#AskAlan: Is the Tiger mystique gone? Does anyone fear him anymore?

January 24, 2018

Yes, I will be part of this week’s Tigerpalooza, part of the herd shadowing Tiger at Torrey Pines upon his return to meaningful golf. In the meantime, enjoy this Woods-centric mailbag…

Is there a Tiger mystique with Tiger anymore? I understand players probably respect him, but does anyone fear him? -@JeremyBenson

Let us not forget that during Tiger’s chip yips epoch he was paired at various times with Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. Pretty sure that took away any residual fear. This new breed of twentysomethings were in the field when Woods hung up an 85 at Memorial, and when he left a huge gouge on the first tee of the Old Course. So, they may still idolize him, and they certainly respect him, but Tiger has been humanized and demystified by his avuncular role in various Cup team rooms. Unless he starts darkening souls again on Sundays, the intimidation factor is definitely gone.

What would be more surprising this week: Tiger making the cut or Phil missing it? -Forrest (@wannabgolfer)

Well, Mickelson missed the cut at Torrey in 2016 and ’15, and he’s coming off an MC last week at the Hope, so it wouldn’t rate as a shocker if he didn’t make it to the weekend, especially since he hates the redesign of the South Course and seems to bring that ill will between the ropes. Given Tiger’s comfort level at Torrey Pines I think making the cut is a realistic expectation. So, honestly, both events seem equally likely!

Why should we, as golf fans, suddenly idolize a philandering, drug abusing, former great who ruined his career through a pattern of self-destruction? Yes, TW once was The Man. But not now. -Neil (@Nmonroe916)

Tiger certainly has his flaws, and they have been chronicled exhaustively. I guess I have empathy because who among us – given global fame, unimaginable riches, willing women, etc. – wouldn’t have gone off the deep end, too? I don’t think we should idolize Tiger but we can still root for him, or, at the very least, enjoy watching him play. It would be thrilling to get just a few more glimpses of the player he was. And I will be happy for Tiger if he can go out on his own terms. He deserves that.

What kind of finish/performance would you have to see from Tiger this week to consider him to be a possible contender at the Masters? (Even though he will be a contender anyway #BecauseHeIsTheGOAT) -Bryan (@BCBean)

He’ll have to drive it long and straight, display zero evidence of the chip yips and hole a ton of putts. But even if all that happens, April is a lifetime away. The medium- and long-term issue for Tiger is can his body withstand the constant pounding it takes to prepare for tournaments and grind through those long weeks? One good showing in January will not answer that.

Considering Tiger’s age, all he’s been through, and his competitive rust, do you think he’s still capable of pulling off a blade collar? -@golfismental

Miles Davis would not be able to pull off a blade collar. Neither could Steve McQueen. Or Paul Newman. No way in hell Tiger can!

Here goes: How strange (and out of touch) were Curtis Strange’s comments about the chummy Rahm/Landry playoff? Does Curtis qualify as a “fuddy-duddy,” to borrow a phrase? -@CountDownDave

I gotta tell ya, I enjoyed Curtis popping-off. This morning, for no reason at all, I fell down a rabbit hole of old Lakers-Celtics highlights. Dudes were gettting clothes-lined and punched in the face with regularity! It was the bitterness as well as the artistry that elevated that rivalry. What made Tiger vs. Vijay so compelling? It goes back to the moment in 2003, when Singh was beginning the long ascent that would ultimately lead to him supplanting Woods atop the World Ranking. They were paired together and on the first tee Woods offered a few pleasantries. Singh responded with two words: “Titliest 2.” I know we live in a different world now, and I think the friendships shared by the top players are harmless and cute, but when it comes to nut-cutting time a little frostiness is fun.

Which foursome of writers would you like to play a round of golf with? Mine is Longhurst for eloquence, Wodehouse for wit, Steinbeck for grit, Job for perspective #AskAlan -Oskar (@tallboy) 

These are spectacular choices, though if we’re inviting a quartet it loooks like we’ll be forecaddying, as the foursomes are full. I would take John Updike, one of my heroes and a very enthusiastic golfer; Jim Murray, who loved the game and was one of the most naturally funny people I’ve ever been around; O.B. Keeler, to get all the great old history; and Michael Bamberger, already a regular playing partner and the person with whom I talk the most about this peculiar job we share.

Last week’s cameramen strike showed how necessary they are for a good broadcast. Which golf-related profession is most undervalued? (Besides golf journalists, I mean… hehe) -@AndresSotoMarin

It’s not a profession exactly but I’m constantly amazed at the legion of tournament volunteers who make each event possible. During a late-afternoon practice round at the Hope, on a distant corner of the Nicklaus course at PGA West, there was a lone gentleman standing next the green. Making small talk, I asked how long he’d been out there and he said since 6:30 a.m.! For free! Just because the tournament needed someone to stand in that exact spot. It was only Tuesday and he was committed to five more days in a row. And at every event there are hundreds of other folks who similarly donate their time, and many have far drearier assignments. This collective willingness to volunteer truly blows me away.

Can you encourage Kanye West and Kim Kardashian to name their baby “PGA West” to help #GrowTheGame -@LuxHomeMagPDX

Gawd, I wish I had thought of this.

How long will the next nine months feel when every golf writer takes a swipe at you for your Ryder cup prediction when a member of the European team does well? -Wes (@small_Du)

Yeah, lots of junk being talked in my Twitter mentions with Rahm and Fleetwood winning and McIlory looking frisky. Sadly, I fear the Euros have peaked too soon.

Will you be in Paris or will you watch Europe’s win from the couch? -@theAleMarcoli

As I was saying. Oh, I will certainly be in Paris. I love the Ryder Cup and haven’t missed one since ’97. And now I have more at stake than Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn combined!

Did you think you’d have to abandon the infamous Ryder Cup article so soon??!! -@Andrewford81

I ain’t abandoning s—. This European team looks strong, and is getting stronger. Alas, that’ll only make the loss more painful…for them and you.