#AskAlan, Vol. 45

With thoughts about Rory’s run, the CJ Cup telecast, Phil’s future, the next No. 1, writing muses and, yes, my hole-in-one for the ages

By Alan Shipnuck
October 24, 2022

Hey #AskAlan, Has LIV (to the detriment of fellow PGA Tour players) lit a fire under Rory where we may see what we expected all these years? @TBromfman

It certainly feels that way. Remember a few years ago, when McIlroy was underachieving on the golf course but professing to be content because he was in love and enjoying a nice life? That was a healthy perspective, but it also felt a little bit like a copout. The golf gods bestow talent like Rory’s only once or twice a generation, if that. For him to just coast along would have been a little sad—not just for the fans but especially for McIlroy, who deep down knows what he is capable of.

It seemed then that Rory lacked purpose as a golfer, and he has certainly found it in this ongoing battle for golf’s soul. It’s a bummer that the Masters is still six months away, but this doesn’t feel like a hot streak; rather, McIlroy has found the secret sauce, with his driver, in his wedge game and his overall approach to preparing and competing. This run feels sustainable for a good long while, and it will be a thrill to watch.

#AskAlan What’s worse, LIV showing an entire tourney start to finish and few caring OR people caring about the CJ Cup but the PGA Tour doesn’t allow fans to watch it? @wesleywhamond

This is not a positive development for either tour, or golf in general. This whole season is a beta test for LIV Golf. I don’t think we will be able to fully assess the product until this time next year, when LIV will have had an offseason to tweak everything and then have played a “full” schedule with the roster and team elements more baked out. So we’ll see if LIV can get more fans to care.

The Tour’s pathetic TV presentation of a compelling tournament is inexcusable. Why is it so hard to give golf fans what they want? Especially right now, when the PGA Tour is in an existential battle for its survival, you would think the lords of Ponte Vedra Beach would be doing everything possible to display their product in a dynamic, innovative way, not blacking out coverage, as happened to chunks of time at the CJ Cup. It’s maddening.

#AskAlan, Doesn’t Rory’s World No. 1 designation need an asterisk? Because the communist (maybe elitist? or even fascist?) Unofficial World Golf Ranking have yet to assign points to my annual Spooky $70 Halloween Weekend Chip-off? And I’ve already mowed, so I need some good press… @ANTIFAldo

Rory himself noted the OWGR is in danger of becoming meaningless with the exclusion of so many accomplished players, though he inexplicably failed to mention the competitors in the Halloween Chip-off. But his place at the mountaintop is unimpeachable because for the last six months he has been by far the game’s most dominant force week in and week out; being No. 1 is really about consistent excellence, not a couple of triumphs mixed with a bunch of middling results.

Obviously, McIlroy’s failure to win a major championship weakens his case, particularly when he got blitzed at the Open by Cam Smith, who is the clear world No. 2 no matter what the computers say. There is very little meaningful golf left this year, so we can all exhale and then rekindle the debate next spring.

#AskAlan Rory

How awesome will Max Homa be as a dad? #AskAlan @procaddiecoach

This is such a cute, wholesome question. None of us are ever really prepared to be parents, you just gotta learn on the fly. I trust Homa will be an excellent dad because, in the way he relates to people and lives his life, he has already displayed much empathy and sensitivity and good cheer. These are key ingredients to being a good dad. Also, if the baby needs a cozy place to nap it can burrow into Homa’s arm hair.

#AskAlan, Does Phil ever win a tournament again? @DLP1968

Oof, good one. Getting banned from the senior tour certainly hurts his chances. But I’ve detected more pep in Phil’s step lately. He has too much pride and ego to be an afterthought; I think he’ll be more of a factor at LIV events next year. (Do LIV wins count?) And he’s still dangerous on a baked-out Augusta National or a fiery Open links. It seems like a lifetime ago, but Mickelson’s PGA Championship triumph was only 17 months ago. The guy has nine lives, so I’m never gonna say never when it comes to Phil doing the improbable.

When will Augusta National and other majors make their decision for LIV in the field? #askalan @radiolimamatt

They don’t have to make a decision: The majors’ criteria is already set, and they can simply choose to do nothing. For 2023, that will knock out a handful of LIV golfers based on their slippage in the World Ranking, but for both the U.S. and British Opens these competitors are free to go through open qualifying and try to play their way into the field. If LIV doesn’t get World Ranking points throughout next season, the ’24 majors will suffer more attrition, but you have to figure some kind of compromise will be reached before then. Also, the governing body behind each major championship can independently decide its own criteria.

