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#AskAlan, Vol. 59

With thoughts about Scheffler carrying the Tour, Hatton’s temper, Cantlay as a villain, bifurcation, acting like a scribe and more

By Alan Shipnuck
March 13, 2023

Does Scottie Scheffler have the X-factor to carry the PGA Tour further? @PeteKnot

In a word, no. He’s a wonderful human being and clearly a spectacular golfer but Scheffler does not ooze charisma and there’s not much dramatic tension in his story: Nice guy wins. I think he’s a fun supporting character to have around and I enjoy watching him play golf, but if Scheffler is the leading man the Tour may feel it at the box office.

I have a media pass this week for the LIV event. Never been in this situation. What should I do? @therealslimcat

Don’t drink your morning coffee (or whiskey) so you’re extra grouchy. Skip breakfast so you’re starving and can destroy the free buffet lunch. Pick out a stained shirt, ideally with three or more logos, and don’t brush off the dandruff. Do not, under any circumstances, shower. Wear pleated pants, chunky New Balance sneakers and a faded hat emblazoned with your company logo. Try to work “disruption” or “bifurcation” or “leverage” or “algorithm” into every sentence. When the collection agency calls your cell phone, answer by saying, loudly, “Hi, Rory, thanks for getting back to me so soon.” If you see a comely spectator, cozy up to her with your INSIDE THE ROPES lanyard prominently displayed; if flirting commences, tell her you’d love to get her DJ’s autograph, but, alas, it’s “unprofessional.” Tweet something snarky. Bring your laptop into the press conferences so it looks like you’re sweating a tight deadline when in reality you’re watching cat videos on YouTube. Never ask a question so as to appear more brooding and mysterious. Tweet something snarky. Complain about the parking to other reporters, even if the parking lot is 10 steps from the media center. Complain about the coffee being too weak. Tweet something snarky. Complain about the air conditioning being too strong. Complain about the chairs being uncomfortable. Tweet something snarky. Complain about how slow the transcripts are being released. Complain that the free afternoon snack “doesn’t have enough protein.” Engage the other scribes in a strident discussion about why Jim Murray should have gotten a Pulitzer before Dave Anderson. Tweet something snarky. Discuss in detail your preference for the em dash over the semicolon. File a 450-word story, then say loud enough for everyone to hear, “I just worry that today’s readers don’t value a 3,000-word think piece.” On your way out, fill your computer bag with free granola bars, potato chips and beverages. Tweet something snarky. 

#AskAlan The DP World Tour event in Kenya had a Kenyan make his first-ever cut. Tom Hoge barely made the cut at the Players before shooting a course record. Don’t the golf kingpins understand the no-cut events ruin great moments and diminish a great sport? @david_troyan

Yeah, they know and plainly don’t care. Right now professional golf is a clash of titans, and apparently catering to the top players is all that matters. For now, we’ll just have to savor these little moments as they come.

Personally I think there should still be cuts at the designated events next year. If a player is plus-10 on a Friday at an event and the leaders are somewhere around 10 under, he doesn’t deserve to play on the weekend. @PhillipeStLeger

Totally disagree—make these guys suffer! If they want free money they are going to have to slog through four rounds no matter how meaningless they are. That’s the only way we’ll get the stars to reconsider their position and embrace cuts in the designated events.

If Tyrrell Hatton was from SoCal would we talking about how’s he the biggest a$$hole on tour? @fakePOULTER

I love watching Hatton play. We disparage many pros for being emotionless robots, but that ain’t Hatton. We want the players to avoid cliches and give us real answers, and it does’t get any ballsier than criticizing Augusta National and Riviera. In conversation, Hatton is quite courtly and funny and even thoughtful. That he completely loses his mind on the golf course is, to me, riveting theater. I hope he never changes.

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How many LIV guys top 20 at the Masters? @theanfieldscoop

About 17 or 18. They are going to bring a raging intensity as if their entire professional reputation rests on a strong performance, which it kind of does.

