#AskAlan, Vol. 17

Tiger’s Ryder Cup legacy, the USGA vs. PGA of America, Morikawa vs. Homa, 54-hole events on the LPGA, Rory’s future, the dearth of pro golfers in Monterey and lots of thoughts about this week’s Ryder Cup

By Alan Shipnuck


Is the Ryder Cup overrated? Or overhyped? It gets built up like it’s a major, yet whenever I read or listen to discussions of any given player’s accomplishments, it’s generally very low on the list, if it makes the discussion at all. #AskAlan @tombagjr

Of course it’s overrated and overhyped, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important to a player’s legacy. Colin Montgomerie (zero major championship victories) isn’t in the Hall of Fame without his Ryder Cup heroics. The reputations of Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and sundry other Euros (Ignacio Garrido! Peter Baker!) have also been enhanced by their heroics. The comeback at Brookline added to Ben Crenshaw’s mystique, and Paul Azinger is still dining out on his stellar captaincy. I agree individual Ryder Cup records are rarely cited, but the impression the players and captains have left in the sport’s ultimate crucible certainly lingers.

Which Cal golfer has a better career, Max Homa or Collin Morikawa? @JStew68129215

Oh, c’mon. Winning two major championships is, almost always, a Hall of Fame career, and Morikawa is already there. For sure, Homa has gone to a different level with two wins in his last 18 starts. He excels on firm, fast courses where par is at a premium, so expect him to start contending in majors soon. But he’s six years older than Morikawa! Credit to Homa that he’s even in this discussion.

What is it gonna take to bench Brooks Koepka and get Max Homa on the U.S. team? @GregorGeal

Alas, we’re stuck with the big galoot. I think this is an important week for Koepka and he’s shrewd enough to know it. A lot of public sentiment has metastasized around Brooks this year, as his bullying/trolling has become increasingly distasteful and obnoxious. And this is the one week all year when Americans are actually rooting for Bryson DeChambeau; if Koepka subverts the U.S. Ryder Cup team with his noxious behavior, the backlash will be swift.

If the LPGA wants to be equivalent to the men’s tour, as they should be, can they keep going with 54-hole finishes? #AskAlan @brianros1

The vast majority of the LPGA’s events are now 72 holes. I don’t mind the occasional three-day tournament, like this week in Arkansas. It adds a little more urgency to each round, that’s for sure.

Tiger Woods

Is anyone ever going to publicly say that Tiger Woods never cared about the Ryder Cup? He always said he only cared about majors, and his Ryder Cup record was always mediocre even though he was the dominant No. 1 in the world. @JonathonJFelix

It’s more nuanced than that. Tiger never wants to get beat, in anything, and the U.S. futility on his watch certainly bugged him. But he spent the 103 weeks between Ryder Cups trying to intimidate every other top player, and even in the sanctum of the team room, Woods was disinclined to reveal anything from the well-guarded fortress of his inner self. That made him a crappy teammate, but it doesn’t mean he didn’t care. For my Phil Mickelson biography, I’ve been exploring the Ryder Cup dynamics around both Tiger and Phil. Stewart Cink (who played on five Ryder Cup teams in the Woods-Mickelson era) told me something that resonates: “Tiger’s was a much more mechanical and solitary approach. He was like, I’m going to go out there and try to win five points and that’s all I can do. He tried to break his job down into its simplest form and not get too wrapped up in the team thing.” This attitude works well enough for singles, in which Woods has a 4-2-2 record. Alas, the Ryder Cup is a team event and his record in partner play is a pathetic 9-19-1. Tiger simply didn’t know how to lift his teammates or make them feel comfortable. Those are related to various personality defects, but I don’t think apathy is one of them. 

Does the PGA of America have a feud with the USGA? Hale Irwin and Lee Janzen have five U.S. Opens between them but never a Ryder Cup captaincy. Sutton, Azinger, Stricker, Lehman combined have three majors but all got the nod. #AskAlan @BradleySmith328

Yeah, there’s always been a low-key feud between these powerful institutions, but Pete Bevacqua and now Seth Waugh have helped to mellow out things. Janzen’s snub reflects the hard truth that he wasn’t popular with his peers. Irwin not getting the nod is more baffling. He’s a badass, an intellect and would have been a stirring leader of men. I’ll never understand that one.

