#AskAlan mailbag: Is the Masters overrated, how long until Tiger can qualify for WGCs and more

March 15, 2018

It’s Tiger’s world, we’re just living in it…

Which victory was less popular/most disappointing: Paul Casey at the Valspar or Stewart Cink over Tom Watson at the 2009 Open? #AskAlan -Tony (@ducksphan)

Both were soul-crushing but the stink of Cink’s win remains more foul for the simple reason that Watson’s run was a once-in-a-lifetime stroll down memory lane for a 59-year-old. Something rare and magical happened on the auld sod and the second it was over we knew Old Tom would never again have such an opportunity. It’s pretty clear that, barring the unforeseen, Woods will have plenty more chances to win, and if/when he does we’ll be able to forgive Casey and his trespasses.

Why do so many people hate fun and complain about how much attention Tiger gets when his winning would represent one of the most compelling comeback stories we’ve seen? -@Peter_Bukowski

Are people still complaining? The kvetching was defensible coming out of Riviera, when Tiger missed the cut and the contours of this comeback were still unclear. But after his excellent play at PGA National and scintillating near-miss at Innisbrook, even the most ardent Tiger-hater has to be intrigued, if not excited. For sure, some slice of the population will never forgive Woods for the sex scandal and other misdeeds. But what he’s doing right now between the ropes is monumental. How could we possibly look away?

Seeing the photos of the phone-holding crowds surrounding Tiger makes me wonder who is the biggest annoyance to pro golfers: fans with phones or professional photographers? -Paul (@paulkaps)

Oh, fans by a million miles. The pro snappers are hyperaware of the golfers’ space and rituals and quirks and work very hard to be unobtrusive. On the rare instances when someone clicks in a backswing you can be sure it wasn’t one of the veteran photographers on the beat but rather a local yokel who wangled a credential. Believe me, the players know the difference. And in general they appreciate the effort of the snappers, who are out there from dawn to husk hustling around with heavy equipment, as opposed to the scribes, who might leisurely stroll nine holes, all the while tweeting barbs.

The new USGA rules allow for the tamping down of ‘shoe damage, indentations from a club or flagstick, and animal damage.’ How long will PGA Tour rounds take now that spike marks, alleged spike and imaginary marks can be smoothed? -@AnthonyPioppi

Put it this way: we’re going to be longing for the brisk pace of play J.B. Holmes displayed at Torrey Pines.

Is the Masters overrated? -@TwoInchesShort

Of course it is. It is merely a golf tournament, while the hagiographers and sycophants among us treat the Masters like an orgasmic religious experience. The treacly piano music, the silly old traditions — I mean, who really likes or cares about pimiento cheese? — the stupid code words that must be used, the worshipping of the white-washed good old days…it’s all a bit much. The course has been diminished, too. (I was thunderstruck by the anecdote in Bamberger’s recent Nicklaus story in GOLF Magazine that Billy Payne was unaware that the playing characteristics of the Old Course inspired Augusta National, but this indifference to strategy and design by a recent chairmen explains a lot.) All that said, it’s still a helluva golf tournament. The course is undeniably beautiful and exciting, the fan experience is the best in sports, the finishes skew toward the thrilling. Overrated that it might be, the Masters is still great.

If you had the power to completely solve one problem in golf, which would you choose? -Adam (@GolfUnfiltered)

I would make a hole-in-one, ba da boom. Beyond that, slow play is an easy answer. It’s tedious on TV and brutal for fans on-site at tournaments, and a major issue for recreational players – how much more would you play if 18 holes took three hours instead of five? Structurally, access to the game remains a massive problem. The Youth on Course program should be mandatory at every course in the world, including private clubs, which should adopt the UK model and open their doors at least a couple of times a week. Next, I’ll bring peace to the Mid East.

Why is Tiger Woods’s World Ranking so abysmal? Couldn’t he have been protected with a medical exemption? Also when does he get into the top 50, the top 10…and where does he top out? -Oskar (@tallboy)

The ‘minimum divisor’ is the issue here. To ensure that players don’t sit on good results to protect a high ranking, their total World Ranking points are divided by 40, what is essentially the minimum number of tournaments they must play in a two-year period. In these injury-ravaged past two years, Woods has accrued 43.77 points. That number is divided by 40, giving him an average of 1.09, which ranks 149th. But if you divide 43.77 by Tiger’s actual number of starts over the last two years – 8, including Dubai – his average is 5.47, which would currently rank 13th(!) in the world. Cracking the top 50 isn’t easy because it’s a closed shop – Woods’s low ranking is keeping him out of the WGCs, which offer easy points, which helps the top 50 players stay in the top 50. Because of the divisor issue he’ll have to play lights-out for a sustained period to sniff the top 10 in the rankings. But as we’re seeing, Tiger is redefining in real-time what seems possible.

These terms seem to be used interchangeably, but I’d like to know: what is the difference between a chip and a pitch? -Christopher (@hanfordchris)

They are entirely different. Sort of. A chip is a delicate little shot close to the green, while a pitch is a longer shot from farther away. The tricky thing is that it’s entirely subjective when a chip becomes a pitch! When in doubt, just say, “Nice play.”

What is your favorite course on the Florida swing? #AskAlan -Matt (@PurdueMatt05)


Who’s the one Tour player who every other PGA golfer would step in and help in a bar fight? (The anti-Bubba question.) -@CraigPostons

It’s gotta be Steve Stricker, the nicest, sweetest, most universally liked guy in golf. Watching him get beat up at a Cracker Barrell would spur even the meekest golfer to action.

Given that he has a better career record than Price and Norman, Vijay is a cinch to be appointed Presidents Cup captain sooner or later. Right? -Juan (@jmhst2003)

Now this is funny. You do know that Vijay has spent the last several years embroiled in a nasty lawsuit with the PGA Tour, right? And that it’s the suits in Ponte Vedra Beach who appoint the Presidents Cup captains? Golf bureaucrats have very long memories. Mark O’Meara and David Duval led the Ryder Cup pay-for-play insurrection at the 1999 PGA Championship. In the years that followed O’Meara campaigned hard to be a Ryder Cup captain and even enlisted Tiger to make the case but there’s a reason it never happened. Duval will never be considered either. So, it would be a shocker if Vijay ever gets the nod…unless it’s part of a top-secret settlement.

Do you think P. Reed lost the right to wear red and black on Sunday with that finish at Valspar? (Not that he ever earned it.) #AskAlan -@ScottyGman23

And don’t forget his 72nd hole cock-up at the 2017 PGA Championship when Reed had a chance to win there. It’s time for him to be downgraded to pink and beige.

Why are we such prisoners of the moment? -@TonyWurtzSK

Because time is a manmade construct. Also, blame Twitter.