#AskAlan mailbag: Should Brooks Koepka or Rory McIlroy be Player of the Year?

August 28, 2019

In this installment of the #AskAlan mailbag, GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck discusees the end of the PGA Tour season, whether Rory Mcilroy or Brooks Koepka should be Player of the Year and more.

I understand the outpouring of approval because he is so immensely likable, but we already knew Rory was good at making money. The question remains, is he still good at making history? -@Lou_Tireworld

I can’t stop thinking about the vexing paradox built into McIlroy’s season. Statistically it was one of the best in recent memory but among his worst rounds was a 73 to open the Masters; a two-over 72 to open the PGA Championship; a 72 to close the U.S. Open, when he had begun the final round in 6th place; and the woeful 79 that put a dark cloud over the Open Championship. This is more than a coincidence.

We revere the major championships because the setups are the most exacting. Inconsistencies in a putting stroke will be revealed; holes in a wedge game shall be exposed. More than that, the teeming crowds, crushing hype and weight of history push players to the breaking point metaphysically. Clearly Rory has been getting in his own way over the last five years when it matters most. Will all the New Agey stuff he embraced this year help him figure it out, or is it a sign of how far gone he really is? Time will tell. But even though it feels like he’s been around forever, McIlroy is still only 30. I refuse to believe he doesn’t have one more big run in him. Maybe more than that. Of course, we’re been saying that for years now.

Five-to-ten years from now, where will the “Rory’s greatest season is 2019, when he won the Players and the FedEx Cup” gaslighting rank in the Gaslighting Hall of Fame? -@ANTIFAldo

It will be the case study that is on the syllabus of every post-graduate course on gaslighting.

In recent golf history who pulled an Andrew Luck, a top player and just walked away from the game? #AskAlan -@war_eagle1998

Oh, that’s easy: AK. Before that, Jodie Mudd. Waaay before that, Byron Nelson.

In August, Rory McIlroy topped Brooks Koepka to win the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup.
In August, Rory McIlroy topped Brooks Koepka to win the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup.
Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports

Is there a case to be made for Brooks and Rory as Co-POY? Brooks was amazing in the majors and meh elsewhere while Rory was meh in the majors and amazing elsewhere. -@FisherM24

Sure, that case can be made, but the modern sports-industrial complex won’t allow it. We demand that such things be zero-sum. But I disagree with your assessment of Brooks’ year: he won an f’ing WGC (dusting Rory along the way), beat a pretty good field in Korea, and had top-4s at the Honda, Nelson and Tour Championship. I’m enjoying watching all the Rory honks straining so hard to make their case, but Brooks is POY and it’s an easy call.

How many “regular” tour wins is a major worth to an average pro? In other words, would an average pro trade 5 regular wins for 1 major? 10 regular wins? #AskAlan -@Tombagjr

Well, it’s highly situational. I’m not sure Shane Lowry would trade his Open for 100 Tour wins. I bet Dave Stockton would trade one of his PGA Championships for a dozen more victories. But I can’t imagine any players would take a number less than that.

Re: Brooks’s body issue shot: His intentional weight loss hurt his game so it’s hard to say the photo represents a champion golfer’s body (instead, it shows a champion golfer’s crash diet body?). So what do the pics represent? Golfer ego? Is the publicity good for the game? -@zuzanryan

Let me just start by saying that if I never see Brooks’ a– again it will be too soon. Koepka looks great in his tight polo shirts but with his shaved chest and golfer’s tan the pics were a little…awkward? We’ve been down this road before with Tiger: a dominant golfer with an inferiority complex desperate to been seen as a real jock, ergo the packing on of extraneous muscle for reasons having more to do with vanity than performance. I guess all the attention was good for golf; it was certainly good for Brooks, who got the spotlight he craves.

Changing the starting scores has really opened my eyes. Why doesn’t the USGA start everyone at +10 (+18 on par 72s) to #protectpar? -@danmacleay

I wish I had thought of this.

Why not use carryover scoring through all three legs of the FedEx Cup, making it 12-round tourney over three weeks at three different courses? Whoever leads at the end of each leg wins that leg. FEC points used only to determine initial 125-man playoff field – and are then forgotten! -@HenriDaMarsay

Bamberger has been floating this idea for years. I love it. Strokes is easier to follow than points, and the Tour Championship this year proved that fans are open to a non-traditional way to keep score. But FedEx has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to make its points the coin of the realm. The Tour wants to protect that investment at all costs so it will never support a plan that makes FedEx Cup points wholly irrelevant.

What was the deal with DJ this year? He seemed fairly pedestrian after the PGA in May for the rest of the season. -@BigAlFishes

Well, he let the Masters get away and then had his manhood taken by Brooks at the PGA Championship. Imagine the emotional rollercoaster Dustin has been on. Koepka was his harmless little workout buddy, and seemingly overnight he became the player DJ was always supposed to be. Their lives were so intertwined it was inevitable there would be strain as the dynamic changed so radically.

Coming out of the PGA their shared swing coach Claude Harmon had to pick sides, and it’s telling that he threw in with Koepka. That had to cut Dustin to the quick, and that they sorta got back together doesn’t take away the sting of getting dumped. Statistically, Johnson’s iron play and putting was not as good this season as in the past, but the most telling stat was his give-a-shizz meter: it was clearly on empty after the PGA Championship. Hopefully Dustin can pull himself out of this funk because the game is a lot more interesting when he’s playing his best.

Dustin Johnson had a tough season on the course in 2019.
Dustin Johnson had a tough season on the course in 2019.
Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports

Here’s something to chew on: What (if anything) should the USGA have to say about Brooks Koepka using smokeless tobacco products and continuing to dribble nasty gobs of tobacco spit on national TV? -@DonVeach

It’s more in the purview of the PGA Tour. Right now there is no policy banning smoking or chewing tobacco, which is quite surprising given the Tour’s obsession with cultivating a squeaky clean image. Both habits are gross and leave behind a mess — I’d love see these vices banned during tournaments. What kind of athletic competition is it if players can puff away in the middle of it? There is a long history of chaw in baseball, but those guys aren’t wearing saddle shoes and preppy polos. It’s just a weird look on Tour.

Are you looking forward to the Rory/Hovland vs Brooks/Wolff match at the 2020 Ryder Cup? -@Golfingbrock

Deeply. It’s going to be fascinating to see how much turnover there is on both teams. Poulter, Stenson, Casey and Garcia are all warriors, but their average age will be over 43 by the time the ’20 Cup rolls around, and right now only Casey is in good form. Who knows what will become of ThunderBear or a volatile player like Tyrrell Hatton, both of whom were part of the team in ‘18. Meanwhile, it’s easy to imagine the U.S. will be without aging one-name champions Tiger, Phil and Bubba. So, there will be plenty of room for young talent like the Neo-Big Three of Wolff, Hovland and Morikawa, to say nothing of Xander, Matt Wallace and sundry others.

Do you think more Americans should play some of the late season European tour events now the PGA schedule has changed? -@tav190

Definitely. I’ve heard rumblings about a handful of Yanks heading to Wentworth in a few weeks, and why not? There is lots of dough and World Ranking points up for grabs, and it’s an easy flight into London. I’ve always wanted to see more Americans get to the great tournaments in Australia and South Africa in December and January, and this is definitely the year for it with the Presidents Cup in Oz. But we all saw how decadent the FedEx Cup was. It’s easy to imagine the top Americans feeling fat and happy and unmotivated to cross oceans for more golf. Heck, that’s how most golf writers are feeling right now.

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