#AskAlan, Vol. 7

With thoughts about Rory’s place in history, the Open rota, a caddie’s duty to defend, El Pato’s future and the Olympics

by Alan Shipnuck

#AskAlan, If Rory wins at Royal St. George’s and every day there are four players WD’ing, does it count? And is he back in contention for the GOAT of his generation? @PSU_Ithaca

There are absolutely no asterisks in this weird COVID era. Not for Bryson DeChambeau or Collin Morikawa because they won majors without fans, not for DJ because Augusta National played softer in November. We’re all muddling through, just doing the best we can. Yes, the depth of the Open Championship field has taken a hit due to all of the withdrawals, but that ain’t no thang. Whoever wins will have conquered the elements, a proud course and all the superstars.

I’m flummoxed by the rest of your question because McIlroy already has to be considered the post-fire hydrant era’s most accomplished player. Brooks Koepka has four major championships, but his body of work is otherwise a bit thin. Dustin Johnson has been as prolific a winner as Rory (albeit on only one side of the pond), but he has only half as many majors. Jordan Spieth needs to build on his epic 2015-17 run to reenter the chat. Obviously all of these guys have plenty of golf left so we can’t yet render a final verdict, but right now McIlroy is in the pole position.

Give me your Open rota in order please? @AlanChairman

Let’s begin with a quick chat about the Old Course. For everyday golfers it is an endlessly fascinating test. The charm and ambience is unparalleled. It is certainly one of my favorite courses in the world. But for the pros it is laughably short, and if the wind doesn’t howl next year I fear a couple of 59s will be in the offing and 28 under might be the winning score. We should also note that Turnberry has been an important part of the rota and will be so again once its ownership situation becomes more palatable, so I’m including it here even though it is not scheduled for any future Opens. OK, enough foreplay:

  1. Turnberry
  2. Portrush
  3. Birkdale
  4. Muirfield
  5. Carnoustie
  6. Old Course
  7. St. George’s
  8. Hoylake
  9. Lytham
  10. Troon

That is how I think of these courses as championship venues. But here’s the order in which I’d want to play them:

  1. Old Course
  2. Portrush
  3. Turnberry
  4. Birkdale
  5. Carnoustie
  6. St. Georges
  7. Muirfield
  8. Hoylake
  9. Lytham
  10. Troon

#AskAlan, A lot of comments about the incident in Scotland with Rory and the lack of reaction from his caddie. What is the expectation on Tour for this? Is “defending the bag” in the job spec or is intercepting potential lunatics above the pay grade? @TheSecretDuffer

It’s very situational. If a drunken frat boy at the Phoenix Open tried to run off with a club, I think any caddie would be a lot more aggressive. In that context the interloper is perceived as an annoyance, not a threat. But the creepy manner and dead-eyed stare of the dude in Scotland made that encounter much more unsettling. He was hemmed in by a grandstand, so the tool of Rory’s trade wasn’t going anywhere.

I think de-escalation was the right tactic, and Harry Diamond was wise to let trained security deal with the trespasser. Though part of me certainly wishes he had grabbed a long iron and started jousting with the guy as if they were the Dread Pirate Roberts and Inigo Montoya.

Don’t Cry For Me, Ponte Vedra.

El Pato’s arrest and 2-year prison sentence for domestic violence is a very sad story. He rose out of poverty, won the Masters and became a role model for Argentina’s kids. Will the PGA Tour allow him back on the tour? @LaBeets50

Well, professional sports is full of athletes who have committed serious crimes and returned to the playing fields. Golf is admittedly different because the sport is packaged as consisting of nothing but “perfect gentlemen,” to use a felicitous phrase. But if Cabrera, who turns 52 in September, pays his debt to society and expresses remorse, or at least contrition, I’m not sure how even the lords of Ponte Vedra Beach can bar him from the Senior tour.

The more interesting question is whether he’ll set foot on Augusta National again. That tournament is an invitational hosted by an aggressively private club. Past champs are invited back by custom, but the green jackets can do whatever they damn well please. I can’t imagine he’ll be welcomed back anytime soon.