In the vein of tomorrow’s announcement about a possible equipment rollback: what would any of the top 20 players shoot on, say, Augusta with a brand new, vintage 1975 set of Wilson clubs and balls? @GothamGolfClub

First of all, it’s wild that the USGA and R&A have had decades to control distance advances but have somehow waited to do it until this very fraught moment when the professional game is in turmoil. As Michael Bamberger and I podcasted about last week, both LIV and the PGA Tour are straining to present more entertaining products, so why would they agree to new rules that some (many?) fans will think makes the golf less compelling? If one tour opts out of bifurcation with its own local rules, then surely the other one will have to do the same; it’s hard to sell Scottie Scheffler driving it 260 yards with throttled-back equipment if Dustin Johnson is blasting it 360 with state-of-the-art weapons. So there are still moves left of the chessboard.

To your question, it depends on which Augusta National they’re playing. If it’s the 1975 version, at 6,800 yards with no rough and few trees and slower greens, then plenty of top players are going to shoot in the mid- to high-60s. But few would break par if they have to take on today’s ANGC, which is much tighter, more penal, significantly brawnier and has more fearsome greens.

Resurgent Rickie, buy or sell?  #AskAlan@DeeFnCee

Buy! I’ve always loved the saying, “Form is temporary but class is permanent.” Fowler was a world-class player for a long time. He got fired by Butch Harmon because the swing guru was frustrated by Rickie’s lack of commitment, which can happen when a guy is devoting seemingly every day off to shooting commercials and cashing endorsement checks. But a lot of that has fallen away and Fowler has been left behind by his peers. At 34, he has to know time is running out if he’s ever going to be the player he was, or the player he was supposed to be. A focused, motivated Fowler can still do some dynamic things in this game.

Can I bring a GoPro on a practice day at the Masters? @easetweets

Definitely. The guards will be happy to hold it for you at the security checkpoint until you’re leaving the grounds.

Azaleas are in full bloom in Atlanta this week and I assume will be in Augusta well before the Masters. Am I right? @ERobfratesi

I love that we’re fretting about flowers three weeks before a golf tournament. Every year upon arriving in Augusta you hear the whispers: “It’s a bad year for the flowers”; “The dogwoods came early”; etc. Somehow the course always looks nice, so I am unbothered by what is or is not blooming in Atlanta right now.

When will the PGA Tour players be able to wear shorts in competition? Another LIV thing they can copy. @ABFlorida21

Hopefully never. I know it makes me sound like a fuddy-duddy, but I’m not a fan of the look—all that leg hair and those dainty little socks, and lots of dudes clearly skip leg day. Even when I’m covering hot, humid  tournaments I wear pants; I’m there to work and it makes me feel (and look?) more professional. It’s not asking too much for the players to do the same.

What are your thoughts on the Tiger tampon incident and any ‘fallout’ since? Too harshly criticized? Dealt with fairly? Swept under the rug too quickly? @Deven_Stillar

To quote one of our great philosophers, it is what it is. It was a dumb joke, and after what seemed like Woods’s heartfelt apology, the whole thing disappeared quickly, probably rightfully so. It wasn’t a newsflash that Tiger has a sophomoric sense of humor and despite the trappings of middle age, has never really grown up. 

#AskAlan Is Scottie Scheffler the perfect example of successfully “being who you are” on the golf course? Just takes it one shot at a time, recovers when necessary, aims for the big part of the green, etc. Boring guy playing boring golf. @the_agrippa

This is a great call. Part of Phil Mickelson’s longevity was that he never stopped being Phil Mickelson on the golf course. A guy like Brooks Koepka had to always find new motivation and ways to pump himself up for big events and that seemed kind of exhausting and unsustainable, so no surprise he burned himself out. It’s easy to imagine Scheffler ambling his way to big wins for a very long time.

