#AskAlan, Vol. 69
Putting a bow on the Open Championship with thoughts about the Harman disrespect, the Rory conundrum, overrated British fans, my U.S. Ryder Cup picks, LIV’s next move and much more
By Alan Shipnuck
July 25, 2023
Because when it’s Woods or McIlroy we know we are witnessing something historic that will be discussed and celebrated for as long as golf is played. Harman has been a good player for years but it’s very likely he had a career week at exactly the right moment and this win will not enjoy historical significance. Nothing wrong with that! He was clearly the best player on a demanding test and Harman deserves all the kudos. But any fan apathy can be traced to the different meaning we apply to a winner based on his standing in the game.
After the numerous shouts of “spicy meatballs” and “shiver me timbers” and the lukewarm response (being nice) that B. Harman received on the weekend, can we finally retire the idea that Open fans as the most “respectful” and most “knowledgeable” fans in the game? @fakePOULTER
Funny thing is that the 2006 Open at Hoylake was the first time I became aware of how intrusive and bothersome cell phones could be at a live sporting event—that tournament was a mess with bleating phones and yahoos taking pictures and other tomfoolery. I think Open galleries have always been overrated, but at the risk of wading into a particularly touchy subject, I have observed that the fans in England skew considerably rowdier than those in Scotland. On the whole I think the typical Open Championship crowd is less obnoxious than a U.S. Open crowd, but the gap is much, much smaller than folks seem to think.
Is it a “thing” in Rory’s head at this point? @TheNo1OGGolfer
Well, over the last nine years he has won numerous national opens and FedEx Cups and Race to Dubais and a Players and gawd knows what else, so clearly McIlroy’s inability to win a major championship is metaphysical. But the more exacting setups of the majors do expose the flaws and inconsistencies in his putting and wedge game. It’s such a repetitive topic, but it continues to fascinate all of us because there is something Shakespearean about a mega-talent who can win everything except the tournaments he wants the most.
Alan, you are Zach Johnson when it’s time to make captain’s picks. Justin Thomas has produced so-so finishes at his last two tournaments (two made cuts, finishes middle of the pack) before picks are made. Are you selecting him? Let’s hear it! @SamHick60072515
Well, if I, a renegade and fiercely independent contrarian who speak truth to power (insert eyeroll emoji) were given the authority I would not pick Thomas. But Johnson will face different pressures as a card-carrying member of the establishment. What happens when Tiger Woods calls and makes a strong sales pitch for his little buddy? What if Jordan Spieth begs to have his wingman in Rome? It’s going to be hard for Johnson to say no to those two alphas. There is also the unspoken pressure to reward a high-profile player who has remained loyal to the Tour throughout the LIV era. The hard truth is that JT looks utterly lost. At Hoylake he blamed his desultory play in part on feeling the pressure of trying to play his way onto the Ryder Cup team, but guess what? If Thomas is gifted a captain’s pick that he doesn’t deserve, the pressure will only become more intense, and that is a nightmare scenario for a dude with battered confidence trying to scrape together some form. I can’t speak for Johnson, but this would be my Ryder Cup team, with the obvious caveat that things can still change with so many points available in the two FedEx Cup events: Scheffler, Clark, Harman, Koepka, Schauffele, Cantlay, Homa, Spieth, Bradley, Fowler. That’s 10. Having eliminated JT, the final two picks come down to Cam Young, Collin Morikawa, Sam Burns and Tony Finau. I’m taking Morikawa for alternate shot and Finau for fourballs.
If Brian Harman can win a major, Tiger can win another one. Next five years are critical in this discussion, right? @markoGpolo
The only difference is that Harman can walk, and he does not have a fused spine or a surgically repaired Achilles, ACL, lumbar disks or sundry other body parts. Also, Harman is a decade younger. And has not just gone through yet another embarrassing public scandal. And he can work out and practice as much as he wants. In conclusion, I’d say there are pretty substantial differences between these two golfers. Tiger may still have some magic in his hands, and presumably his competitive instincts remain intact, but it’s hard to imagine his broken body will ever let him contend again across four longs days of tournament golf and all the toil it takes to prepare his game for that cauldron.
