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#AskAlan mailbag: Is the Players overhyped or underappreciated?

May 8, 2017

Thanks as always for the excellent questions. Let’s just get this one over with right at the top:

Is The Players a major? I mean I know it’s not, but you? -Wyatt (@wjzangl)

I must be getting old—I remember when Quail Hollow was the fifth major. Although a few players considered Doral the real fifth major. Whatevah, if you can wade through the endless hype, the Players is a pretty good little tourney. And that’s enough.

Is it too early to talk about a Kevin Chappell and Brian Harman alternate-shot pairing in the Presidents Cup? -Jensen (@YetterIslan)

Absolutely not. Gotta love how much passion (and clutch play) both of these guys displayed in their breakthrough victories. A signifiant chunk of the 2015 U.S. Presidents Cup team is now in their late 30s or older: Phil, Zach, Bubba, Kuch, J. Walker. This will be a transitional Cup for the American side and scrappy up-and-comers like Harman (who is currently 13th on the points list) and Chappell (6th) are the glue-guys who can make a team.

I am playing Pine Valley this week. What do I need to know before going, and what is something I can’t leave without doing? -Chad Buchanan (@_ChadBuchanan)

You lucky bastard! It’s as good as you’ve heard. One thing I’ve learned there, across eight or nine rounds, is to rein in my ambition. As the apotheosis of penal architecture, every shot is fraught with danger. If you get out of position a very big number lurks. So don’t try to be a hero, even though it’s Pine Valley; just get yourself back in play and try to salvage a bogey. And of course you have to try the snapper soup. Go heavy on the sherry, which improves the soup and helps with first-tee jitters.

Percentage of Tour players that voted for Trump? #AskAlan -@tildaddy

Pretty much all of them. Culturally, it’s a very conservative crew, but more than anything these independent contractors vote their pocket book. Taxation is the key issue. Tour players have to file in every state in which they earn a check, which can easily be a dozen or more. Any money earned overseas is taxed by the host country, and many nations even want a chunk of the endorsement money, prorated for one week. Needless to say, these guys hate taxes. One of my favorites tasks over the last decade and a half has been to come up with the questions for SI’s annual anonymous player poll. In early 2016 we asked 60-pus Tour pros, “If Hilary Clinton could guarantee to cut your taxes in half and the Republican candidate would keep them the same, would you vote for her?” Somewhat amazingly, only 33% said yes. And since we know that Hilary was likely to raise their taxes, you can imagine how many pros actually voted for her.

Who makes a cut next, Mahan or Kim? -Jeremy (@IndyJerome)

If you mean K.T. Kim, or Michael Kim, or Whee Kim, I’ll take any of them. If you’re referring to AK, it’s a toss-up!

Does your West Coast/TPC/modern tracks bias make an exception for Sawgrass? That should be anti-TPC, etc. I don’t have to tell you what you hate, I suppose. -Will (@willbardwell)

It’s true, I have often pointed out how flat Florida courses bore me, and expressed disdain for the artifice of much late-20th century architecture, and I do find it irksome how the majors, WGCs, Ryder/Presidents Cups and other overhyped events rarely visit the Best Coast. But I will admit a grudging appreciation for the Stadium Course. It’s so over-the-top it somehow works. If I had to play Sawgrass every day I’d certainly quit the game but as a high-stress tournament venue it’s pretty fun once a year.

On Tour, what percentage of players go first class, economy, private jet, car pool, etc. And what about caddies? -Chad (@KennyDaGambler)

Since my migratory patterns are often the same as the guys between the ropes I’ve peeped lots of players and caddies in transit through the years. I’ve never, ever seen a Tour pro in coach. Top-tier caddies are usually in the pointy end of the bird, too, though anecdotally a lot of it is done by using frequent flier miles for upgrades. Despite what you’ve seen on Rickie Fowler’s Snapchat, private jet usage isn’t as common as you think. Based on all of our polls through the years, the average Tour pro flies commercial the majority of the time. As more players have clustered in South Florida it has become common for a handful of guys to share plane rides and split the cost, which is substantial.

TPC Sawgrass is open to the public, but pricey. What regular Tour course(s) do you like enough you’d pay the rack/guest greens fee? I’ve played Harbour Town and Kapalua. Worth every penny. But I imagine you have been to so many courses that the bar is a bit higher. #AskAlan -@1beardedgolfer

I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question. What is this you speak of, paying for golf? If you’d like to know which are my Tour favorite courses that I’ve played, this is the list:

1. Pebble
2. MPCC Shore
3. Riviera
4. Royal Birkdale (works this year!)
5. Augusta National
6. Spyglass Hill
7. Plantation
8. Harbour Town
9. Sheshan
10. Sedgefield

Which Montereyan from “Big Little Lies” are you and why? 3-5 pages, single-spaced. -@Dylan_Dethier

Honestly, I’ve only made it through two episodes, partly because so many things about this show are nettlesome to us locals. First of all, if you live on the Monterey Peninsula and have money, you are definitely not sending your kids to public school in Monterey. Otter Bay, from the show, has a bit in common with Carmel River School, the alma mater of various mini ‘Nucks. And while many of the moms do drive Range Rovers, I’ve yet to see any of them at dropoff wearing designer clothes and high heels. (Yoga pants is more like it.) Reese Witherspoon’s house has a dock in the backyard? Uh, Monterey Bay is a federally protected marine sanctuary, nobody gets a backyard dock; that house is in Malibu, or so I’ve heard. And Nicole Kidman drives her kids to school every day across Bixby Bridge in Big Sur? She’d be the first mom ever to take on that arduous commute. So, to answer the question, I’m the perplexed extra in the background, frowning about all the things wrong with the show.