#AskAlan Which tour is better equipped to survive this war? While your tweets give an indication of your favorite, I’d like to hear it from you out loud one day. @mundungus22

I’m not sure to which tweets you’re referring, but in the short term there is an obvious answer. The Tour has lost three longtime sponsors in the last month plus (Honda, Dell, Mayakoba) and others are pushing back against the ever-increasing price tag for a product that has lost a lot of starpower. Many of the Tour’s lesser players are also grumbling about the new way of doing business. Meanwhile, Saudi Aramco posted a $161 billion profit in 2022. That money feeds into the Public Investment Fund, which floats LIV. So, if this is a question of resources, LIV clearly has a monumental advantage, as even Jay Monahan has admitted. But there is more at play here. The point of sportswashing is to improve your public image. I’m not sure LIV has done that for Saudi Arabia. A few years ago I don’t think golf fans collectively gave much thought to MBS, but now everyone has an opinion, and judging by what I read on Twitter, most of them are quite negative. If LIV fails to attract a large audience, and some stars jump ship and the whole thing disappears from the public consciousness, that does’t reflect well on its benefactors, especially in a culture that values saving face. The PGA Tour is not going anywhere. LIV has a lot more money but remains a more precarious experiment. 

I still haven’t found out if you are for or against LIV? @ReneSchaufuss

Good. Why do I have to pick a side? The golf world, and the golf media, has already become too tribal. I am intrigued by LIV, and exasperated and amused. The new league has made some monumental mistakes and gotten some things right. The players can be obnoxiously self-righteous and comically oppressed, but they also make a lot of good points. The tournaments are kind of ridiculous but also sort of fun. The Saudi Arabian government has done, and continues to do, abhorrent things, and the outcry around the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi undoubtedly stoked the sportswashing campaign that birthed LIV. But from the genocide of the Native Americans to the internment of Japanese citizens to the treatment of Blacks during the Jim Crow years to the torture at Abu Ghraib and the policy of “extraordinary rendition,” the U.S. government has often been on the wrong side of history. The source of LIV’s money is extremely uncomfortable, but it’s also true that we all happily burn Saudi oil and many American politicians (and business leaders) are in bed with the Kingdom, so it seems weird to hold golfers to a higher standard than public servants. I know nuance is unfashionable in these polarized times, but that is what I aspire to.

Conventional wisdom says LIV took all of the Tour’s villains, but is Cantlay a candidate for that role? There’s rumors he’s been total pain in these top player meetings, and he seems to want to get paid while having zero interest in being entertaining. What say you? #AskAlan@cpfolds

A Tour player who has dealt with Cantlay on some governance issues recently described him to me as a “terrific penis.” I was slightly baffled until another person in the conversation said, “That means he’s a big dick.” I haven’t laughed that hard in ages. Cantlay can certainly be smug and smarmy, which is a good starting point for villainy. So is a Goldman Sachs hat. But Cantlay is so corporate and controlled that I don’t think he’ll ever lean into the role like an Ian Poulter or a Patrick Reed, which is a shame because, as you point out, there are way too many nice, normal, boring dudes on the PGA Tour.

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12 thoughts on “#AskAlan, Vol. 59”

  1. Given 25 to 30+ PGA Tour related tournaments in 2024 (what is that number going to be, really?), exactly how many more will change to ‘no-cut’ events, compared to 2023? Have the “Invitationals” (Memorial, API, Genesis, etc.) settled on field size yet?

    I’ve read semi-apocalyptic comments about the “end -of-the-PGA Tour-as-we-know-it” due to ‘no-cuts’ and yet by my count, only a very limited number of tournaments will be changing format. And won’t The Sentry actually be expanding its field size?

    Finally, hasn’t large field size been a significant problem for some events, causing persistent delays and next day finishes? Yes, revoltingly slow play is a big factor but so is field size.

    I am NOT a ‘no cut’ fan, but the media blather seems overblown to me, given my understanding of the changes. Am I wrong?

