#Ask Alan, Vol. 10

With final thoughts on an unforgettable Olympics

By Alan Shipnuck

What do you think of the suggestion from a number of prominent golfers that caddies should be awarded medals at the Olympics? @pkeen52

I understand the sentiment but strongly disagree. Coaches in basketball and water polo don’t get gold medals when their team wins it all, and they have much more direct say in their success by choosing the squads, implementing schemes and managing substitutions and strategy during games. This year’s podium helps settle the question, as the silver and bronze medalists didn’t have grizzled veterans on their bags but rather spouses who were giddy just to be there. There is also the potential awkwardness of player and caddie being from different countries—if they earn gold, which anthem do you play? And how weird would it be if some tiny country turned out the winning caddie and he or she became the first person from that nation to win a gold medal. Are we really going to celebrate that achievement when the caddie hasn’t hit a single shot?

How do you think this finish translates to Xander’s next year of majors? @stanfordpegolf

It’s a huge boost. The guy is so talented and consistent. That Xander Schauffele hasn’t won more to this point in his career is proof of how metaphysical success is at golf’s highest level. Now that he has kicked down the door on such a grand stage, I expect him to just keep going.

Rory Sabbatini

Do you think Rory Sabbatini knows all the words to the Slovakian national anthem? @shaunrsa5

I’m sure he can hum parts of it!

Do you think there should be a team competition in Olympic golf? @pfritzburgh

It’s a nice thought but problematic in practice. Hideki Matsuyama’s medal chances go way down if he has to take on a relatively weak countryman. Same for, uh, Sabbatini and plenty of others who are by far the best player from their country. A mixed-team event has its own issues. Take South Africa. It pumps out tons of good male players, but for whatever reason, doesn’t have a woman in the top 75 of the world rankings. There is so much squawking about the Olympic format, including calls for match play, but the PGA Tour’s annual match play event is often a turkey. The gold standard for the game has always been 72 holes of stroke play, and there is no reason to deviate from that with medals on the line. The one change I would like to see is having the field expanded to 100 or 120 players, so it’s deeper and richer in storylines.

I know the Olympic athletes are playing for love of country, honor, blah, blah, blah … can we assume their club sponsorships come with some sort of cash bonus for Olympic performance? @paulkoehorst

Oh, for sure. And there’s nothing wrong with that. For the equipment industry to grow, it needs to reach new customers in China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Germany and other far-flung places. How many folks there know what the PGA Championship is? It ain’t many, but everyone everywhere understands the power of the gold medal. 

#askalan The obvious: Would the athletes rather win a gold medal or the FedEx Cup? What’s you take on the relative value between the two? @DStan58

Ask Justin Rose. He talks often about the thrill of taking gold, but I’ve never heard him wax about the FedEx Cup. Xander is as chill as they come, but he was clearly moved by the significance of winning for his country. Granted, $15 million all at once certainly doesn’t suck, but the gold medal is it own windfall: Rose parlayed his glittering performance in Rio into much higher-profile arrangements with blue-chip companies such as MasterCard and Morgan Stanley and Zurich and new mega-deals with Homna and Bonobos, among others. Guarantee all of that was worth a lot more than $15 million. Every year there is a new FedEx Cup winner, joining legends of the game like Bill Haas and Brandt Snedeker and Billy Horschel. It’s all about money, so fans have no reason to care. Winning a gold medal for your country is a rare and precious opportunity, and I think any sane golfer would choose that over the filthy lucre of the FedEx Cup.

Excitement level from 1-10 on seeing how Riv plays in August? @KYECHSPORTS

A solid 11. Even in February, when the greens can be soft and the turf lush, Riviera is a fascinating test. It’s gonna be a racetrack when L.A. hosts the Summer Games in 2028. Bring it on.

Should the Olympics be amateurs only? @thezipr23

Gawd, no. Can you name 10 amateur golfers? One? There’s no juice there. Even with a handful of big-name pros myopically opting out, we’ve still had two intensely exciting Olympic Games, because the chase for medals featured well-known players in whom we were already invested. Anonymous amateurs would badly dilute the product.

Which course would you rather play: Rio or Tokyo? Also, don’t you think TW would kill for that medal, thus bifurcating his career compared to Jack’s? @RealTurtleBR

#AskAlan Tiger

I thought Kasumigaseki Country Club was fantastic—it reminded me of Augusta National in some spots. But I have a soft spot in my heart for the Olympic Course in Rio. I loved the scrubby, sandy look, and Gil Hanse baked so much strategy and risk-reward into the holes. It’d be my choice by a whisker.

It’s true that both Tiger and Phil were openly lusting after a spot in the Olympics. They realized what a cool experience it would have been. I think more than anything they wanted to share it with their kids. But you’re right, a medal for either would have added to the discussion of their respective places in history.

Is being nicknamed “Shipwreck” by @useGolfFACTS one of the top 10 achievements of your career? @MidwesternGator

I gotta say, Justine outdid herself with that one. Folks have been calling me that since recess at University Park Elementary School, but for Mrs. Reed (lurking, below) to go there was an unexpected delight. Not sure it makes the top 10, but it’s definitely the 11th most prestigious honor of my life.

Alan Shipnuck

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