#AskAlan

#AskAlan, Vol. 6

With thoughts on Phil getting hustled, Bryson’s petulance, college golfers cashing in, the role of
the golf press and the catharsis of giving up the ace chase

By Alan Shipnuck

Who is the “real” Phil Mickelson? The guy known for the $100 tips to people selling lemonade? FIGJAM? The guy who signs autographs for hours? The guy who was caught for insider trading? Does anybody really know? Even Phil? #Ask Alan @TheSecretDuffer

He is all of those things, which is what makes Mickelson so fascinating. He is a complicated, multifaceted guy, defined by contradictions. I’ve been working on a biography of Phil since the middle of last year, and after interviewing nearly 100 folks from different stages of his life I’ve learned a ton about who he really is. It’s gonna take more than a couple of paragraphs here to answer your astute questions–I’m thinking 300-400 pages. Sorry to be a tease!

Do you think Phil really follows through with not coming back to this event? @jasleeack

Oh, he’ll be back. How lame would it look if Mickelson let a meanie at the local newspaper run him out of town? And no doubt Phil will arrive in the 3-1-3 next year with a well-thought-out charitable initiative for the people of Detroit, who had to put up with so much from him this week. As for his overreaction to The Detroit News story linking him to a mobbed-up bookie, it’s interesting that Phil and his attorney would dismiss it as old news when, according to the paper, the facts of Mickelson getting bamboozled for half a mill weren’t discovered until a few weeks ago. This is the crux of Mickelson’s ire: It’s not that he lost the money, or even that the News printed a well-reported story. It’s that this whole sordid tale makes him look like a pigeon and a palooka and a putz. That cuts deep for someone who always wants to be the smartest guy in the room.

With #NIL hitting college golf, what are the guidelines for players who want some spending money but want to keep their status for the USGA events, etc.? How are the governing bodies handling this? @frazerrice

As usual, golf is a step slow with the changing times. College golfers are still beholden to the Rules of Amateur Status set by the USGA and R&A. In February, the ruling bodies announced modernized rules that would not conflict with the NCAA’s expected changes regarding Name Image Likeness, but—and this is a big ol’ but—these new rules do not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2022. So college golfers who want to play in the U.S. Am or any other amateur events will have to forgo any deals for the next six months. Recognizing that this puts college jocks in an awkward limbo, the USGA announced last week that on July 6 it would have an update on an interim policy. Hopefully the ruling bodies will get on board with the new normal and free up college kids to start making a little extra dough, though gawd knows the golf space is already crowded with more than enough influencers.

#AskAlan Bryson

In spite of all the drama, Bryson is not playing as well in ‘21 as he did in ‘20. He may be one of the players for whom the return of fans is a negative? @DanielJTerry2

No question about it, especially now that he’s being bullied by Koepka and regularly heckled by Brooks bros. The atmosphere around Bryson at tournaments is increasingly carnival-like. He’s a big cause of that, with all of his preening and the cartoonish windup before every drive. But despite all the machismo, DeChambeau is a sensitive, brooding soul and I think there is zero doubt that the fans and their caustic energy are getting in his head.

 Is anyone more sick of Bryson’s act than I am? #AskAlan @jamiekutzer

No doubt a lot of folks are, and that to me is a bummer. I recognize that Bryson can be awkward and obtuse, but I think he’s great for the game: an iconoclast who is forcing plenty of folks to reexamine the conventional wisdom. And, like it or not, DeChambeau is building a Hall of Fame resumé. I, for one, want to see more of the 2020 Bryson, where’s he winning tournaments and reimagining the game, and less of the 2021 Bryson, where he’s getting fired by his caddie and acting too self-important to speak to reporters at an event underwritten by one of his biggest sponsors.

Smart players talk to the press because 1) TV contracts pay the sponsors and their non-endorsement wages and 2) they can use them to improve their image. Media lifts up and tears down players. They do ask dumb questions sometimes and use the players for their own benefit too, Alan. @CaddyMikeCorrao

Yeah, maybe we should live-stream the weekly Fire Pit meeting during which we vote on which players we’re going to build up and tear down. I mean, c’mon. Players do dumb stuff and they get called out for it; far more often, the golf press celebrates their achievements and virtues. It’s true that there is the occasional inane press conference question but those tend to come from local folks who don’t cover the Tour for a living. I saw a lot of people on Twitter defending Bryson’s petulance by saying that post-round interviews are of little value. That can be true, too, but they can also be intensely revealing: think of Rory McIlroy breaking down on Friday evening at Royal Portrush. What the Bryson apologists don’t seem to fully understand is that the players are increasingly hard to know as they retreat behind the bland, sanitized content pumped out by the Tour and their own safe, carefully curated social media feeds. If the fans want to feel closer to the players—who they really are, what makes them tick, their hopes and dreams and flaws, their triumphs and tragedies—it’s dogged reporters who are going to make this happen. Anything that makes it harder for us to our job (like normalizing pouty players running to the parking lot) doesn’t serve the fans well.

#AskAlan Food

What food would be golf’s version of the hot-dog-eating contest? The Olympic Club’s burger dog? Winged Foot’s gingersnaps layered with peanut butter? Pine Valley’s snapper soup? Fishers Island’s PBJ and bacon sandwiches? Castle Pines or Muirfield Village’s shakes? And who’d win? @HogansBookLied

These are all excellent choices but I’m going with the lobster at National Golf Links; when you sit down for a meal they plop a whole one in front of you as if it’s a slice of bread. What speaks to the excesses of the golf world more than that?! As to who could eat the most, how can you bet against a guy whose nickname is Beef?

Wouldn’t the Presidents Cup be a lot more fun as a mixed team event? #AskAlan @JakeAnd86788485

This presupposes the Presidents Cup is even a little fun now. Yes, yours is a spectacular idea and I would love to see it. The women’s game has never been more interesting and all the great international players deserve a grand stage. And making the Prez Cup coed would give it a unique identity rather than being a knockoff Ryder Cup that generates no heat. 

I too am in the hole-in-one lifetime pursuit with you. I’ve also never holed out from outside 50 yards. You get 14 chances of those every round, but only 4 chances of the hole in one a round. Am I doomed to never get an ace? @IrishBadgers12

Well, I’m not one to brag, as you know, but I once holed out a 3-wood from 242 yards…that’s gotta be more impressive than most aces. Alas, we both know it doesn’t count the same. I want to be optimistic and say your day is coming, but after going oh-fer-100 at the Hay I’ve embraced nihilism; I’m more convinced than ever that the golf gawds hate me and it’s never going to happen. Honestly, there’s something cathartic and freeing in giving up hope, and perhaps you should try it, too? From now on, when a tee shot on a par-3 is dancing around the hole, I’m gonna shout, “Don’t go in!” I won’t mean it, of course, but it’s worth a try…

-Alan Shipnuck

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