#AskAlan, Vol. 52
Assessing Tiger’s game and The Match, LIV golfers at the Masters, what to make of Phil’s latest barb, best golf books of the year and recasting ‘Game of Thrones’ with notable players
By Alan Shipnuck
The Match is a very small sample size; we’ll know a bit more after this weekend’s Father-Son. Tiger certainly looked rusty under the lights, which makes sense because he hadn’t touched a club in the preceding 2 1/2 weeks, or so he said. But his ball speed with the driver was solid, and that to me was the biggest takeaway. I guess this question hinges on how we define “back.” Can Woods labor through the major championships, make a couple of cuts and remind us of his grit and guile? I think so. But even accounting for the fact he’s Tiger F’ing Woods, it’s increasingly clear there isn’t much magic left in his banged-up body.
With LIV disrupting, The Match gaining traction, and more and more talk of tweaks and variations to pro competitions, will the future be more variety in golf tournaments or will the old format (72-hole stroke play, etc.) ultimately prevail? @feralgolfer
My esteemed colleague Michael Bamberger made this point on our latest Fire Drill podcast: The LIV challenge was the perfect moment for the Tour to rethink its model and get creative, but instead it continues to force-feed us 72-hole stroke-play events. So, unfortunately, I think that is the future, especially as LIV may wind up going to 72 holes to appease the World Ranking poobahs. It’s too bad, as non-traditional formats are a blast. (The better-ball team format saved the New Orleans tour stop.)
It’s all about perspective. Was The Match a riveting competition? No. Must-see TV? Nah. Was it a fun way to pass the time on an otherwise slow sports night? Definitely. That’s enough for me.
What’s the weirdest club you ever owned or tried out? #askalan @reagle_c
Definitely the Power Pod driver! Do you remember this thing from the 1980s? When you hit it well, the ball went forever, but any mishit would fly off the planet. Still, it was and remains one of the coolest golf inventions ever.
Since Tiger said Greg Norman must go as the face of LIV, I think I’ve Identified the perfect replacement – someone with the gravitas and tact to bring peace to pro golf. But I fear Club Pro Guy might not be willing to accept that largely ceremonial position. Thoughts? #AskAlan @HenriDeMarsay
This war between LIV and the PGA Tour has gotten so overheated it’s almost laughable. It’s just golf, guys. I’m not sure if CPG is the right person for the job, but it would serve the entire ecosystem well if Norman’s replacement at least had a sense of humor and wasn’t fueled by vengeance.
Are there any good books about golf for Christmas gifts this year? @NickGoblirsch
There are not any December releases, so far as I can tell, but it was a good year for golf books. Stephen Proctor’s “The Long Golden Afternoon” is a very charming and richly detailed history of the game from 1864 until the start of World War I. I really enjoyed “The Cup They Couldn’t Lose,” Shane Ryan’s deep dive on the 2021 Ryder Cup and an all-time U.S. team. Bob Harig wrote a lively recap of two titans and a simpler era in golf with “Tiger & Phil.” Andrew Stelmak’s “Send In The Clowns” brings Moe Norman to life in a unique, stylized way. And I’ve heard a few things about a Mickelson biography… but it’s probably overrated.
I personally believe the Masters would be weakened without LIV golfers. Will Fred Ridley protect the PGA Tour and weaken the Masters by excluding the likes of DJ, Cam, etc.? @hpjagger
No f’ing way. Ridley’s mandate is to put on the best possible tournament he can, not get caught up in a turf war between rival tours. There is zero chance the Masters will ban any players who are otherwise qualified, like Dustin Johnson, Cam Smith and sundry other LIV’ers. The question is will the green jackets do anything to remediate Talor Gooch, Kevin Na, Jason Kokrak and Harold Varner III if they fall out of the top 50 before the end of 2022 and thus miss out on an automatic invitation to the Masters. (As it stands, these non-stars are all 40th to 47th in the OWGR.) My gut says not. The green jackets will just fall back on the existing criteria and let it ride until 2024, by which point LIV should be accruing World Ranking points.
Thoughts on Phil’s tweet regarding The Match? @GrowTheGolfGame
It was kind of sad, and another reminder of all that he gave up to go LIV. And a made-for-TV spectacle is the least of it! It’s crazy to think Mickelson has also possibly forfeited a Ryder Cup captaincy, the 18th hole tower for whichever TV network he picked and perhaps a spot as a ceremonial Masters starter. But he loves money and he loves stirring the pot, so the LIV dalliance has been rewarding in various ways.
Who would you have rather seen paired with Tiger that would talk smack back to the “Brat Boys”? Rory was basically mute, with or without a club. #AskAlan @BobbyTeeitup
Yeah, McIlroy ain’t about that life; he’s simply too earnest for this kind of hit and giggle. But, really, how many top players are fun? The only guy who comes to mind is Max Homa. With a live mic, his droll musings could have greatly enlivened the proceedings.
Now that we’re in the middle of Spotify Wrapped season, what was your favorite album or artist of 2022? @luke_peacock
I’m such a dinosaur I use Apple Music, which infuriates my teenagers. I’m always looking for moody, mostly lyric-less background music for when I write, and without a doubt the album I listened to the most this year is an old classic: the soundtrack to Twin Peaks. So evocative. Sometime while typing I’ll listen to The xx “Intro” on an endless loop, though if I’m running out of steam I cue up “The Beast” from the Sicario soundtrack. For driving around or hanging out, I’ve gotten way into classic blues: Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bob Margolin, B.B. King, that kind of thing. Or I listen to the Alt Nation and Lithium channels on XM radio. Someday I’ll be cool enough for Spotify.
Should we give up on the suggested TV/golf comparisons weekly segment or you’re waiting for 2023 to kick it off as a “new year, new bit” or you’re deciding if you want to make it a completely separate column from #AskAlan? @ZitiDoggsGolf
I’m clearly not thinking about it as much as you are! But without further ado, here is professional golf by way of Game of Thrones…
• Greg Norman is Tywin Lannister: Cold, calculating, bound for an inglorious end.
• Jay Monahan is Ned Stark: A little too gentle for a cruel world and, after getting outfoxed, destined to be publicly sacrificed.
• Tiger is Jaime Lannister: Once the golden boy, he has been diminished by sexual improprieties and a disfigured body, but he carries on with swagger and dignity.
• Phil is Ramsay Bolton: A cunning, ruthless agent of chaos and betrayal who, in the end, is not as smart as he thinks.
• Rory is Tyrion Lannister: Diminutive, clever, not quite a king but always in close proximity to power. An enduring survivor.
• Dustin is Sandor Clegane: Big, taciturn, capable of great feats of physicality but possessing a surprising gentleness.
• Jordan Spieth is Jon Snow: A man of high character and great talents who should be king but cannot claim the throne, dismaying his many supporters.
• Michael Greller is Samwell Tarley: Loyal and long-suffering, this trusted confidante inspires deep affection.
• Pat Perez is Bronn: Mouthy, obsessed with material gain, effectively exploiting his relationships with more pedigreed protagonists.
• Ashley Perez is Melisandre: A raven-haired muckraker who causes much consternation.
In 1994, Alan wrote his first cover story for Sports Illustrated as a 21 year-old intern, and in the ensuing quarter-century he typed two dozen more. He has received 11 first-place awards in the annual writing contest conducted by the Golf Writers Association of America, breaking the record of Dan Jenkins, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.