#AskAlan, Vol. 67
With thoughts about Oak Hill’s rough, the winning score, Brooks vs. Rory, Phil’s renaissance, Duf’s putting and more
By Alan Shipnuck
May 17, 2023
Given this course setup, I’m thinking we’re going to see many layup shots out of the rough. Do you agree, and how do you think this is going to connect with the players and fans? @ChuckAnfield
I have mixed feelings about thick, penal rough. I do like that it demands accuracy and puts some fear into the players. Across 72 holes it can become oppressive…and that’s a good thing, as major championship golf is supposed to push players to the breaking point. But the most thrilling shot in golf is the creative, do-or-die recovery shot after an errant drive, and juicy rough robs us of that. It takes no skill or imagination to slash a ball 100 yards down the fairway, and around the greens, tangly grass greatly reduces the variety of shots that can be played. Alas, there is not a golf course on the planet that is long enough to truly challenge the pros, so rough has become something of a necessity. There will indeed be a lot of layups this week and I don’t think that particularly serves the fans, but in a weird way all that long grass is necessary for the integrity of the tournament.
Marry, F*ck, K*ll: Oak Hill, L.A.C.C., Royal Liverpool. @luke_peacock
Marry: Los Angeles Country Club. It’s not easy, but you’d never get tired of playing such a thought-provoking design with thrilling green complexes.
F*ck: After walking around the revitalized Oak Hill I’m dying to play it…once.
K*ll: Royal Liverpool. I love links golf, but there are dozens of other courses in England alone I’d rather play than than this flattish, somewhat unimaginative track.
Honest answer… what are you firing if you were to tee it up at Oak Hill on Thursday?? #AskAlan @KQuinley
If the course was empty and I was playing with buddies, there’s no chance I, a rusty 8.1 index, would break 100 from the tips; 110 would probably be a good score. If I had to play in front of 30,000 people alongside disapproving pros, any number under 200 would be in play.
Winning score? I’m saying -6. @TonyAnd69299239
Close! If the USGA was setting up the course this week, I think plus-3 would win. The PGA of America is more merciful so I’ll say 5 under.
Can they get Jason Dufner a new plaque? @MGallagher1977
Are you kidding?! That plaque is more famous than Dufner his own self.
If Jason Dufner had been a good putter, could he have won 4 or 5 majors? I think he could have—he was as good a ball striker as any of the current players on Tour. (I realise he’s still on Tour.) @EoinMurphyej1
Four or five major championship victories is an epic total. It’s true that few major winners have ever looked as shaky over a 4-footer as Dufner. He was so pure from tee-to-green that if Duf had been even an average putter he’d have been dangerous at many majors. The golf gods are cruel.
1 v. 1 this week. Brooks vs. Rory… who would you take? @JNickerson33
Koepka, in a heartbeat. He’s playing great, and this course and this setup feel a lot like Bethpage in 2019, when he won his second PGA Championship. I’m still reflecting on how emo McIlroy was in his pre-tournament press conference. He’s trying to cosplay as something he’s not: a dour, grindy, hyper-focused Tigeresque warrior. Rory plays his best when he’s jolly and loose and freewheeling. I get it, he’s tried all manner of reinvention during this brutal decade without a major championship, so might as well test out a new persona. But Brooks isn’t searching for anything—his game is locked in and he is comfortable in his own skin.
I respect the brevity. Maybe this wrist injury is the best thing that could have happened to our star-crossed protagonist. Jordan is always so in his head, but playing hurt will hopefully free him up not to worry about his swing and just go out and grind for a number. Whether his wrist can withstand all the pounding is unknown, but if so, I think he’s dangerous .
Will a Jon Rahm victory clearly establish him as golf’s #1 player? @scabel1956
He’s already there, but a Rahm win would turn him into a player for the ages. The only thing that would dislodge Rahm as golf’s big dog would be a Cam Smith victory: Taking a Players and two majors (and sundry other wins) in the span of 14 months would be an epic run.
Favorite meal in Rochester so far? @RocGolfGuy
They’ve been mostly utilitarian, but I found one of my favorite coffee shops anywhere: Java’s Cafe. Super cool vibe, diverse crowd, comfy chairs, the music is not too loud and last night there was a barista whom I’m still thinking about. Place is open til midnight! I wrote most of a chapter on the LIV/Tour book sitting there and couldn’t have been happier.
Oak Hill looks ridiculously hard. Gil Hanse is currently working at Oakmont. Is there a new chase to be the hardest golf course? @JStewGolf
Gawd, let’s hope not. When someone calls a course hard and means it as a compliment, it makes me wonder about the course and the sanity of the golfer.
Any thoughts on how Phil will do this week? @pjd570
The throwback performance at the Masters was massive for Mickelson’s confidence and sense of self. Oak Hill feels like a U.S. Open course, and Phil has one of the best U.S. Open records ever other than, ya know, failing to win one. These firm, fast fairways are hard to hit, which helps Mickelson, because he’s going to be in the rough anyway. And some demanding short-game shots are required as well. If his putter cooperates he’ll be dangerous.
Over/under on LIV players in the top ten? @msainopulos
2.5. (Take the over.)
Is this a serious question?! Swamp-ass versus having to wear a light sweater? Now, Wednesday at Oak Hill has been downright cold, but the tournament rounds should be a delight. I’m team May forever.
Do you think you’ll ever resign your position as lead PGA Tour honk of the corrupt golf media? #AskAlan @fakePOULTER
I appreciate the cheekiness of this question, but I’ve been taking shrapnel as a LIV shill for the non-controversial opinion that Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka should be on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. These are strange times. The only thing that makes the golf media corrupt is that we sometimes get to play golf courses for free. But it’s a victimless crime!
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 is the author of eight books, including best-sellers Bud, Sweat & Tees; The Swinger (with Michael Bamberger); and Phil. Shipnuck has won 13 first-place awards in the annual Golf Writers Association of America writing contest, breaking the record of Dan Jenkins, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Alan lives in Carmel, Cal.