#AskAlan I saw some people complaining that Captain Stricker actually played in a Senior Tour event last week instead of working and reworking his lineup. I say get away and then work your tail off this week. What say you? @wadster13

Yeah, he has had three years to grind on this stuff! The demands of the captaincy are so overblown. Stricker has had an army of vice captains and statisticians at his disposal for months. If he needed all of last week to figure this stuff out, the U.S. is in trouble.

Who gets more points next week: Morikawa or Poulter? #AskAlan @BrooksieGolf

Fifty years from now, when I’m in hospice, I’m still going to be thinking of how Poulter dusted Dustin Johnson in singles in Paris. There is not a single thing Poults does better than DJ on a golf course, and there’s lots of stuff at which Johnson is superior. But you can’t measure heart and guts and balls on a Trackman. At the same time, Morikawa is a killer, and his precision will be such a weapon, especially in alternate shot. I’ll take the Champion Golfer of the Year by half a point.

Could anyone, like Anthony Kim, play in the Ryder Cup if used as a captain’s pick? @robmillertime

Yep. There used to be all kinds of red tape, like you had to be a Class A member of the PGA of America; this prevented Hal Sutton from playing on the ’83 team even though he was one of the two or three best players in the world. But all the unnecessary criteria has been stripped away. I think the sun has set on AK, but it would be cool if someday a U.S. captain plucked a red-hot player off the Korn Ferry Tour.

Has there ever been a player with a stranger career as of today than Rory? To win four majors so early and now not have added to that total for a decent spell but still playing great golf; has there been another player like him career-wise? #AskAlan @TheGhostofhogan

Ernie Els, a little bit. He won a U.S. Open at 24, and had a second one by 27. Then he suffered a five-year drought during which he was a very productive player but couldn’t win another big one. Maybe Els offers hope for McIlroy, in that he capped his career by winning the Open Championship when he was 42; the 18-year span between first and last major is one of the longest ever. Most players, even all-time greats, tend to win their majors in bunches: Palmer won his seven in six years; Watson eight in eight; Faldo six in nine; Seve five in nine. By next year’s Masters McIlroy will be going on 11 years since his first. Clearly he is a transcendent talent who can find “it” at any moment, but golf history is beginning to work against him.

Why do you think it is that not a single PGA Tour pro, as far as I know, resides in the Monterey area? @ACartride

They’re not cool enough? You could cite the high property and state income taxes, but that hasn’t dissuaded everyone else. Certainly great golf courses abound, although there is a dearth of world-class practice facilities at the private clubs, like you find in Jupiter and Scottsdale. If you have your own jet, the Monterey airport is wonderful, but flying commercial is problematic—I make a lot of long drives to/from the San Jose and San Francisco airports. I don’t think any one of these factors is a deal-breaker, but taken together they represent significant obstacles. Hey, at least we have Johnny Miller.

You’re Captain Stricker…and it’s all tied after Saturday. Who’s the name in the last group for Sunday? @HofSpillane

Justin Thomas. I love Jordan Spieth’s grit, but this is a lot of golf course for him. (I’d put him out first.) Dustin Johnson has the game for Whistling Straits, but I don’t think he wants that smoke. Koepka is too much of a wild card with his injuries; if he plays well over the first two days he would merit consideration, but you gotta wonder how he’ll hold up physically (and if he’d be honest if he’s hurting). Thomas has the talent, but more important, he has the spice.

3 thoughts on “#AskAlan, Vol. 17”

  1. JT is a complete mental midget, and would melt like a candle under that kind of pressure. Schauffele or Berger have the game and the fortitude to go out last. Harris English’s zombie-esque temperament would work, as I can’t see him getting ruffled by anything short of a meteor crash-landing in Lake Michigan. Also, Patrick Cantlay is the real answer here, unless we want the whole event to be called on account of darkness.

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