#AskAlan, Vol. 8
Thoughts on Morikawa’s future, an Open without wind, Spieth’s resurgence, Louis’s latest disappointment, a Bryson/Cobra divorce, Phil playing his way out of the Ryder Cup and much more
by Alan Shipnuck
#AskAlan, Will Collin catch Jack? @GolfingBrock
I’m thinking this question might be in jest, but I vividly recall talking to Paddy Harrington on Sunday at the 2013 PGA Championship when he said that Rory McIlroy, having just won his second major championship at the age of 23, now had to be considered a threat to Nicklaus’s record haul of 18. How’s that working out? Morikawa, 24, just won his second in rousing fashion, and it’s easy to get carried away projecting forward, given his steeliness and bullet-proof long game. Clearly he is a threat every time he tees it up, most especially at the majors, which demand precision. Time will tell if Morikawa just enjoyed a career week on the slowish greens at Royal St. George’s or if he has made a more long-lasting breakthrough. Anyone who listened to Morikawa’s classy, heartfelt remarks at the trophy ceremony knows the kid has a good head on his shoulders, which bodes well for his long-term future. He is clearly going to win more majors. Does he get to four or five or six? That’s an epic career but seems doable, if he can stay healthy, motivated and out of trouble. Of course, any of those major totals would make Morikawa an absolute titan of the game. Let’s check back on him in a decade or so before we anoint him the next Faldo.
Does it take away from the Open at all that the weather wasn’t “Open like”? @acaseofthegolf1
There’s no room on the trophy for a weather report; the players can only try to master the course and conditions that are presented to them. But, yeah, the Open is waaaaay more fun for us to watch when it’s windy and nasty. It certainly asks different questions. I’m not going to devalue Morikawa’s victory, but I will say this was a rather artless Open because there was too much driver-wedge, and with receptive greens and little wind, RSG did not demand the shots that can make the Open such compelling theater.
In the Tour de France, all of France loved a rider named Raymond Poulidor, the Eternal Second, because he could win everything but the big one. Does King Louis deserve/have/earned that love from golf fans? #AskAlan @DStan58
Well, winning an Open on the Old Course is nothing to sneeze at, but I see your point. There is clearly a ton of affection for King Louis, in part because he is a likable, down-home dude. You gotta give him credit for continuing to throw himself into the mix at majors, despite the serial disappointment. But I’m over the lovable loser angle. I can’t invest any more emotion in Louis at the majors. If he breaks through I’ll be delighted to celebrate the accomplishment, but otherwise it’s getting hard for me to care.
Most disappointing player to win only one major … Louie/Duval/Kite/Couples? @HofSpillane
Freddy by a mile.
Is Spieth back? @Golfingbrock
Meet the new boss … same as the old boss. Spieth is definitely back, but I’m not sure he ever really went away. In a long career, there are going to be dips in form. Spieth’s felt particularly dramatic because at 21 he enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in golf history. But he never lost his passion or tenacity or good health, so even when he appeared utterly lost he was never that far off. He drove the ball beautifully at the Open on a very tight, twisty course. As he has regained control of his driver Spieth has become a week-in-and-week-out force. The victories haven’t been piling up, but I think that will change.
I absolutely want to know what you think the fallout is going to be from the Bryson/Cobra stuff. @VeryAvgDad
Over the weekend I texted with a higher-up at Cobra. I promised I wouldn’t quote the person but to paraphrase: 1) We’re tired of his shit, and the dynamic needs to change, 2) We can’t walk away now because we’ve already invested thousand of hours and millions of dollars on the guy, 3) We don’t have the massive marketing budget of Callaway or TaylorMade, and like him or not, Bryson moves the needle and frames the equipment conversation like no other player, 4) The only other (male) player we have is Rickie Fowler, and he’s not moving many clubs these days. Taking all of this into account, I think everybody moves on and Bryson gets some hard-won humility and gratitude toward those who have invested so much in his career. My contact at Cobra did strike an ominous note: After the FedEx Cup there are plenty of off-week and unimportant tournaments during which Bryson and a team of engineers can drill down on the driver issue. If they can’t find one he loves, both parties may have to reassess before Jan. 1.
If I’m Steve Stricker, I would team Morikawa with Bryson for all four matches and let them have at it. In fourball I think they’d be unstoppable. And Collin is such a cool and relaxed kid, with no ego, he can handle being with Bryson. They’d be 4-0 … I’m convinced. You? @fimschweiler
I like it. Finding a partner for DeChambeau was always going to be a headache, and you make a compelling case for Morikawa. In fourball they should be particularly potent, but I’m not sure DeChambeau is going to play much alternate shot.
Does Phil’s terrible play at the Open affect his Ryder Cup chances? @TheGhostofhogan
Hooo boy, the Mickelson question has to be causing Steve Stricker agita. Phil’s golf has been utter crap for the last year, save for one magical week at the PGA. Because the Ocean Course plays quite similarly to Whistling Straits, Capt. Stricker puts a lot of weight on Phil’s stunning win. But it’s becoming a numbers game. Morikawa, Spieth, DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele are utter locks. That leaves five spots. Patrick Cantlay and Webb Simpson feel like definites. Now we’re down to three spots. The candidates would be, in roughly this order, Tony Finau, Billy Horschel, Daniel Berger, Harris English and Will Zalatoris. None of those five have Phil’s presence, but they’re all much more reliable players. There’s also Patrick Reed, who is Stricker’s second biggest problem.
There are two reasons to pick Mickelson: for his mentorship/what he brings to the team room and because ultimately the Ryder Cup is an entertainment product and Phil is undeniably entertaining. Of course, making Mickelson a vice captain gets him into the team room and various press conferences. I would make Phil a vice captain, but I think Stricker will ultimately pick him because this nice Wisconsin boy doesn’t have the stomach to tell a living legend he has hit his last shot in the Ryder Cup. Hopefully Stricker gives Mickelson a short leash: play him in the opening day fourball and if he struggles he’s benched until singles.
Hey Alan, if my dad and I stay two nights at Pebble Beach, where should we spend another two nights and what two courses should we play in the area? Keeping things reasonable! @65colley
Drive to the other side of Monterey Bay and stay in Santa Cruz, which is such a cool town. Outside the summer months, the Dream Inn is a really nice, reasonably priced spot right on the beach, but you have plenty of other options. Pasatiempo is just minutes from downtown Santa Cruz, and it’s in the same echelon as Pebble-Spyglass. An hour up the coast (and it’s a jaw-dropping drive) is the Ocean Course at Half Moon Bay. Drop me a postcard.
What do we do with ourselves until the 2022 Masters? @jbayzzz
It is kind of sad that the next (men’s) major is so far away. But I’m quite excited about Evian, the Olympics, U.S. Amateur (Oakmont!), Curtis Cup, Solheim Cup, Women’s Scottish (Dumbarnie!), Women’s British (Carnoustie!), Wentworth, Ryder Cup, Dunhill, KFT Finals … must I go on?
–- Alan Shipnuck