#AskAlan: What’s the most intimidating tee shot in golf?

January 31, 2018

Is it me, or is this golf season already feeling slightly epic? DJ’s out here nearly acing par-4s, Jon Rahm is going full Seve, Tiger’s back, Rory’s resurgent, we have raging controversy coming out of Torrey Pines, JDay is suddenly back in the mix, and now we get the biggest party of the year in Phoenix. And it’s still only January! Yowsa.

Alan, I’m wondering why it never occurred to J.B. Holmes to turn to Alex Noren and offer to let him go ahead and hit. My understanding is it’s not against the rules to do that unless it gives either player an unfair advantage. I think in the spirit of good sportsmanship that’s the least J.B. could of done. – Ron (@Mintzgolf)

Holmes certainly could have offered that courtesy, just as Noren could have asked to hit. Or Noren could have simply gotten fed up and pulled the trigger on his own accord – there’s no penalty for playing out of turn in stroke play. But Holmes is clearly a taker, not a giver, and he was thinking only about himself at that point. Poor Noren didn’t know J.B. was going to take so long – he was left to wait and seethe, like the rest of us. It probably would have felt awkward to have to shout across the fairway to Holmes, and then it puts the onus on Noren to go through his routine quickly while the whole world is now waiting on *him*. It was just a messy situation all around.

New rule: The second your caddie hands you the club, he starts to hold his breath. Player has to pull the trigger before caddie faints. Does this have legs? #askalan – Laz (@laz_versalle)

Sadly, no, because Holmes will find a scuba instructor who can hold his breath for four minutes and turn him into a caddie.

Most intimidating tee in golf: Augusta 1, Old Course 1, Merion 1, Cypress 16, Phoenix 16? #AskAlan – @ScottMichaux

You seem to be mixing genres here, because the 16th at TPC is an easy hole but for the fact that 100,000 yahoos are waiting to rain abuse (and empty beer cups) if you’re a pro who hits a mediocre shot. Meanwhile, CPC hasn’t been used for tournament play in decades. So I will say that for amateurs the 16th hole at Cypress has to be the toughest shot on the planet. You’ve waited your entire golfing life to play it and there’s a good chance you’ll never get another crack at it. The internal pressure is immense. And you’re holding a 3-wood or maybe even a driver and the nearest drop spot is Waikiki. It’s intimidating as hell! But when the Walker Cup is played at Cypress Point, those mashers will be hitting irons on 16, to what is, in fact, a very large green, so I think they’ll handle it OK. For the pros, I think the first hole at Augusta National is the toughest tee shot there is. It’s maybe the hardest hole on the entire course: you’re in the shadow of the clubhouse where the ghost of Bobby Jones resides, thousands of fans are crowding the tee box and it’s the first swing of the day at the f’ing Masters. Serious pucker factor.

Do you believe J.B. Holmes that he was playing for the hole-out? Or do you think he was playing for a check and came up with that after the fact? – Tom (@tdaveniii)

J.B.’s explanation has the ring of truth. Remember a few years ago when Phil was facing a similar scenario and he asked Bones to tend the pin from 100 yards out? The greens at Torrey were quite firm this year and Holmes said he would’ve needed a 3-wood to get home, so that kind of screaming, lowish shot would almost certainly have bounced over the green, leaving him with a chip down a frighteningly fast putting surface. He felt he had a better chance of spinning in a full wedge shot, and I’ll buy that. Holmes lives in Kentucky and has already made enough money to buy half the state – I don’t think he was trying to protect third place.

How many players on the PGA Tour will be penalized for slow play in 2018? #AskAlan – Paul (@golffoodaddict)

The same number who get penalized every year, which is to say…zero.

Is the Players the fifth major? #FirstToAsk – Alan (@BigAlFishes)

Go to your room, you’re grounded.

Who will hole the winning putt at the Ryder Cup? – Ale (@theAleMarcoli)

Jordan Spieth.

My buddy and I are betting on Phil and Tiger as to who has a better year. Using FedEx points. I have Phil. Money on line. Thoughts? – Michael (@MayMasters)

You’ve clearly made history here as the first people ever to use FedEx Cup points as the basis of a bet, so there’s that. Even if you’re not using the wraparound season and focusing just on 2018 results, Phil has a decided advantage because he’ll almost certainly play more events, including the WGCs with their bloated FedEx payouts (though he needs to make some hay in the coming weeks to ensure that he stays in the fields for Mexico City and the Match Play). Tiger’s play at Torrey was wildly entertaining but I don’t think it’s sustainable – he has to find some consistency with his long game if he’s going to post more solid finishes. Of course, Phil is driving it almost as poorly right now. This to me is the critical difference: Tiger is deeply motivated and willing to grind like it’s 1999, whereas Phil these days seems all too happy to coast to middling finishes at everyday Tour events while he consolidates all of his interest around the majors. In conclusion, I’m afraid you’re screwed.

With Tiger not being able to drive it on the planet would he ever go back to a steel shaft in the big stick? – Forrest (@wannabgolfer)

It’s not a bad idea. Tiger should also consider going back to a driver that’s 43.5” long, which he wielded early in his career. The guy still has plenty of pop and the rest of his game is coming together – if he can drive it in the fairway things are going to get very interesting.

Does Brooks Koepka end up the next Anthony Kim? Hand/wrist injuries seem to be career killers. #AskAlan – Brian (@brianros1)

AK also blew out his achilles. And his big mistake was trying to play through a series of thumb injuries, which led to compensating moves in his swing, which led to the driver yips. Further, a lot of AK’s problems were cultural – he hated the buttoned-down culture of the Tour and always felt like an outsider. I agree with your thesis that the kind of injury Koepka has sustained can linger for far too long, but I think he’s smart enough to take off the time he needs and not come back until he’s healthy and ready to play his best. And he has none of the other baggage that AK did.

We need to talk about Suzann Pettersen. An on-the-record interview with a known newspaper in her native tongue is #FakeNews? Surely by now that term is akin to pleading guilty in hope of getting a reduced sentence (i.e. it most definitely has a lot of truth to it…) – Oskar (@tallboy199)

I’ve read Pettersen’s rebuttal on Facebook, saying she was misquoted, and also a story in which the reporter says he taped the interview and stands by the quotes. Without any more to go on, I’m strongly predisposed to side with the reporter. I’ve been down this road before: you’ve having a fun, jocular interview, and the subject says something edgy or provocative and you both laugh about it and move on. When the quotes appear in print they seem harsher than in the moment, and as soon as there’s any blowback the subject wants to backpedal. Unfortunately, you said it, and now you have to own it.

Now that the season is underway, what’s your realistic dream scenario for Sunday at Augusta? #AskAlan – Josh (@J_Decker84)

Sudden-death playoff between Tiger, Phil, Rory, Rickie, Jordan and DJ. Which means that Patton Kizzire is going to win by six shots.