#AskAlan mailbag: Does a fall Masters favor a different type of player?

Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas walk down the fairway.

Whose game will shine come next week at Augusta National?

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In this installment of the #AskAlan mailbag, GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck answers your questions on Masters favorites, fans returning to the PGA Tour, GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Courses in the U.S. ranking and more.

Most exciting major of the 21st century not involving Tiger? #AskAlan -@martincbrennan

It has to be the 2004 Masters. The gentle giant Ernie Els makes two eagles in the middle of the round to surge ahead by three and then Phil Mickelson chases him down with a back nine for the ages, including an all-time walk-off putt on the 72nd hole that delivers a victory that had been hotly anticipated for a decade and a half. I’ve heard a lot of roars around Augusta National but I’m pretty sure the loudest ever was when Phil’s putt dropped.

Do you think AGNC will play firm and fast next week? Does a fall Masters favor a different type of player, or give someone with less AGNC experience a better chance? -@bill_lundeen

We’re now close enough to start paying attention to the forecast and it’s pretty grim: rain and/or thunderstorms likely Tuesday-Thursday and possible Friday-Sunday. Uggggghhhhhh. This would obviously preclude a firm, fast golf course and give bombers even more of an advantage. I’ve felt all along that the fall Masters helps those who have been snakebite in the spring, because everything will look and feel different. Throw in a soft course and Rory, DJ and Bryson are very, very dangerous.

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What is your favorite Masters concession item? My personal hot take is that the egg salad routs the pimento cheese 7&6 in match play. #askalan -@JeffShelman

Yep, egg salad is my fave, too. I add Texas Pete’s hot sauce, a handful of BBQ potato chips and sliced pickles, plus a tall glass of chocolate milk. My go-to afternoon snack to help me power through deadlines. Perhaps this explains some of those articles!

Thoughts on fans returning this week in Houston? -@ianmdallas

Not great optics in a week when the U.S. is setting new infection records every day, but I don’t think it’s in danger of being a spreader event, given there are only 2,000 people properly spaced out over 150 acres, outdoors while wearing masks. There is tremendous financial incentives on the Tour to bring back fans – even 2K fans a day will bring in roughly $1 million in revenue across the week – but given what’s happening nationwide outside the ropes it would be prudent to take things very, very slow.

Who’s a good dark horse for next week? I have Charl Schwartzel. He’d be considered one, correct? -@SonofaFitch46

He’s so dark he’s 90% cacao. I’ll take local boy Charles Howell, who knows all about the weather and turf conditions this year and is floating along on the good vibes of a life-changing awakening.

What’s worse: Election day anxiety or #12 tee shot on Masters Sunday anxiety? -@jamiekutzer

Clearly Election Day is more torturous. It only took 15 minutes or so for Jordan Spieth to make a 7.

If you’ve never been to The Masters, should you buy items from the Online Patron Shop? -@robmillertime

That’s like wearing a concert t-shirt but you didn’t go to the show. Wait until you get inside the gates to slurp up the swag.

How does Friar’s Head keep jumping up the GOLF Magazine Top 100 ranking? Pretty amazing for such a young course. -@david_troyan

Because it’s hella-good?

Everyone I know who has played Shinnecock, National, The Bridge, etc. says NGLA is the best. Why does Shinny always get top nod? -@ephmen

Shinnecock is an incredible test of golf with a storied history. National Golf Links is as much fun as you can have in pleated pants. I guess Shinny will always be more revered but I know which one I’d rather play.

If you can’t afford a caddy at Bandon for every round, which are the key courses in your opinion to spring for one? -@KevinBarton11

Old Mac is pretty straightforward (just play a hard draw over the dune on #3). Bandon has only one blind drive (#7) and there’s tons of room out there. I think you can figure out Sheep Ranch without a looper (on 8, aim for the tree that looks like a cactus, and on 12 drive down the right side). So, that leaves Trails and Pac Dunes. But I will say, each course has many subtleties and you’ll learn so much from the caddies. If you need a recommendation, Brandon Skytta is my guy — an incredible green reader and a fun, low-key presence.

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Alan Shipnuck

Golf.com

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.