In this installment of the #AskAlan mailbag, GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck answers your questions about the USGA’s open leadership position, the career arcs of today’s young stars, the 2021 Ryder Cup and more.
As the self-appointed new leader of the USGA, what are your first executive orders? – @NickGoblirsch
– Driver heads for the pros may not exceed 260cc.
– Golf may never be used as a verb.
– Every private club on the Top 100 list must allow public play at least two days a week.
– Only Michael Bamberger is allowed to use the terms “linksland” and “golfing his ball.”
– Golf influencers may post only one Instagram story per day.
– Golf Twitter prognosticators can complain about TV coverage only once per year.
– O.B. shall be converted to orange stakes — drop a ball within 2 club-lengths of where it crossed the hazard line and play on.
– Being creepy with the beverage cart attendant is a 2-stroke penalty.
– Iron covers, ball retrievers, blade collars, mock turtlenecks, joggers and using the term “width and angles” are punishable by death. Fans who holler “You da man!”, “Mashed potato” or other such drivel are subject to more extreme measures.
– If you didn’t start the company, you can’t wear the logo’d merch.
– All golf balls must be white.
– All golf podcasters must report for a recreation of The Hunger Games; only the lone survivor shall be allowed to continue podcasting.
– At every tournament, reporters shall be given the best parking and on-site spa services.
– Holes-in-one are banned until I make one.
How many weeks until Will Zalatoris has full status, and will he be in the top 10 of the Fedex Cup by the end of 2020? – @Golfingbrock
What a great story this kid has become, further proof that golf is the ultimate meritocracy … even if confusing Tour rules occasionally hold back a rising young talent like Zalatoris. No reason he can’t crack the top 10 — the dude is playing with a ton of confidence, and while plenty of other pros appear to coasting to the end of the year Z is coming strong every week. It’s clearly only a matter of time until he locks up his Tour status and then keeps building from there.
#AskAlan Is there better “elitist country club guy” name on tour than Hudson Swafford? I bet the Swaffords would have gotten an invite to the Smails’ yacht christening. Maybe Harris English or Charles Howell III? There can’t be many Hudsons living below the poverty line. – @BillMarksHusker
You make an excellent point, but it’s tough to top Brandel Chamblee, which sounds like an $800 bottle buried deep in the Augusta National wine cellar. And Davis Love III may have retired the category — I mean, he’s too soft to even have an aggressive ‘d’ sound at the end of his first name! Love’s surname makes us go gooey and the Roman numerals are *chef’s kiss*.
Do you see a journeyman type making next year’s Ryder Cup team? Someone that parlays a career year into a spot like Brett Wetterich, Chris Riley, or Jim Gallagher, Jr? If so, who for either side? #askalan – @SonofaFitch46
Don’t forget Vaughn Taylor! And J.J. Henry! It was those two, along with Wetterich, making the 2006 U.S. team that led the subsequent captain, Paul Azinger, to overhaul the qualifying criteria to make it less beholden to old results. Azinger also demanded more captain’s picks, a system that has stuck and thus reduces the chances of a rando sneaking into an automatic qualifying spot. Because of Covid the 2021 captain, Steve Stricker, will have a whopping six picks, so there is virtually zero chance a Wetterich or Vaughn makes the team. Europe has also tweaked its qualifying formula over the years, weeding out the Ignacia Garridos and Peter Bakers, though, in fairness, those fringe players tended to come up big, one reason the U.S. has consistently been upset over the last quarter-century.
#AskAlan have you seen Ogilvy’s work at Shady Oaks? Do you believe he can be the next Great Designer? – @pintosjavi
I was just talking with a friend today about how badly I want to tee it up at Shady and Colonial, two citadels I’ve visited but never played. I’ve heard the restoration work Ogilvy did is terrific. He has such a high golf IQ and reverence for good architecture it’s hard to imagine he won’t build a bunch of great courses, if he has the patience and persistence to see the projects through, which even before Covid was a tedious process for every would-be MacKenzie.
Do you think Tour players see a shorter career for themselves than in generations gone by? For example, Bryson, is he thinking ‘I’ll hulk up and give it everything the next 3-4 years’ while his body holds up rather than a 10-15 year timeline? – @StevenStewart18
Well, Bryson is a bad example because he plans to be playing the senior tour at 110 years old. But, yes, I do think in general players are going to peak younger and burn out faster. We might already be seeing that with the likes of Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. Top juniors are like shrunken down Tour players in their early teens, pushing themselves harder than the old-timers could ever imagine. (Brooks Koepka’s and Jason Day’s bodies are breaking down, just as Tiger Woods’ did before them.) Huge money and non-stop social media scrutiny await the most successful players, both of which make early retirement more attractive. So, enjoy these young stars while you can because their reigns may be fleeting.
Why doesn’t the PGA Tour career money list include FedExCup winnings? This is income won from Tour events, so why hide it? Are they embarrassed? Or would it skew the list for career top 25/50 exemptions? We need a ‘real’ money list surely, even if it’s just to laugh/cry at! – @ProGolfAnalyst
You nailed it — the numbers are so wildly over-the-top even the Tour realizes it’s a disservice to count the dough against the pre-FedEx Cup era. After all, a guy like Tom Pernice toiled for decades to grind out $14,950,594 in career earnings and now it takes only one week to win more than that.
Every time I go outside I immediately take notice of the wind direction and speed around me, out of just pure instinct and decide if it’s a good or bad golfing wind even if I’m not playing that day. Anything else you reckon golfers do reflexively like that? #AskAlan – @hailflutie
This is cultural universal. My dad, a non-golfer, is always flummoxed on camping trips when I crouch down to read the slope of the land like a birdie putt when in fact I’m merely trying to orient my sleeping bag so my head is at the highest point.
Are you the most famous golfing Alan? – @TomIrwingolf
Honestly, it’s a very sad list. Allen Doyle has to take the top spot here, even as he spells his own name incorrectly.
Feelings on plastic tees? – @ameyer77
A crime against humanity.
Who was better, Duval or O’Meara? – @WallDwarf
Duval and it ain’t close. That O’Meara is in the Hall of Fame but Duval isn’t is a testament to how we overrated sustained-pretty-goodness over transcendent-but-fleeting brilliance. From 1997-2001 Duval played at a level few golfers have ever attained. It’s a shame ennui and injuries ended his run, but even so, his record is damn close to Fred Couples’.
Alan, if I was to play Pebble Beach, what is a good timeframe to go there and play? – @jfsblue
Right this second! October is the best weather around here, and November is usually pretty great, too.
If we took the top 30 of the FedEx Cup standings, and had a pro wrestling battle royale, who would win? Who would do surprisingly well? Who is out immediately? #AskAlan – @NYRfan46
Out immediately: Webb, JT, Abe Ancer, Bryson, Morikawa, Kisner, Leishman, Horschel, Finau
Surprisingly well: Na, Xander, Berger, Sungjae, B. Todd, Cam Smith, Rory
Winner: Tyrrell Hatton
Why do I always find my swing at the end of the range bucket? – @Checkthehole
Because you’re tired and resigned to never finding it so you stop trying so hard and getting in your own way. Also, for the time in the entire practice session you’re actually concentrating, because nothing is as forlorn as sight as the dwindling bucket, reminding us of our ephemeral existence. You better make those last few balls count!