#AskAlan

#AskAlan, Vol. 3

With thoughts on the torture of tournament golf, Higgo’s magic, a U.S. Open favorite, the plight of the short-knocker, the glut of golf podcasts and much more

#AskAlan, Chesson Hadley looked 20 years older on the 18th green than he looked on the 1st tee. What other sport puts your mental strength on full display and is as cruel when you are not up to the moment? @DizzyG1964 

That’s exactly what makes tournament golf so riveting. The player is all alone out there with nowhere to hide, and the ball is just sitting there, mocking him. It’s not a reaction sport like tennis or basketball; nothing happens until the competitor makes it so, which is why golf is the ultimate mind-body challenge. It was rough to watch Hadley overcome by the moment but also incredible television. 

Hey #AskAlan- What has to happen at Torrey for it to be exciting? Last time we got Tiger/Rocco. As a native San Diegan, it pains me to say that having to follow Kiawah is a huge bummer. We need 1955-type of rough back at the Open. @woolydub 

Well, this feels like the most wide-open major championship since…the last one. We are in a new age of parity in which there isn’t really a favorite. It feels like every top player is wounded in some way and you can easily talk yourself into a dozen guys who could/should win. But the not-knowing is part of the fun and it opens the door for the unexpected, as we saw at Kiawah. Obviously a bunch of big names atop the leaderboard makes things more fun but the U.S. Open is a war of attrition and watching players slowly lose the tournament is, for the sadistic golf fan, its own kind of unique fun. As for the rough, it’s not quite knee-high but it is already thick and juicy and the week has just begun.

#AskAlan

Does the PGL snap up Higgo in the next fortnight? @mikeclaytongolf 

They’d be crazy not to try—the kid is a star. In South Africa and Europe and now on the PGA Tour he has proven to be a ruthlessly effective closer at the tender age of 22. Add that to his jaw-dropping pyrotechnics and Higgo is an asset to any tour…even the poetry-spouting mercenaries at the PGL.  

#AskAlan, Why does everyone in golf have a podcast? How can the LPGA gain more exposure? Does it need a villain? @TheGhostofhogan 

Well, it’s true there is currently a glut of golf podcasts but unlike me, the trained professional who must keep abreast of all things, you are free to not listen! In fact, every sport is saturated in podcasts but, typically, golf was years behind and is just now catching up. Despite your trepidation about the medium I would highly encourage you to give Full Send a chance as there are few professional athletes in any sport who are as open and honest as Christina Kim. This leads to your second question: you can support the LPGA by supporting the LPGA. A lot of folks are fans in theory but we have to stand up and be counted—attend their tournaments and watch the telecasts and listen to their podcasts so the powers-that-be can understand the vastness of the audience. The LPGA doesn’t need a villain, just new TV contracts. It’s criminal how few of the events are on network television; even the most important tournament of the year, the U.S. Women’s Open, spent many more hours on boutique Golf Channel than a big network, which can more effectively promote and draw eyeballs. That needs to change.

#AskAlan, What would happen to Tain Lee’s ball if he dropped it into the Torrey rough? @Golfingbrock 

The Internet would implode.

 

#AskAlan, Now that Rahmbo is cleared, do you see him like I do as the favorite at the U.S. Open? @CaddyMikeCorrao

 He has an incredible record at Torrey, has enjoyed seven top-10s in the majors since the start of 2018 and is clearly going to be motivated after the debacle at the Memorial but, despite all that, it’s hard for me to anoint Rahm the favorite. For all the ink that has been spilled about his growth and maturity there is still a hothead within and the whole point of the U.S. Open is to push players to the breaking point—physically, mentally, spiritually. Yes, Rahm contended at Pebble Beach in 2019, but the panicky USGA drenched those greens and took all the fire out of the golf course, which helped a guy like Rahm keep his cool. I think he’s much more likely to win a Masters or PGA Championship that rewards aggressive play. The guy is so good it’s also possible he runs away and hides, but I gotta see it to believe it.

Is there a course that you think should host a major but hasn’t yet? Is there a course that hosted a major but should be taken out of the rotation? Will Riviera host another major? #AskAlan @craig_vee

Pine Valley is the obvious answer to the first question. If a golf course is going to be universally acclaimed as the best in the world we need to see how it stands up to the best players on the planet. Now that the club has voted to do away with its retrograde all-male membership practices the door has been cracked to bring a big-time event to PV. Here’s hoping. I would love to have Torrey Pines taken out of the rota! It’s a nice venue for the San Diego Open but does not stir the soul as an Open test. There are plenty of better courses in California, beginning with…Riviera. It would be spectacular to get a firm, fast, sun-baked Riv in June, which would also help exorcise the memories of a very unsatisfying 1995 PGA Championship. That tournament was not an artistic or financial success—the crowds were small and apathetic and the greens soft and bumpy. But Tiger Woods was still an undergrad bac then! A lot has changed, clearly. Whether Riviera will ever get another shot will probably be determined by the corporate and fan support for the 2023 U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club. If the famously fickle L.A. folks turn out in big numbers that will go a long way toward convincing the USGA that El Lay can be a viable golf town. 

#AskAlan, Are there any non-bombers that can win at Torrey with the USGA set up? @BAIllini98 

It’s a big ask. Torrey is not only brutally long but the heavy sea air makes it play even longer. And despite the conventional wisdom, narrow fairways with thick rough favors the longest hitters. But Collin Morikawa is a threat every time he tees it up and he’s a mere 125th on Tour in driving distance. Patrick Reed has been playing at a very high level for a long time and he would love to win a major and secure a spot on the Ryder Cup team, just to spite all of us. And Matt Fitzpatrick has the look of a classic U.S. Open lurker. But all of these guys, and any other short-knocker, will have to be razor sharp to compete on course and a setup that is stacked against them.

#AskAlan

Dear #AskAlan, Is Dustin Johnson the worst putter among all the players who have reached the #1 spot in the world ranking? @HofSpillane 

Well, let us not forget about the brief but glorious reign of Lee Westwood, or that Adam Scott also reached number one. And Bernie Langer suffered an actual case of the yips during his prime. Tom Lehman was no wizard with the flat-stick, and Fred Couples has always been a little shaky on short putts. So, no, DJ is hardly the worst…but that is not a ringing endorsement!

–Alan Shipnuck

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