#AskAlan mailbag: Should the Tournament of Champions field include other tours?

January 9, 2020

In this installment of the #AskAlan mailbag, GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck answers your questions about the Sentry Tournament of Champions field, Patrick Reed’s future, athletic golfers and more.

Thoughts on expanding the “Sentry Tournament of Champions” to include winners from the PGA and European Tour? #AskAlan -@GoranBarnes

We already have a series of limited-field events marrying the top players from PGA Tour and European Tour — the WGCs. We don’t need another. Like most of you, I would love to see a mixed event combining the PGA Tour and LPGA, but it needs to have a much larger field than what we get for the T o’ C. I happen to like the concept of Kapalua — it’s the ultimate reward for winning and a lovely way to kick off the new year. I just wish more top players would support it. Le sigh.

How long will people be yelling “cheater” in Reed’s backswing? And is there anything he can do (short of having his brother-in-law fight every heckler) to make it stop? #AskAlan -@EthanZimman

Alas, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Reed’s ridiculous shoveling antics at the Presidents Cup showed every would-be yahoo that they can get under his skin, so I expect there will be a lot more heckling until it gets so tedious and redundant everyone moves on to the next thing. (Paging Sergio…) Clearly the Tour needs to have an increased presence in Reed’s galleries — not the fuzz, but at least some roving uniformed marshals to serve as a visual deterrent and who have the power to toss the most obnoxious bros. I really don’t think Reed himself can do much at this point. Winning is not going to make things better; all the bad juju has only intensified after his Masters triumph. He’s done the warm-and-fuzzy appearance on Feherty but that didn’t change anything, except to make us question his taste in home furnishings. Reed unrepentantly is who he is, and golf fans are not likely to buy any amount of P.R. spin. So, to quote one of our great philosophers, it is what it is.

JT, 5’9 145 lbs…Xander, 5’9, 150….Reed 5’9 215 lbs. Somebody told me that athletes were “taking over golf.” Was I lied to? -@Laz_versalles

Not exactly. Guys that size used to be the archetype on Tour, and now there are big boys like Koepka, Rahm, DJ, Tiger, Woodland, Bryson and Finau all in the top 16 of the World Ranking. Matt Wolff was a standout baseball player who picked golf; there are other jocks like him in the pipeline. As these guys use the long-ball to enjoy long, profitable careers and help subtlely reshape the image of the sport, other such ath-o-letes will continue to be attracted to golf, making the typical Tour player bigger/stronger. Both JT and Xander spend a lot of time in the gym, increasing their strength and flexibility and allowing them to generate a ridiculous amount of speed despite their petite frames. It’s cool that in golf there is still room for anyone if they have the right skill-set. The difference is that almost all of these athletes are now maxing out their physical gifts with the help of trainers, nutritionists and osteopaths, to say nothing of TrackMan and custom club-fitters. I would argue Justin Thomas is an incredible athlete, even if he doesn’t quite look like it.

In astrophysics, the event horizon of a black hole is the boundary within which the black hole’s escape velocity is greater than the speed of light, meaning no escape. What is the p.r. event horizon for a PGA Tour pro, where the behavior is so boorish that there is no coming back? -@ANTIFAldo

Well, Thorbjorn Olesen may serve as a test case, but since he previously came off as a likable character I suspect Thunder Bear will survive his scandal if he displays the proper amount of contrition. I mean, Tiger Woods has enjoyed many of the seven deadly sins and he’s more beloved now than ever before. In golf, cheating was the original sin that could forever taint a player. But that seems to be changing; look at how the lords of Ponte Vedra Beach whitewashed Reed’s antics (“perfect gentleman”). If the Tour were to start handing out suspensions for flagrantly breaking the rules — as happens in other sports — that would powerfully affect how those players are perceived. But many known rules-breakers still walk among us, so it feels like the stigma is not what it used to be, despite the mob justice currently being visited upon Reed.

What needs to change for there to be more variety in Tour courses? Kapalua and Waialae are so refreshing. -@Kyechsports

Geoff Ogilvy needs to become the CEO of FedEx. And Bill Coore needs to become commissioner of the PGA Tour. Right now, the shot-callers are satisfied with the product, even as the style of play has become increasingly redundant and uninspiring. It will take an entirely different sensibility to force the Tour to seek out more interesting venues. For now, at least we have the Walker Cup, Mid-Am and select other events that are ranging further afield.

What is the topic or event that you are most looking forward to this year? #AskAlan -@_Qonquistador

Oh, that’s easy: golf at the Tokyo Games.

#AskAlan Why do pro tours have Monday qualifiers for many events? Is it just tradition or do they serve some function that escapes me? Why not just make the spots available to players further down the priority list? -@PopsAndSunshine

It’s partly driven by tradition — before the all-exempt Tour came to be decades ago, the so-called rabbits had to qualify more or less every week. So Monday Qualifying is the last vestige of this meritocracy. There is undeniably some romance in allowing a few folks to play their way in every week, whether it’s the local hot-shot or a grizzled vet just trying to hang on. There are already 120-140 spots taken by the priority list at every event, so I don’t see the harm in allowing a handful of players to barge in through the side door.

#AskAlan How do we fix the Middle East stops taking away the star studded fields that made Kapalua so fun? So far Amex has announced 5 top 50 commits vs. 14 for Abu Dhabi. It seems to get worse each year. Three top Americans in Abu Dhabi, at least six in Saudi Arabia, etc. -@Brianros1

There are only two options: the PGA Tour has to become more protectionist and exert some control over its members’ schedules, or there needs to be more coordination between the tours when it comes to dates. The second option would be much simpler to enact. The only Euro Tour events paying enough in appearance fees to attract top Americans are the Middle East events. Why can’t these be scheduled for December when the PGA Tour is in hibernation? Or perhaps the Tour could have a bye week each January, and the various Mid East events could take turns being plugged into that date. This seems fixable but maybe I’m just a dreamer.

What are your thoughts on the new TaylorMade SIM driver?? What big stick are you gaming in 2020?? -@ramon_ware

Looks cool and I hope to hit it soon, but I’m not looking to make a change. My embrace of single-length irons may suggest otherwise, but I’m not much of a tinkerer; I’ve got a hybrid in my bag that is at least a decade old. My Epic Flash is now from a couple of product cycles ago but I doubt I’ll be swapping it out any time soon.