Nothing is stopping Augusta National or the USGA from, say, creating an exemption category for the top 10 players on LIV’s individual money list. Or the majors can use each other as the yardstick for each other: If a player is top 15 or top 20 at the Masters, he is invited to the PGA Championship, and the top 15 or 20 at the PGA are exempt into the U.S. Open, etc. Lotsa ways to fill out the fields with LIV players independent of the World Ranking, if that’s what the minders of each major want.

#AskAlan: Who will take #1 from Rory? @tommy_tracker

Jeez, let the man enjoy it for a minute or two! Jon Rahm seems to bring it every week but doesn’t win quite as often as we’d like, and victories are a crucial way to rack up ranking points.

Justin Thomas’s best golf is just as explosive as Rory’s, but JT lacks the same consistency. Dustin Johnson is playing at a very high level, but even if/when LIV is granted World Ranking points the math is working against him because the small fields limit how many points are available; this would/will hamstring Cam Smith, too.

Matt Fitzpatrick is a sneaky threat because he has built a game tailor-made for the toughest tests, which are usually the events offering the most ranking points. But clearly McIlroy has a lot more firepower. Talking this out, it feels as if McIlroy might be sitting on the golf’s iron throne for a long time.

#AskAlan, Who does your hair? @tlendman1960

Great Clips at the mall for like $17. But if they’re busy, I go to the superintendent at Pebble Beach and ask him to make my hair look like 1972 U.S. Open rough.

#AskAlan, Can you disclose your writing muse, if any? @todgerstone

The newspaper writers I read growing up had a profound effect on me: Jim Murray’s syndicated columns, Mark Purdy in The Mercury News in San Jose, Ray Ratto in the San Francisco Chronicle. Murray was in a class by himself, but the others also had such distinctive voices. When I was around 12 I discovered SI and those writers blew my mind: DeFord, Nack, Kirkpatrick, Fimrite, Wolff, Reilly. Giants! I would reread the stories over and over to inculcate the rhythms of the language and the way the articles were structured.

Among the authors I read in school, Vonnegut’s zaniness, Joseph Heller’s sardonic irreverence and Fitzgerald’s elegance made the biggest impression. When I was an intern at SI, at 20, I spent months doing nothing but reading old back issues and borrowing golf books from the library. That’s when I came to appreciate Jenkins, Wind, Darwin, Diaz, Bamberger, Garrity, Kindred and Callahan. I became interested in the New Journalism of the 1960s and ‘70s and devoured Talese, Wolfe, Breslin, Halberstam, Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson and sundry others.

There was a time when I subscribed to around 20 magazines, and I was inspired by modern practitioners like Tom Junod, Gary Smith, Chris Jones, Wright Thompson, Scott Price, Lee Jenkins and Chris Ballard. But at some point you have to filter out all these influences and find your own style. That, to me, is the muse: When the ghost of every other writer leaves your head and all you can hear is your own voice.

#AskAlan, How did it feel to finally dunk one? @ESPN_SwingCoach

Cathartic. In the moment I didn’t even feel that much joy, just utter disbelief mixed with relief. But for days afterward I was kind of floating along in a haze of bliss.

Hey #AskAlan, Did you buy a round of drinks for everyone in the clubhouse after the hole-in-one? @philengle21

There was already an open bar provided by Youth on Course for those of us partaking in the 100 Hole Hike. I highly recommend making an ace when free alcohol is readily available!

Are people really calling a hole-in-one on a par-3 course or a simulator a “Shipnuck.”  I’m hearing murmurs. #AskAlan @fakePOULTER

Look, I fully understand that me holing a sawed-off lob wedge on a 61-yard hole I had already played eight times that day invites a little scrutiny. And, yes, it would be more majestic to make an ace with a 1-iron on a 242-yard hole over water. But after a lifetime of lip-outs and balls expiring just short and tee shots clanging off the pin, I ain’t apologizing for shit.

Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest stories, special events, and exclusive merch drops!

22 thoughts on “#AskAlan, Vol. 45”

  1. Rory’s bogey, bogey finish raises the old doubts. Three up with two to play at the CJ Cup! Replicate the circumstances at Augusta National, with all that would entail, and an epic gag looms menacingly. I hope not. Maybe a final round, come from behind charge would be his most likely path.