How does LIV rate this first full season of majors? Obviously, Brooks won the PGA and contended at the Masters but outside of him, no one was ever seriously a threat to win. Maybe guys do need more reps in advance of the big ones? @BreedsMNGolf
Mickelson put a charge into the Masters, Bryson made a strong run at the PGA Championship and Cam Smith played well at the U.S. Open, but point taken. For all of their success on LIV, Dustin Johnson and Talor Gooch were huge disappointments in the majors, and the supporting cast of characters were non-factors. But Koepka’s win changed everything, a thunderbolt that echoed from Riyadh to the Seminole grill room. Overall, I’d give LIV a B+ in the majors.
It looks like professional golf is really trending in the wrong direction. Even when we finally get weeks with a field containing everyone, nobody seems happy about any of it, from any angle. Just some growing pains? Or is it the new normal? #AskAlan @derekengles
Hmmm, you must be new to Golf Twitter, where, traditionally, no one is happy about anything! And that has only been accentuated in this complicated, divisive era. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Any advice for an avid golf fan whose favorite player(s) is someone other than Rory?!?! With most media outlets, the broadcast booth, golf podcasters, journalists, etc. all gushing, covering, and rooting for Rory—should I just convert? Grab a Guinness and learn to enjoy??? @kylelabat
The answer is obvious: Become a die-hard LIV fan and then you can root against McIlroy with gusto.
Putting the over/under on career wins for Harman at 4.5. What are you taking? @LoopersProShop
Over! That will only take two more victories. Dude has been a top-10 machine forever and now he’s playing with house money—I think he’ll easily win more than two tournaments.
Seriously, how do all the golfers handle so much losing? The hype, the pressure, the criticism. It doesn’t seem like a glamorous job at all. @SusanSSL
Consider Cameron Young: he’s already being billed as a star, he has contended at multiple majors, he might play his way onto this year’s Ryder Cup team, he has already made $11 million at age 26…and dude has never won a tournament in 47 tries! It’s a crazy profession in which success often has to be measured outside of victories; last week, Brian Harman was case in point. But if you learn to manage the hype and pressure and constant losing, greatness might be around the corner. At least, that’s the tantalizing promise that keeps so many golfers going.
Alan, how much could Wyndham Clark and Harman potentially get from LIV in upfront money if they’re looking for a payday? Jimmy Dunne told Congress the PGA Tour was worried as about losing 5-6 top players per year. @KeithKhorton
Your question assumes that the framework agreement falls apart and the PGA Tour and LIV Golf go back to being bitter rivals. In that scenario, the Tour would surely take on billions of dollars in (American) private equity money, its leadership having found religion that a for-profit structure is the only way to cash the checks that Jay Monahan has already written. LIV had a huge recruiting advantage when it was offering $25 million purses and the PGA Tour’s were hovering around $9 million. With the Tour’s elevated events now paying out $20 million, LIV will have to pay even more to attract top talent. I’d say Harman could command $75 million and Clark, 29, at least $125 million.
Is it more frustrating to be a Rory fan or Spieth fan? @wesleywhamond
Yes. But McIlroy, for sure. Jordan is so flighty and volatile that even when he’s playing well we all know it can’t last, so it’s easier to take joy in the occasional triumphs. Rory has reached a level of incredible consistency, giving himself a chance to win seemingly every time he tees it up. Thus all those tournaments that get away from him, particularly the majors, become more and more maddening. Is this fair? Probably not. But, to quote one of our great thinkers, it is what it is.
Without taking anything away from the winner, do lefties play a totally different course to right-handers? @tommywilkinson
No, but the subtle differences can certainly be advantageous. Augusta National is the classic example in which many important drives (2, 5, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14) are dogleg lefts, allowing lefties to play the fades that modern drivers encourage. And the terrifying 12th hole, with its angled green, is much friendlier to left-handers, as a hook that sails long and right can catch the green as easily as a slice that finishes short and left. (Righties are severely punished in either scenario.)
Has there ever been a more forgettable major? @YourBossBill
Ummm, apparently you have forgotten about Trevor Immelman shooting 75 on Sunday and still winning the 2008 Masters by three strokes? And Louis Oosthuizen’s ho-hum 71 in the final round of the 2010 Open… which he still won by seven strokes (below)! Must I go on?
Just admit it! This Open was rubbish…. The course was the best thing. The rest was plonk! @antonmerckoll
The only thing I’m prepared to admit is that plonk is now my new favorite word.
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.