  2. 1. I agree Alan has been neutral on the PGAT v. LIV question which makes him the perfect follow to get unbiased information.
    2. Right now the biggest issue between the tours is financial. PGAT is taking some hits, but LIV has basically zero revenue and depends on MBS continuing to write huge checks. Can he? Yes. Will he continue to write checks? The one thing bigger than his bank account is his ego. Will he continue to be the only support for a tour that is seen as a mostly inferior “alternative?” Looking at the LIV roster it cannot be what he and Greg had in mind, and like it or not TV ratings will be the ultimate measure.
    3. Found it interesting that many of the perks such as travel have been removed for LIV’rs. Penny pinching?
    4. At the end of the day it’s the Public INVESTMENT Fund, not the Public Charity Fund. One way or another they want to see a positive return. That will not be financial so improved perceptions of Saudi Arabia a to increase tourism and such would be the next goal. So far I don’t see it. Pretty much seems like they’re pouring money into a bottomless pit.
    5. To your point on we all do business with Saudi whether we like it or not; Boeing just finalized a sale of jets for $37B.

  3. Your comparison of the Saudi government and US government would only make sense if the US government funded the PGA Tour. Despite what is happening in some red states, human rights protections are at an all time high in the US. Saudia Arabia continues its abhorrent track record and does so unabated. As you know, there is no business model for LIV profitability. Its existence is meant to shine a glowing light on the Kingdom but in reality it spotlights all that is wrong in the Kingdom and those that have taken its blood money to assist in the goal of oppression. No one with any values truly respects what the LIV golfers have done. I love when they say they are doing what is best for them and their family. Tell me, have you seen Amy Mickelson proudly walking LIV events?

  4. “What would any of the top 20 players shoot on, say, Augusta with a brand new, vintage 1975 set of Wilson clubs and balls?”

    Former professional golfer who was sponsored by Wilson. Bolata balls and persimmon heads. Sure didn’t hit it 300+ yards then!

    1. Oh for those days of persimmon and balata but you forgot about nails in the shoes! Usually about 250-260 for me but occasionally inched above 270. I miss those days.

  5. Actually on practice days you can take just a camera in, though it may have to be dumb enough not to have cellular capability for live posting. I dug out an old cannon sure shot last year and took it Monday and Tuesday.

  6. I mean, it’s obvious why you need to keep the identity of the speaker confidential, but it’s still a shame because if I did know who spun the brilliant phrase “terrific penis,” they would almost assuredly be my new favorite PGA Tour golfer.

  7. Alan, you are right to be egalitarian with both tours in your position. Point out flaws and positives with both and don’t take sides. We fans will do that. But I do question a couple of things….you list mistakes the U.S. has made, all true, as though those are equal to Saudi Arabia’s continuing, ongoing and ever present discrimination, wealth disparity and general bad behavior without pointing out the many good things the U.S. has done through the years…world changing things. What, pray tell, has Saudi Arabia contributed to the world other than oil and entitlement? Also, seems to me that a U.S. District Judge, certainly in consultation with her superiors who would hear any appeal, has said that the Saudi Investment Fund and the Saudi head of LIV have to submit to discovery. Does anyone realistically think that will happen….and the Saudis never figured on being subject to U.S. Courts they don’t control. I am no expert and know it will take time but that seems to be a huge deal. Never seems to get mentioned. Oh, and LOVED your response to the obviously fake LIV media credentials question.

  8. Regarding the LIV and Sportwashing, the NBA has mastered it in China. And they make a lot of money there….

  9. I like your reporting a lot, Alan, and think your stance on LIV is sensible. Posting a comment to point out that in your list of US government policy that should cause regret — it wasn’t Japanese citizens that the US forcibly interned — those were United States citizens that the US government removed from their homes and detained. I think you probably meant US citizens of Japanese ancestry, but what you wrote doesn’t read that way.

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