  2. Have you considered hosting the weekly podcast by yourself? You don’t need rambling Bamberger or vulgar and unfunny French. You are too smart and insightful for these guys.

      1. I too like French and Michael, and generally like a good f-bomb, but Ryan could tone it down a bit. His use of the word often seems intentional and immature. He would be just as insightful with a cleaner act

    1. Alan and Michael are great together, recreating the post-Augusta waffle house vibe. Ryan ‘F-bomb’ French is a very tough listen.

  3. About 20 years ago Alan said the same thing: ‘this is Rory’s world and we’re all living in it.’ Then Rory did very little of note (for a man with his other worldly talent) for many, many years. Alan’s a true believer, and always will be, and it’s definitely easy to be mesmerized by Rory’s ability. But I’ll believe Rory is on top to stay when Rory stays on top for a good long while.

    1. Let the man enjoy his Ace. He literally wrote down “1” on the scorecard. One swing from the tee box and the ball goes into the hole. How does this affect you in the least bit? Asterisk or not, it’s still an Ace. Cheers to Alan.

  4. Although DJ is playing well, it’s 54 holes against a weak field. He disappeared for way too long after his Master’s win and is not the player he once was. But he is sitting on a sh*t pile of moolah.

    1. Ryan French made a great point on the most recent podcast: there also was some REALLY BAD golf played at the CJ cup. 26 players (out of 78) didn’t break par, and two guys finished at 19 over. Talk about weak fields!

      1. Thanks for this link, Ellen. I read SI religiously from the 60s through the early aughts and I didn’t remember his byline. What a divine character!

  5. When I make my first ace (going on 58 years now) I can honestly say it will be nothing but a “ho hum,” glad-that’s-over moment. Shooting my age (72, for another two months) sounds like a VASTLY more worthy accomplishment; a day-long challenge of concentration, nerve-battling and swing-fighting.

    Regarding the podcast, you three simply MUST offer more consideration of your listeners…. and that means PREPERATION. Criminy, I know podcasting sounds like an easy gig but to simply wing it with no advance thought is haphazard and disrespectful. Also, I cuss all the time but you don’t think some 14-year-old golf fan is tuning in? Sure, you can get away with it (prudes be damned) but explain to me how spewing the F-word makes your podcast BETTER. Alan is to be commended for righting the ship and often getting the discussion back on track but somebody should take Bamberger aside and say “What’s with the pointless muskrats-for-dinner story?” Come on boys….you all may be tucked away in some cozy little cubby-hole but if this show was on a stage in front of 300 people, would you STILL treat it like it was a throw-away joke? Please — you have an audience: act like you know it.

    1. I couldn’t agree more about shooting your age. I earned my first ace this summer and my 76 year old grandpa doubled 18 to shoot 78 (he insisted the excitement got to him & I still feel a guilt behind my ace). Granted, Fazzio didn’t make the 18th Hole at Buffalo Ridge in southwest Missouri an easy par 5 by any measure.

      With all due respect – perhaps you’re the wrong audience.. I love the unscripted piece of it. Much like when TC from No Laying Up ‘goes down the leaderboard’ and the guys try to right the ship.. What’s wrong with doing down the leaderboard? Alan has a plan to his prose and the podcast is an added bonus. Why script a conversation? Why not let Michael rant like he’s at the dinner table? What’s wrong w French showing his true, unfiltered opinion? Much like anything in life, we all have decisions. At the supermarket, we vote on which goods and services we opt for, just like at the pro-shop, liquor store, and voting polls. Vote differently or enjoy the brilliance. I’m a golf podcast junkie and the Fire Drill is a breath of fresh air. Not too long, not too scripted, not pushing an outside agenda. What’s not to love? I understand why this is unsettling, I’ve tried to get my Grandpa to tune into golf podcasts that don’t capture his attention. I also watch different shows on TV and spend my dollars differently than he does. I think the audience for an unbiased, non-agenda oriented podcast is large and I humbly disagree.

  6. Love your articles.

    LUV, well not sure. They don’t have easy TV coverage so I dont watch. Glad some of the arrogant jerks are gone others not so glad.

    Disappointed in Phil, but still love him.

    LIV opened the door for a new group of great talent to mske ot on the REAL tour.

    Keep up the good articles guys

    [email protected]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top