#AskAlan, Vol. 11
With thoughts on Nelly Korda’s future, Collin Morikawa as POY, Abe Ancer’s breakthrough, a better Stableford stage, dream Scottish Open venues, unvaxxed Tour pros and the death rattle of the WGCs
By Alan Shipnuck
Looking into your crystal ball, at the end on Nelly’s career, how many majors and total wins will she have? @DREAMWeaver2784
Christina Kim and I kicked this around in this week’s Full Send podcast. Prognosticating a long career is always dicey—who would have ever predicted the long major droughts for Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in what were supposed to be their primes?—but it’s especially flummoxing in the women’s game. Yani Tseng and Jiyai Shin both reached number one in their 20s and then fell off the face of the earth. As a teen, Lydia Ko looked like she might break every record in the book, but her early 20s have been a (relative) struggle. The difference with Nelly is that she been bred for this. Her entire family understands what it takes to excel and gives her an incredible support system. She has also been blessed with an otherworldly chill. Throw in a syrupy swing that she already owns, and it’s hard not to let the imagination run wild. I’m gonna predict Korda approaches an Ochoa-esque win total in the high 20s but with far more majors; an Inbee-like total of seven feels right. These are huge expectations, but Korda is clearly a generational talent.
Why does no one in the U.S. know that Abe Ancer has won the best candidate for a fifth major, the Australian Open? @TimAggettsport
Well, a few of us remember his blowout victory in 2018. I think it hurts Ancer’s case that he won at the Lakes, which doesn’t have the mystique of Royal Melbourne or Kingston Heath or New South Wales. Now that Ancer has won on the PGA Tour, that Aussie Open victory will retroactively take on more significance as the start of what looks like is going to be a terrific career.
Why hide the only modified Stableford event at an opposite field tourney? Let’s bring it back to a full-field event. I nominate the Minnesota or Detroit event. Where would you like to see it? @AriSlater1978
I agree Stableford is a nice break from the endless procession of stroke-play events and it should indeed be given a bigger stage. Detroit Golf Club is too much of a stately, traditional venue for the Stableford; the course needs a lot of risk-reward to make it more fun. TPC Twin Cities is better suited to encourage aggression/recklessness, but I think the ideal event for Stableford would be the Phoenix Open. TPC Scottsdale is already a pretty racy course; imagine how raucous that place would be if every golfer in the field threw caution to the wind. Also, it would be great fun to listen to sodden fans trying to do all the math.
Jessica Korda referred to Nelly’s season as legendary and of G.O.A.T. status, saying it’s harder than ever to win out there and she makes it look easy. She also said writers should write more about it. Are 3-win seasons now considered legendary and will you write about it? @BobRoge321
Well, I’m answering this question, aren’t I? I’ve typed plenty about Nelly over the last year. I agree with J. Korda’s larger point, that LPGA fields have never been deeper and it is harder than ever to rack up victories. Winning the Olympics as well as a major championship does add a golden sheen to Nelly’s season, but in 2005 Annika Sorenstam won 10 times, including two majors. In 2000, Karrie Webb (above) had seven victories, including two majors. Nelly would have to go an almighty tear over the rest of this season before we could begin to call it one of the LPGA’s greatest campaigns.
That they’re kind of lame? Small fields, no cut, minimal juice … I think the new schedule is a reflection of public opinion. The WGCs were a great idea—thanks, Shark!—but the Tour forgot what the W was supposed to stand for, marooning the events on boring courses in sophisticated international destinations such as Tucson and Akron. If the WGCs had truly been worldly, visiting the most interesting venues around the globe, the franchise could’ve succeeded. But no one is going to miss the current iteration.
Is Hideki making a run for POY? In the last two weeks he lost in a playoff for an Olympic medal and now loses in a playoff at Memphis. @JStew68129215
I think the key parts of your sentence are “lost” and “loses.” If we’re going to give POY to a guy who has won only one tournament all year, why not go with Phil? Surely his win at the PGA Championship was more electric and impactful than Matsuyama’s Masters victory. The answer at this moment is Collin Morikawa, who not only has a major championship victory but also a big-time win at the WGC at Concession. Jon Rahm’s tremendous consistency amid various COVID complications makes him my second choice, but he’ll have to win at least one of the playoff events to supersede Morikawa.
Where should the Scottish Open be held next year for its debut as a PGA Tour event? Would Turnberry be an option considering it’s been (allegedly) removed from the Open rota? @martincbrennan
For such a proud golf nation, Scotland has a sad history with its national open. It was played in 1935 and ’36 then went dormant for nearly 40 years, returning in 1972 and ’73 and then disappearing for another 13 years. From 1986 to 2010 it was contested almost exclusively at Loch Lomond and Gleneagles, two nice courses that, alas, have design features that look like they’ve been airlifted from Florida. Only in the last decade has the Scottish Open begun visiting some great linksland courses. All of this is to say, the possibilities are endless for the venue to host next year’s momentous championship.
My choice would by Royal Dornoch, which is a superb test, one of the game’s citadels and among the ultimate pilgrimages. To introduce it to a global audience would turn the volume way up on the tournament. Or let’s pick a fun, quirky, quintessential links course and hope the wind blows. Cruden Bay is my favorite course in the world, and North Berwick West is close behind. Either would be outrageous fun. Yeah, they’re too short for the modern game, but so is every other course on the planet. I do love your suggestion to go to Turnberry. The tweedy gents at the R & A have made it clear they won’t take an Open Championship there as long as Donald Trump is still around to steal the spotlight. But COVID, fast food and the stress of the presidency didn’t faze Trump, so it doesn’t appear Turnberry will be hosting an Open Championship anytime soon. In that case, bringing Scotland’s national championship there would be awesome, despite what would inevitably be a bit of a sideshow from the owner.
A bunch of unvaxxed pro golfers at a tournament sponsored by a hospital for immunocompromised kids seems like … a dangerous idea? @sindap
It’s part of the new marketing slogan: PGA Tour fever … catch it!
Two readers asked almost the identical question, so Shane’s melancholy column certainly touched a nerve. Two things can be true at the same time: 1) Bryson has repeatedly made an ass of himself, 2) the constant heckling (encouraged by Brooks Koepka) is out of control and unbecoming. It’s time for the Tour to flood Bryson’s galleries with Pinkertons and eject the yahoos because something needs to change.
Given the U.S. is now relying on players with European parentage to win them gold medals, does it make you worry about your Ryder Cup prospects? @StevenStewart18
Of all my worries about the upcoming U.S. Ryder Cup team—including slumping stars and a toxic team room—Xander Schauffele’s German father, Stefan (below), is the least of them!