watching the guy do a bad job, make the wrong club choices and offer no words of advice, to name but a few of things he is hopeless at.
–Nick Scrutton, via Facebook

I’d be curious to learn how you know what Rory and his caddie say in private and exactly which clubs Rory chose that were wrong. The guy won the U.S. Open last year by a kajillion strokes, and he’s about to be the No. 1 player in the world rankings one of these weeks. Yeah, they’re a horrible pairing. With apologies (but no royalty payment) to ESPN—"C'mon, man! At least you didn’t rip him for his hat.

Gary, I saw where you correctly picked Hunter Mahan to win, after the Match Play Championship final four was determined. So who do you like at the Honda Classic this week.
–Joe Callaghan via Twitter

I also picked Luke Donald to win the Match Play at the start of the week and he didn’t make it past the first round. So remember, you get what you pay for. I have no idea. One bad swing at Honda can turn into a 7 in a hurry. So in that sense, it’s anybody’s game. But I’ll tell you what, the big kid from Georgia, Harris English, is a future star in the making. While he was still in school at Georgia, he won a Nationwide Tour event last year. He’s got big game.

I also like the way Q-school grad John Huh, who won last week in Mexico, is on a roll. Huh is already on the fast track and his one-syllable last name is pure fun. Also, I can usually spell it correctly. It’s my new second-favorite golfer’s name. Still No. 1? Na.