#AskAlan: Should the Ryder Cup move to early September when the new PGA Tour schedule begins?

August 21, 2018

Sorry this column is a little tardy, I was overcome by FedEx Cup fever…

Is Snedeker now a lock for the Ryder Cup team? -Cathryn (@catheconnors)

‘Lock’ is a very strong word but he’s certainly put himself in a great position. Sneds’s rousing performance in Carolina was a chance to revisit his rock-solid play at the ’16 Ryder Cup, where he won both a fourball and foursomes match shepherding a kid named Koepka and then dusted Andy Sullivan (who?) in singles to complete an undefeated week. Given that the U.S. hasn’t won a road game in a quarter-century, I’ve been saying all along that Furyk’s picks are going to skew toward hardened veterans over untested young talents. With Tiger and Phil taking up two picks, it could very well come down to a choice of Snedeker versus contemporaries Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar. Sneds is clearly a lot hotter right now than either of them so I think I just talked myself into believing he’s, ahem, a lock.

Phil should be content with a vice captaincy in Paris and not take a spot from a younger player with a bigger upside in years to come. Does Furyk have the huevos to make that call? -@CountDownDave

Not in a million years.

How can players like Snedeker play so otherworldly—as he just did—but are usually so mediocre? Or did he find something special about his game? -@JoeGunter

It is the eternal mystery of golf. Every guy on Tour has the tools to go low – what pushes them into that zone? Sometimes it’s a new swing thought or rediscovered mechanical fix. In Snedeker’s case, he said after the PGA Championship he realized he was obsessing too much about the outcome of every shot and at Sedgefield merely focused on the process of hitting a good one. Simple, right? Clearly he should play like this every week for the rest of his career. But now Snedeker is thinking (and being asked incessantly) about the Ryder Cup, and maybe winning the FedEx Cup. Suddenly it becomes much, much harder to blot out the thoughts about what every shot means, and that little mental shift is enough to make him revert to the mean. Swing thoughts are similarly perishable. With diligent work a player may start to hit it great, so suddenly they change their focus to improving their putting, which makes sense. After a week of relative neglect their swing deteriorates just enough that a little doubt creeps back in. There are many permutations of this but the bottom line is that so many factors – mental, physical, spiritual – go into playing high-level golf it’s really, really hard to stay in the zone for very long.

Brandt Snedeker, 2106 Ryder Cup
Brandt Snedeker tees off at the first hole in the Friday afternoon four ball during the 2016 Ryder Cup.

Which of the ten 59s shot on the PGA Tour was the best and why? #AskAlan -@ViniciusAlvarez

Al Geiberger’s, because it was the first. You can’t understate how big a deal it was to become golf’s Roger Banister – don’t forget it was 14 years until another player broke golf’s 4-minute mile. It’s tempting to say the best 59 was actually a 58; funny how what Furyk (and Ryo Ishikawa) did seems to fall out of the conversation. But for sheer artistry and drama, I think the greatest sub-60 round is David Duval’s 59 at the ’99 Bob Hope. The tie-breaker is that Duval’s came on Sunday to win the tournament, and his walk-off eagle is the all-time exclamation point.

How underrated is the last event for the Web dot’s top 25? I haven’t seen human drama like that outside of some notable heartbreaks at the ‘real majors’. #AskAlan -Brian (@hailflutie)

Oh yes, it’s one of the best events of the season, for exactly the reasons you describe. More and more I’m drawn to golf’s minor leagues because of the human element. In the new Golf Mag I have a long piece on the Latinoamerica tour – it will be digitized soon, I swear – and it was fascinating spending time around young dreamers who are all scraping just to get by. The desperation was as palpable as the humidity, but so was the camaraderie. The Web is even more Darwinian. Watching last week’s melodrama made me resolve to cover next year’s finale so I can capture all of that heart-wrenching action.

In 2020, the next Ryder Cup year, the PGA Tour’s season is over by Labour (note Canadian spelling) Day—will the Cup still be at the end of September/early October, or move up? And if doesn’t, will the month off be a good thing or bad? -@CraigPostons

I asked a few PGA folks this very question in Bellerive. The dates for 2020 (Sept. 25-27) aren’t going to change because of the Olympics, which run until August 9th. Then the FedEx Cup has to be played and presumably at least one off week mixed in. The Cup could certainly be moved up in 2022, when it is to be played in Rome. (Those dates have yet to be announced.) But the effects of more time off between the FedEx and Ryder Cups is an interesting question. In the pre-FedEx days, the top Americans would often check out after the PGA Championship and their games were not sharp for the Ryder Cup. (Paging Phil Mickelson.) But you can’t say the advent of the FedEx really changed the American fortunes in the Ryder Cup, and with so many Europeans now taking up PGA Tour membership any effects of a longer layoff between Cups, positive or negative, will be spread across both teams.

Are endorsement deals overrated, because of the mixed bag of players winning majors? -@PeteKnot

I think you just answered your own question. Given how idiosyncratic and persnickety every player is about his equipment it’s folly to think that rigidly playing only one brand will help anyone maximize their performance. The players know this but are making a business decision on whether that X amount of guaranteed money is worth the trade-off. I don’t see it. Only the Tigers and Rorys of the world are making silly endorsement money on their gear. A guy like Patrick Reed, at the outset of this season, could have commanded maybe a million dollars in an equipment deal. Maybe. His Masters win is going to be at worth at least 20 times that in endorsements, appearance fees and bonuses, to say nothing of the fat winner’s check. I think after what’s transpired this year players are going to renegotiate /reconsider and more flexibility is going to become standard in endorsement deals.

Alan, I know the Wyndham is basically a points grab for those who need FedEx points but when CBS gives us the C-team in its broadcast, why not end the regular season at PGA Sunday? #askalan -@IamTimClancy

Because it makes too much sense. And because the PGA Tour middle-class exerts too much influence. When it comes to making the schedule, the key buzzword in Ponte Vedra Beach is “playing opportunities.” That means giving the rank-and-file enough starts to earn their Porsche money. So tournaments like the Wyndham exist mostly so the non-stars can get their reps. That’s why even in the new schedule it’s still there, taking up space.

Why is Tiger teeing it up this week? #AskAlan -@djdonof

The search for feels never sleeps.