How many times do you think I’ll have to see #AskAlan before I stop accidentally reading it as #Alaskan? If you had to pick 5 golfers to take penalty kicks to win the Euro cup, who would you pick? @luke_peacock

Well, I do live in Northern California, so #BakedAlan could be a thing. Have you seen European golfers throw a ball? Collectively, it ain’t pretty. I’m assuming they have better skills at footie, but let us not forget Rory McIlroy blew out his Achilles tripping over a soccer ball. Let’s tweak this slightly and pretend the Ryder Cup finishes in a tie and will be decided in a putt-off of 15-footers. Here are the Euros I’d want for that shootout, in this order:

  1. Jon Rahm
  2. Ian Poulter
  3. Shane Lowry
  4. Rory McIlroy
  5. Tyrell Hatton

#AskAlan, our U.S. Olympic golf teams look formidable, especially the Kordas, Danielle Kang and Lexi. What’s your medal predictions for each team? Also, do you think the four guys bond enough in Tokyo to give us an extra push in Ryder Cup play? Thanks. @forearmshivers

It’s sooo hard to predict stroke play. But I’d be shocked if the U.S. women didn’t bring home at least one medal. The men in red, white and blue (JT, Morikawa, Xander and Bryson) inspire less confidence. Only Collin and Schauffele are in decent form, although Thomas showed some signs of life at the Scottish Open. Xander, of course, hasn’t won a tournament in 2½ years, but unlike on Tour, finishing second or third at the Olympics does come with some hardware. To be sure, it’s a formidable quartet. I can’t wait to watch it play out.

The Ryder Cup question is intriguing particularly because of DeChambeau. His game and personality are so, uh, specific it is vital the U.S. identify suitable playing partners. Schauffele and Morikawa are so mild-mannered and self-contained they are both prime candidates, so hopefully through all the team bonding in Tokyo a natural partnership will emerge.

#AskAlan, What kind of ratings/interest would there be if Euro Tour events were more widely available on TV in the U.S.? It seems like they don’t air very much of it, and it’s only on Golf Channel. @ImPaulieWalnuts

Interest would be substantial, because the courses are more exotic and/or interesting, the players more fun, the social media more sophisticated and the TV presentation far more pleasing.

When/will we ever see an LPGA player go full Bryson: bulk way up and try to fly it past everyone? Clearly there are some physical limitations, but some of the new guard have to be thinking about it. Thank you, #AskAlan @TBromfman

Well, Annika Sorenstam kind of did this around the turn of the century, and the distance she picked up helped transform her from a great player to a legend. But she didn’t go full Bryson. There are powerful forces preventing any female golfer from packing on 20 or 30 pounds, beyond physiology: societal norms and peer pressure. But if winning is all that matters, I’d love to see an LPGA player go for it. The advantage would be profound.

#AskAlan, Has anyone done a modified single-length set? All wedges; 9-7; 6 and up? @Hammbear

I sort of have. I could never quite dial in the extra-long wedges of the traditional single length so I basically split the difference. My lob, sand and gap wedges are 1½ inches longer than standard, or one inch shorter than all of my other irons. Works for me.

I got 15th in the Championship flight (17 strokes out of first place) of my City Mid Am, but would have been tied for first in the first flight. Should I work more on my game or my handicap management moving forward? @Golfingbrock

Juicing the handicap is the more surefire way to nab a trophy, but I think improving as a golfer would be more satisfying. Just to be safe, you should probably do both!

-Alan Shipnuck

4 thoughts on “#AskAlan, Vol. 7”

  1. Thanks for answering my question Alan! Would love to see medals for each team. This would be a great confidence booster for all, particularly Kari and Xander. I think Bryson will eat up the patriotism and perform well.

  2. Genuinely fascinated by the lack of golf in New York and my proposal for the playoffs to be moved there. Hope you touch on it some time down the line.

  3. Another great #AskAlan even though you didn’t include any of my thought-provoking questions. Love discovering a new SAT word every time I read your prose. I will try to utilize felicitous in a social setting this weekend. Keep up the great work.

  4. Isn’t the Bryson “bulk” firstly about being able to hack it out of the rough, secondly about being able to hit it far. I mean, for the all the distance work, Matt Wolfe was still hitting it close to or by him at the US Open last year. Would an LPGA player only really bulk up if the rough went up?

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