#AskAlan, Vol. 14

With thoughts about Cantlay as POY, the Solheim Cup, the one idea that could save the FedEx Cup, Bryson’s babysitter at the Ryder Cup, Bryson’s chip yips, the sacking of Caves Valley, all-time displays of clutch golf and much more

By Alan Shipnuck

Are Rahm and Cantlay playing this week straight up for PoY? @talkinstatic

It partially depends how we define it: Is it the player of 2021 (as I tend to think of it) or the player of the season, which the Tour is pushing so as to include the 2020 wraparound? Because Patrick Cantlay’s win at the Zozo last fall could loom large in the calculus; that gives him three victories in the ’20-21 season, compared to only one for Jon Rahm. That’s a big difference. There is also the Memorial factor. That is one of Cantlay’s wins, made possible mostly because Rahm had to W/D after testing positive for COVID with a 6-shot lead heading into the final round. No doubt some voters (whether they’re players or typists) will mentally give Rahm credit for that win. Given Rahm’s remarkable consistency (including top 8s in all four majors) and the magnitude of his U.S. Open victory, he gets my vote at this moment. But a Cantlay win at the Tour Championship would tip the scales.

Can you think of a performance that rivals the repetitive clutchness of Cantlay? @NoahWieder

For some reason, as I was watching, my mind when to Charl Schwartzel in the final round of the 2011 Masters, when he poured in putt after putt on the back nine. That’s a much bigger stage, but Cantlay’s exhibition seemed to last forever. I walked the back nine at the 2009 PGA Championship, and what Y.E. Yang did to Tiger Woods remains a gold standard of clutchness. Tiger (and Bob May!) at Vallhalla, Jack at Augusta in ’86, Tom Watson (and Big Jack!) at Turnberry, Phil at Augusta in ’04, Hale Irwin’s back nine 31 at the ’90 U.S. Open … No offense to Cantlay, but let’s not let recency bias obscure some epic performances. 

How much attention is the Solheim Cup going to get going up against the Tour Championship? @T2Va

Hmmm, let’s see, you have a group of likable young women playing their hearts out for each other and their flag(s) at a spectacular venue versus a soulless corporate cash-grab headlined by a bunch of petty, bitchy, entitled stars on one of golf’s most boring championship courses. Seems like an easy decision for this viewer! Thank goodness the Solheim Cup ends on Labor Day so the women will have the stage to themselves, as it should be.

What, if anything, would you change about these “playoffs”? @Alverdonk

Since abolishing them is not listed as an option, I would make them far more Darwinian: three tournaments, starting with 120 players … and after every round, 10 of them are eliminated. The most interesting part of the playoffs are the guys at the bottom of the points list trying to survive and advance, so let’s bake that into every day, which would offer a juicy subplot running parallel to the drama atop the leaderboard. (There would be a playoff just about every day for the last spots.) By the time you get to the final round of the Tour Championship, only 10 players would be left. All scores get erased and they then play in a 10-some in an 18-hole shootout, with the winner taking home $20 million. (Let’s give the other $15 million to Youth On Course.) Second place gets a set of steak knives.

Do you chip as bad as Bryson does with your one-length irons? @BobRoge321

Eek, that was shades of Tiger at the 2015 Phoenix Open! I think Bryson’s issues are metaphysical, but for me I did find the extra-long wedges to be a challenge on finesse shots around the green. I would choke up quite a lot, but having the butt of the club stick out so much was visually unappealing and gave me the sense that the pendulum action of the club was altered. My pitching wedge and all of my irons are the same length (37.5 inches), but my gap, sand and lob wedges are all 36 inches, about an inch longer than the typical sand wedge. (I’m 6-foot-1.) So I’m kind of splitting the difference. If you’re interested in single-lengths, know that you don’t have be dogmatic — find what works best for you.

When playing the same hole so many times, why not move pin location? Tee box? @cnolan1176

They should do one or both. There is certainly enough time to cut a new hole.  The golf was redemptive, but in general, I can’t think of anything more tedious than watching the same hole over and over and over and over and over again.

Where is Cantlay v. Bryson on the hate-o-meter? @wiliamhardy

Smack in the middle between Bryson-Brooks and Phil-USGA.

Do you think it’s a little better when we see the result of the shot without knowing the outcome ahead of time? The announcers tell us immediately where it’s going. I thought Cantlay’s shot on 17 was great to watch because they were silent as the ball was in the air. @stanfordpegolf

This is totally a pet peeve of mine too! The announcers love to blurt out, ”It’s right on line.” Or, “Great looking shot here.” I much prefer a few seconds of delicious suspense.

