#AskAlan mailbag: Will Michelle Wie return to competitive golf?

July 4, 2019

In this installment of the #AskAlan mailbag, GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck fields questions about anything and everything: Michelle Wie’s future, whether or not Steve Stricker can make the Hall of Fame, what Viktor Hovland’s ceiling could be, and much more.

Coincidence or destiny that on the same weekend both Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Nate Lashley win by considerable margins after both overcoming considerable amounts of tragedy and adversity?-@GoranBarnes

I think that’s called kismet. Both were incredibly emotional victories that touched the golf world and beyond. Gotta be happy for both of these resilient champions. And I love that their wins further dispel the widespread belief that pro golf is homogenous and monolithic. For every Justin Thomas – dad’s a pro, learned the game at a country club, wears preppy clothes – there is a Camarón. Look at what the Leishman family has been through, or Stuart Appleby. Or Ben Hogan being in the house when his dad shot himself through the heart. How about Stacey Lewis having steel poles in her back, or Se Ri Pak being forced by her crazy dad to sleep in a graveyard to toughen her up? Or Angel Cabrera growing up in a tiny shack on the edge of a garbage-filled ravine? The sport is full of wrenching human stories. It was cool that we were able to celebrate Lashley and Bezuidenhout together.

Is Steve Stricker now Hall of Fame material?-@ScottyGman23

Underpinning this question is another: can achievements on the Senior tour significantly elevate a player’s legacy? The sustained dominance of Hale Irwin and Bernard Langer is certainly incredible and has thrown into sharp relief the competitive spirit of these warriors. But they were already defined by their U.S. Open and Masters victories, respectively. Stricker had a nice PGA Tour career: 12 victories, including some blue-chip ones. If it was called the Hall of Very Good, he would be a first-ballot inductee. Let’s say Stricker goes crazy and wins the next half-dozen old-guy majors in blowouts. It’s a cool achievement and would bring some deserved acclaim…but he’s still not Hall-worthy.

What will it take to permanently remove “senior major” from the golf vernacular?-@pmmacaluso

Personal responsibility. I am proud to say I have never used that particular phrase and would implore you to follow suit.

Admit it: The Irish and Scottish Opens will be 10 times more entertaining than what the PGA Tour will offer over the next few weeks.-@PopGarypopovitch

I admit it. Is this even in question?

Michelle Wie is out for the rest of the season due to a wrist injury.
Michelle Wie is out for the rest of the season due to a wrist injury.
Getty Images

One of the most poignant items I read was Michelle Wie saying she might be done with golf. Will she be back?-@david_troyan

The heart says yes, but the brain says no. Wie has played under a brutal spotlight since she was a tween. Her adolescence more or less robbed by parents and multinational corporations which turned her into a commodity. She has battled back over and over from injury, but the constant dings and swing changes have robbed her of her gift: she’s won only once in the last 5 years. Wie turns 30 this year and is recently engaged – does she want to keep banging her head against the wall? I’ve always felt she is too smart and well-rounded for the numbing grind of Tour life. I could see her transitioning into the fashion world, product design for Nike, the art world…lots of things, actually. I hope I’m wrong and she has a triumphant final act on the LPGA, but right now that seems very far away.

Where would you place Victor Hovland’s ceiling? Is he a Rickie Fowler-level talent? Rory? Better? The kid is solid and doesn’t seem to be scared of much.-@streetsigns

His ceiling is sky high. He instantly became one of the best drivers of the golf ball on Tour and it doesn’t appear he has any real weaknesses. I love his attitude. It’s a big gap from Rickie to Rory, and there are so many variable along the way. Let’s just enjoy this kid for a while and once there is a larger body of work we can come up with the proper expectations.

Should we be concerned about the economic viability of the Hogan Tour given the ‘effective immediately’ nature of their sponsor change mid-week to a company that as far as I can tell, no one had ever heard of?-@HailFlutie

It’s just the nature of the Hogan/Nike/Buy.com/Nationwide/Web.com Tour – it’s not quite the big-time and not in a position to be picky if a sponsor comes calling. Korn Ferry has written the Big Check so I think that upends your premise: the Tour is now economically viable for the foreseeable future.

What happens to all of those signed scorecards?  Would be great charity auction donation items!-@ronjfitz

This is a spectacular idea. I honestly don’t know what the Tour does with them each week but I’m fixin’ to find out.

If the Americans sweep the majors does it make up for the waxing in the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, and does it restore ‘Merica’s mantle of dominance in golf?-@BrunoGarrett1

Given the trauma I’ve endured nothing will ever make up for the monumental egg that the U.S. laid at the last Ryder Cup. But the Americans’ continued dominance in the majors does buttress my long-term prediction that the U.S. will turn the tide at the Ryder Cup on the strength of younger, stronger players. The x-factor remains Europe’s better captaining and, especially, vastly superior team-building. While the Americans always seem to be dealing with melodrama and struggling to find chemistry, the Euros consistently bring out the best in each other and have a heckuva lot more fun doing it. At this point it takes an anthropologist to explain why, not a sportswriter.

