#AskAlan: Tiger’s wedge, the U.S. Ryder Cup picture, and sports betting’s effect on pro golf

May 14, 2018

Fresh off the Players, thanks as always for the excellent questions. Let’s get to it…

What effect will the ruling on allowing sports betting have on professional golf? #AskAlan – Mike (@mknjvt91)

It’s going to drive a massive amount of attention to the sport. Think of it this way: the NFL offers only one good day a week for betting, for barely 5 months. Pro golf is four long days of competition pretty much every single week, all year long. And for prop bets you have 150 or so guys in action, as opposed to maybe a couple dozen in any other sport.

Even more intriguing is how regular fans can glean real-time information to use to their advantage when betting. For every major sport, practices are closed to the public and data about players’ health and well-being is tightly controlled. On Tour, all you have to do is hang around the putting green or driving range – where any general admission ticket grants access – to see with your own eyes who is using a bunch of contraptions and video cameras and convening summits with instructors in a desperate attempt to figure out what’s wrong. Or follow certain players in their practice rounds to assess the state of their game.

None of this has a straight-line correlation with how they’ll play in competition but it does give the would-be bettor more proprietary information than is available in almost any other sport.

Winning score at the U.S. Open? -@TimDMcC

Jeez, the ruling just came down a couple of hours ago and you guys are already hitting me up for inside info? For shame! (-3)

With Webb beating the pants off one of the deepest fields of the year, can we finally end the “whose A+ game” is the best debate? At the PGA Tour level, all of these guys have phenomenal A+ games. #askalan – @ShoshEAK

Yeah, Webb’s blowout win was certainly a graphic illustration that when any of these guys get hot they’re capable of tremendous (and deeply unexpected) performances. It certainly helped that this finesse player decided to go crazy on a position golf course where his lack of power was not a glaring weakness. The more relevant questions are: 1) Who can access their A-game most often? 2) Who can still win with their B-game? I’d say the answer to the first question is Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, while Spieth is clearly the answer to the second.

How unlucky was Tiger to have the 2mph wind shift on him on 17 and make his slightly chunked sand wedge come up 10 yards short? -@GeorgeBooth73

Haha, well played. That was a revealing moment for a couple of reasons. It was certainly the most aggressive play possible, which tells us that Tiger was thinking only about trying to steal a victory and not protecting World Ranking points…or his pride. It was also a healthy reaction from a guy who suffered so many ritual humiliations in 2015-17. If Tiger is going to reclaim his destiny he needs to go back to believing that he is incapable of hitting a bad shot, and that the wind, or the lie, or a rock in the bunker, or a spike mark is the only possible explanation when things go awry.

Jack Nicklaus once told me he usually went the entire West Coast swing without a three-putt. That’s impossible, especially on the bumpy, shaggy greens of yesteryear. But he was totally serious when he said it. Great players never admit weakness, so Tiger blaming a nonexistent wind is actually progress of a sort.

Gun to your head, do you wear the Nike nightgown (blade collar, is that what they call it?) or Mickelson’s puffy button down? I go with the latter. Reluctantly. – @CHFounder

I take up tennis.

#AskAlan Has Johnny [Miller] officially reached the “I’m an old man IDGAF” stage? – @CenCalHack

Yeah, he reached that stage… in 1997.

The U.S. Ryder Cup picture looks like a mess coming out of the Players. Lots of vets (Simpson, Duf, Bradley, Walker) showing life + talented young guys. What would your squad look like today? #AskAlan -Brian (@brianros1)

It’s not a mess, it’s an embarrassment of riches! It’s really hard to project because spots 6-11 are separated by barely a thousand points, which equates to a million dollars, which is less than the winner earns each week on Tour. And double points become available at the summertime majors, so there is going to be a lot of volatility for the top 8 spots, which automatically earn a place on the team. But based on where they are on the points list right now, their Ryder Cup history and/or who they are, I think these guys are locks for the team, either because they will qualify automatically or certainly get a captain’s pick: PReed, DJ, Jordan, JT, Bubba, Phil, Tiger.

Brooks Koepka is currently 7th in the standings; if he stays healthy he’s a sure thing. So is Rickie Fowler (6th), given his strong run at the Masters and, more to the point, the fact that he was a member of the Ryder Cup task force! So that’s already nine no-doubters. Ten, when you count Kuchar (10th). He’s wildly popular with his teammates, has been solid in previous Cups and will turn 40 soon – this could be his last hurrah so no way his contemporary Jim Furyk denies him a spot on the team. That’s an exceptionally strong core, giving the U.S. the luxury to be more creative with the final two picks.

If the venue was a big ballpark maybe you take a Tony Finau (15th) or a Gary Woodland (17th) and turn them loose in fourballs, but Paris National is tight and quirky. I would take Zach Johnson (24th), who hasn’t missed a cut all season while racking up nine top-25 finishes. In the Task Force era, the American leadership is focused on continuity and the big picture, which would argue for a young player like Bryson DeChambeau (12th) or Xander Schauffele (14th).

But with Reed, Spieth, Thomas, Fowler and Koepka all in their 20s, giving young players a shot is not that important. Especially not this time around, given that the U.S. hasn’t won on foreign soil in a quarter-century. In a hostile environment, against a very strong European team, experience will be key, so the 12th and final spot will go to the hottest veteran when the teams get picked – could be Simpson (9th), could be Walker (18th), could be someone we’re not evening thinking about yet who gets hot this summer, like a Bill Haas (37th).

Regarding Dufner’s latest “man trapped in medieval motion-limiting torture device encounters poisonous snake” putting ouvre… What the hell happens to golfers with short game demons, man? -Vaidya (@vs2k2)

Yeah, that yippy display is why I didn’t mention Dufner above – if you’re Jim Furyk, are you gonna bet your legacy on that putting stroke? I think not. Fact is, Dufner has always been shaky on short putts; I covered his first win, in New Orleans in 2012, and even in victory he was all but puking on the short ones. Some of it is technical – the path of his putter on the backswing was visibly inconsistent down the stretch at the Players – but mostly it’s mental and emotional.

Tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger tiger? #AskAlan -Steven (@WestofDestiny)