Can we stop with the TV shot of the tiny white ball in the blue sky with zero idea of direction? We have to retire that shot from television. Am I right? @Jminis13

Yeah, this too. What makes golf, and especially the savants on Tour, so awe-inspiring is the scale: To hit it from here all the way to there with such precision is mind-blowing, and tracking the ball in the air destroys that perspective. The shot I really, really crave is Top Tracer, but from behind the green, looking back down the fairway. That would really drive home how far away the players are, and then, magically, the ball drops from the heavens right next to the flag. How cool would that be?

It was mentioned a lot by the UK commentators, but can Caves Valley realistically be changed to turn it into a major venue? Would it take too much work? What changes do you think are needed? #AskAlan @martincbrennan

I’m surprised the UK announcers care about such trifling matters. The answer to your question depends on what you want in your major championship setups. Skinny fairways, long rough and firm greens make for an exacting test, especially for a PGA Championship in May, and Caves could be turned into something like that. But if you want thought-provoking architecture that asks intriguing questions, I’m not sure Caves Valley is it.

Is this kind of course set up “playoff” worthy? Unreal excitement at the end but Bob Hope Classic scoring. Is there any way of making the courses progressively harder from event to event, culminating with 72 holes of pure sadism? #askAlan @TheSecretDuffer

That’s not the PGA Tour brand and not the way it wants to showcase its players. As Rory McIlroy pointed out, the pros want predictable and consistent conditions from week to week, so no way the Tour would ever ruffle that many feathers. But in an alternate universe I think your idea could be compelling.

Does Stricker have to pick Phil so he has someone to pair with Bryson? @wannabgolfer22, @pkeen52, @forearmshivers

It’s starting to look that way! (Shout-out to three readers who all asked very similar questions.) I was warming to the idea of an anti-hero pairing of DeChambeau and Patrick Reed, which could have produced some crazy alchemy. If you take the former’s long game and the latter’s short game, it’s quite a formidable combination. But I think Reed is out of the mix, given his injury and health woes. For the last decade-plus the U.S. team’s designated babysitters were Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson. Webb is definitely still in the conversation for a captain’s pick: Going back to the Open Championship, 11 of his last 20 rounds are 67 or better. But he and Phil could wind up as vice captains, clearing the way for the next generation of talent. Maybe Tony Finau gets the call? He’s the most agreeable guy in the world and plays a power game similar to Bryson’s. There aren’t many other candidates. Part of me would love to see a Brooks-Bryson pairing in fourballs. They would both play their hearts out trying to one-up the other guy. It’s not your traditional team spirit, but it could produce some epic golf. It would certainly be the golf spectacle of the year.

Why does Crans-Sur-Sierre sit on the list of most picturesque courses, and is it on your bucket list? (Or have you already gotten there?) #AskAlan @Stephen25693465

It’s near the top of the scenery charts, clearly. Alas, I haven’t made it yet. I have played some mountain golf in the French and Italian Alps, and it was mind-blowing. I can’t think of anything more thrilling than watching a ball fly against those beautiful mountain backdrops. Crans-Sur-Sierre looks quirky and weird in spots, which is definitely my cup of tea. Need to make that trip someday.

Why is my practice swing good and my real swing like a dying giraffe? @davelittle32

That took a dark turn. But I understand the effect that little dimpled ball can have on the psyche. All of my bad swings are from lunging at the top. I’m just so eager to smack that thing! Sounds like you have a similar issue. Ben Crenshaw once offered a great bit of advice, delivered in a Scottish brogue: “You gotta wait for it, laddie.” Another way of thinking about it is to replicate your practice swing and let the ball get in the way. Go forth and prosper.

Alan Shipnuck

2 thoughts on “#AskAlan, Vol. 14”

  1. Shipwreck
    Always delighted to see a fellow Chicagoan’s creativity cited, as with David Mamet’s epic aphorism concerning cutlery.
    Stay healthy and safe, and if you need a playing partner fluent in French for Crans, and JVDV is not available, Je suis ton mec. Pretty sure Jack G will join the entourage too!

  2. Regarding pouring in putts, how about Tony Jacklin at [it should have been a corn field and a few cows] Hazeltine. Talk to Art Spander about getting attached by Dave Hill; the press room was different then. I’m looking forward to hearing your take on 2021 at Sharp Park.
    Dan James

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