When will we have a senior Ryder Cup?-@RealRosenRosen

This would actually be awesome. Can you imagine the yip-a-thon coming down the stretch? There is so much history and bad-blood here…who wouldn’t want to watch Zinger and Olazabal battle to the death with some kind of Ryder Cup trophy on the line?

On a scale of 1-10, how important is a driving range divot pattern?-@BCrawfordgolf

Let me just say that a divot pattern tells you a lot more about a person than just the angle of attack of their swing. It is an x-ray of the soul. Be very, very wary of any person with a slovenly divot pattern.

What’s more difficult: getting a PGA Tour card or keeping it?-@Doevle

Oof, tough one! Each task is a brutal struggle. But once you’re on Tour you can keep your card with one or two really hot weeks. But fighting your way onto Tour is Darwinian struggle with thousands of quality golfers battling for 25 spots off the Korn Ferry tour and the crazy-long odds of Monday qualifying. When you look at the numbers and the depth of talent out there just securing a Tour card is one of the great achievements in sports.

Steve Stricker hits a shot during the final round of the 2019 U.S. Senior Open.
Steve Stricker hits a shot during the final round of the 2019 U.S. Senior Open.
Getty Images

Are you teeing it up in Ireland before The Open?-@neillmp

You wanna hear the ultimate First World problems? My annual buddies trip to Bandon got scheduled (by others) for the week after the Open. And I promised my teen daughters I’d take them to see Billie Eillish in concert this summer and the only time it works is the week before the Open. Thus smooshed for time on both sides of the trip, I don’t have a single round lined up on the Irish island. For shame! I have been lucky to play my way across Ireland a few times, and I’ll surely sneak in some twilight golf with Bamberger at some point. The good news for you, the fan, is that I will be one less scribe filling up your social media feeds with mouth-watering golf porn from all over Ireland in the days before and after the Open.

What are you most and least looking forward to about going to Royal Portrush?-@alexthomascnn

Most: The incredible passion that surrounds this historic Open. The thump of a good iron shot played off that gloriously firm turf. The fresh-out-of-the-frier fish and chips sold at every Open. Watching the pros use the wind and the ground to manufacture shots. Following local sons McIlroy and McDowell to see if they can summon some magic. Twilight golf with friends. The unpredictability of Open Sunday.

Least: not a single thing.

So, after what should be a fantastic Open Championship in Portrush, the highlight of the rest of the year is the Fedex Cup and the Presidents Cup…z z z z. Sorry, nodded off during my own look at the rest of the golf calendar.-@Mcooney1

Well, for ages we’ve been complaining that the season is an endless slog. Now it’s been condensed and everyone is complaining. I like the cadence of the new schedule. And once the FedEx Cup ends there is still plenty of meaningful golf on the Euro Tour and LPGA, then in Australia and South Africa and parts of Asia, to say nothing of the do-or-die developmental tours. I think it will be nice to have the chance to miss the PGA Tour for once.

Lots of great non-fiction and instructional golf books out there. Top 3 fiction golf reads?-@Sandiegogolfer

Dead Solid Perfect, The Match, The Swinger.

I’ve just got tickets for The Open 2020, with my 9-year-old boy. Tips for attending a major with a kid in tow? Follow a group or park on a sand dune/grandstand? Best place to get photo with his heroes? What to avoid?-@MrEdwardLight

There’s no wrong way to do it. I would pick an intriguing but not overly popular player in the middle of the pack and follow them for as many holes as your son is having fun. It’s a great way to see the course and the myriad skills of the players in the group. As you get deeper into the course there should be plenty of spots, especially on tee boxes, to get your son just yards from the action. He can also position himself in the corridors from green to tee, which is a chance to slap low-5s and maybe exchange a few words with the players. If he does that a few times with the same non-superstar players they’ll start to notice him. Then, coming in, park it at a few grandstands to get off your feet. Try to find a few where you can see a couple different holes, or at least a green and tee, so there is a variety of shots to watch. If he (or you) is fixated on seeing Tiger or a few particular players, a grandstand is the only good option because it’s always a mess on the ropeline. But you have to be strategic and get a hole or two ahead of the masses to grab a seat before they roll through. For autographs/pics, best spot is entrances/exit to the driving range in the afternoon. Many/most players are too focused to indulge before the round but afterward they’re more relaxed. The only thing to really avoid is burning him out. You don’t want the day to be an endless slog and sour him on returning; the first time I took my son to the Crosby Clambake he lasted about an hour and a half. It pained me to abort mission so early but his memories of the day are vivid and happy. If I had made him stay til the bitter end I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t be the case. Anyway, tweet me early that week and I’ll try to arrange a tour for you guys of the inner sanctum where the real heroes toil: the press room.

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