#AskAlan mailbag: Can Brooks Koepka reclaim his alpha-dog status?

brooks koepka walks

Brooks Koepka has been in an injury-riddled funk as of late.

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In this installment of the #AskAlan mailbag, GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck answers your questions about Brooks Koepka’s return, the chase for ball speed, the upcoming Masters and more.

Ship, wanted your take on Brooks and whether he will rediscover what it takes to be a force again? With the cooler weather at Augusta and rush to get back playing can he be the alpha dog again? – @cavedoc

I hope so, because the game is certainly more interesting when Koepka is lurking on leaderboards. But we’ve now seen a disconcerting trend for a solid decade with this new generation of stars: they go on a tear for a couple of years and gobble up wins and majors and then their game/body/psyche breaks down. Think JDay (’15-16), Spieth (’15-17) and now Koepka (’17-19). Is it the pressure that comes with success that get them sidetracked? The modern golf swing and obsession with training? Despite his injuries, Koepka has way too much game and desire to write him off now, at 30. (At the CJ Cup this week, he said he feels “a million times better.”) So, this Masters looms large for Koepka, as a needed opportunity to reassert himself. 

#AskAlan can McIlroy’s new 190+ swing speed help his putting…? – @tallboy199

This is what’s amazing about Bryson’s ascendence. All the machismo and testosterone it takes to Hulk-smash drives would seem to have a negative effect on the delicate art of putting but for the 2019-20 season DeChambeau was a superb 10th in Strokes Gained: putting. McIlroy already hits it far enough. As you suggest, I’d like to see him spend more time on his wedge game, putting and mental approach.

jordan spieth rory mcilroy
#AskAlan: Do today’s young stars shine brighter and burn out quicker?
By: Alan Shipnuck

Could Augusta really “fix” a couple of the holes by moving tee boxes 5-10 yards one way or the other or are current Tour pros too good for it to make a major (pun intended) impact? – @Jwilliams263

It could certainly make a difference, especially on the back-nine par 5s. I’d love if the 13th tee got pushed way over to the left, making the hole more of a horseshoe and creating a far more exacting drive. (That would also prevent players from cutting the corner, over the trees.) Same with 15 — if the tee went left the trees down that side of the fairway would be far more in play, creating more dilemmas and difficult decisions. Moving the 18th tee to the right would also make a tight driving hole that much more fraught. We know the modern Tour player can pound the ball but can they also shape it properly with a green jacket on the line? That would be fun to watch.

#AskAlan: If you could go back in time to cover one event, which would you choose? For me I think it would be the 1960 U.S. Open. – @david_troyan

This is an excellent choice — as Dan Jenkins later wrote brilliantly about that epic national championship,”Small wonder that no sportswriter was capable of outlining it against a bright blue summer sky and letting the four adjectives ride again: it was too big, too wildly exciting, too crazily suspenseful, too suffocatingly dramatic. What exactly happened? Oh, not much. Just a routine collision of three decades at one historical intersection. On that afternoon, in the span of just 18 holes, we witnessed the arrival of Nicklaus, the coronation of Palmer and the end of Hogan.” The Duel in the Sun deserves strong consideration, as does Bobby Jones closing out the Grand Slam in 1930. But I would pick Hogan’s triumph at the 1953 Open Championship, dropping the curtain on maybe the most legendary stretch of golf ever played. Hogan’s sojourn to Carnoustie has the ring of myth and it would be incredible to witness it and report on it, especially since so few scribes were there at the time.

Any thoughts on increased adoption of single length irons since Bryson won the U.S. Open with them? I just got my Cobra SLIs and love them! – @RodMathews

I’ve been the oracle of single-length for years now and have definitely noticed an uptick in people asking me about them and, like you, reporting their personal satisfaction. There is so much talk about making the game easier for everyday golfers and this is, quite simply, one of the easiest ways to do it. I’m surprised more folks aren’t making the switch, but it will happen eventually.

Bryson DeChambeau at Augusta National
#AskAlan mailbag: Will Bryson DeChambeau overpower Augusta at the 2020 Masters?
By: Alan Shipnuck

Is anyone going to miss the Open Championship this year? My favorite major, but given the year, hard to say I’m going to miss it. – @spyhillbill

Certainly an autumn Masters is going to renew conversation about what the lords of the R&A could’ve/should’ve done to get the Open in. Was the cancellation driven by money? Surely. But this has been such a weird year for all of us, and given the climate/daylight issues in trying to squeeze in a delayed Open, I can’t be too hard on those old chaps.

Let’s imagine a mixed-gender team event … what team is the crowd favorite? Which team would make the best villains? – @GolfBurner

Crowd favorite: Danielle Kang-Tiger Woods

Villains: Cristie Kerr-Patrick Reed

With the LPGA at Aronimink, it got me thinking: What other classic course should the LPGA take majors to? Merion just up the road seems like a no-brainer. – @DavidAStorm

I’ve been advocating for decades for Cypress Point to host a women’s event as a tip of the cap to Marion Hollins, who was indispensable in the creation of the club. At 6,500 yards CPC is laughably short for male professionals, or even top amateurs; I recently heard the glum story of a college coach making his players move their drives back by 40 yards so they could somewhat replicate the shot values that Alister MacKenzie intended. But 6,500 yards is the perfect length for an LPGA major, so Cypress and Merion and National and Crystal Downs and Chicago GC and every other grand old course that is too short for the dudes would be be an incredible venue for the women. Here’s hoping.

Alan, I am worried about the long ball making the tour extremely boring. I would compare it to the NBA which has become one big monolith. Shoot a bunch of 3’s and if your team is hot that night, you are going to win. There is no variety to the style of play. What do you think? – @diehljp14

Yes, this has been an issue for a while with the PGA Tour and is obviously accelerating. I like basketball analogies. As in golf, NBA players are getting bigger and stronger and offense is better optimized through statistics and new ways of thinking. The difference is that the defenders are bigger and stronger and smarter, too, so that holds the game in check. In golf, the course is the defense, but it hasn’t kept up. Basically, what we have now is Bob Cousy trying to guard Giannis Antetokounmpo. It ain’t a fair fight.

Why do people who like blind shots like blind shots? What is the appeal of not being able to witness the shot itself, only the result?  – @HenriDeMarsay

Maintenance crew at Winged Foot
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By: Alan Shipnuck

I love blind shots! And you get to witness plenty — the start line and trajectory of your ball tells you a ton before it disappears. The charm of the blind shot is the suspense, the not-knowing, and the elation that comes when you crest the hill and discover your fate. Also, I tend to produce really good strikes on blind shots because I’m not fixated on the target but lost in the process. Obviously you don’t want too many of them but I suggest you access your inner-romantic and learn to love the mystery baked into blind shots.

If you could improve one skill in one 2nd-tier player to push them over the top who and what would it be? I nominate Corey Conners and his putting. – @AriSlater1978

Solid choice. I would bestow upon Rafa Cabrera Bello the ability to chip. The guy potentially has such star quality but his weakness with the wedge is a serious rally killer.

The three most overrated things in golf are what? – @scott_pianowski

Fancy private clubs, balls that cost $50 a dozen and … this column.

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Alan Shipnuck


GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck writes longform features and a monthly column for GOLF Magazine and has his own vertical on GOLF.com entitled “The Knockdown,” which is home to podcasts, video vignettes, event coverage and his popular weekly mailbag AskAlan. He is the author of five books on golf, including na­tional best-sellers Bud, Sweat & Tees and The Swinger (with Michael Bamberger). Shipnuck is very active on Twitter, with a following of 50,000.