#AskAlan: Which major course suits Dustin Johnson best?

March 6, 2017

Hola, amigos. Well, that was a heckuva WGC. Now we can look forward to a moving week at Bay Hill, the hijinks of the Match Play and then a little invitational in Georgia. The volume just keeps getting turned up on what’s already been a wildly entertaining season. So let’s get to it…

“2017 major venues, ranked by how they set up for DJ’s game.” – Will (@willbardwell)

1. Augusta National

2. Erin Hills

3. Royal Birkdale

4. Quail Hollow

OK, I’m kidding. Well, only a little. Dustin’s game has no weaknesses and thus sets up for any course, any time. What’s particularly interesting is that even though he’s a bomber he excels at tight, testy tracks like Chapultepec, Firestone and Oakmont. Interestingly, DJ hasn’t played Quail Hollow since 2011, when he went 72-79 to miss the cut. (In his two previous tourneys there he missed a cut and finished 23rd, breaking 70 only once.) Erin Hills is a long slog. Birkdale may be the most straightforward test of ballstriking in the Open rota. Augusta National is the wild card, as always. Johnson has slowly learned to play the course and has two straight top-6 finishes to show for it. But if he has a flaw in his game, it’s inconsistent putting, and that is magnified at the Masters. So, taking all of this into account, the actual ranking:

1. Erin Hills
2. Royal Birkdale
3. Augusta National
4. Quail Hollow

“Why does Lee Westwood collapse on a Sunday every time he is in contention?” – David (@zarkavalarein)

Poor Westy. He’s a good dude and by any measure a very good golfer, but he has taken a lot of bullets on Sundays. One of the most indelible things I’ve ever witnessed on the golf beat came at the 2009 Open Championship. That tournament will always be remembered for Tom Watson’s near-miss, but people forget that it was Westwood’s tournament to lose after he went birdie-eagle late on the front nine. But he bogeyed 10, 15 and 16. On the 17th hole, Westy rallied for a birdie that looked like it might get him across the line, but then he suffered a brutal three-putt on the 72nd hole, ultimately missing out on the playoff by one stroke. After a couple of glassy-eyed interviews behind the 18th green, I followed him into the Turnberry locker room. A bunch of players and their hangers-on were drinking beer and watching the finish on TV. They were quite boisterous, but upon seeing Westwood’s ashen visage the place went funeral quiet. He kept walking to a distant corner of the locker room and then lay down on a bench. He started to have trouble breathing, to the point it looked like he was hyperventilating. I had been hoping to ask Westwood a couple of questions, but I stood off to the side of the room, frozen in place. A locker room attendant whispered to me, wondering if we should summon a medic. It was that scary. Eventually Westwood got control of his breathing; I let him be and wandered away. But that’s how it feels to be Lee Westwood on some of these Sundays.

“Is J. Day becoming quickly forgotten in the “great young talent” convo because of his softness? No one seemed to miss him last week.” – Ryan (@spartygrad)

Day has way too much game to be forgotten, but there’s no doubt the constant illnesses, dings and other maladies have robbed him of a lot of momentum. Even someone in his inner-circle has taken to calling him a “hypochondriac.” It’s time for Day to give his health the same attention he has lavished on his swing: nutritionists, Eastern medicine, ayurvedic practitioners, acupuncture, a trip to the Mayo Clinic…everything needs to be on the table.

“Incredibly, Ian Poulter said recently that he’d never read a book. Can you recommend a book on fixing a shank as his first read?” – Mark (@mocycling)

This is particularly interesting since Poults is the co-author of his own autobiography. I’m sitting down with him quite soon for a podcast – I think your idea is the perfect opening gambit!

“Aliens are invading. The fate of the world rests on the aliens’ best versus our best. Inbee Park is my choice. Tell me why I’m wrong.” – Todd (@tamcfall)

You’re not. If we count Tiger Woods as retired, which I do, Inbee is easily the most dominant active golfer on any tour. She rarely misses a fairway, a green or a putt, and has a singular ability to rise to the occasion. Having just seen Arrival, I certainly like her chances versus those oversized squishy things.

“What new market should the WGCs explore next?!?!” – Eli (@EliMiller)

How about the Pacific Northwest? Every one-off event up there has been a homerun. It’s clearly time for the Bridgestone to leave Akron, even as we acknowledge that it’s the Paris of northeast Ohio. And it’s bothersome in the extreme that the WGCs and FedEx Cup have always had such an Eastern bias. The way the schedule is jammed up, it’s tough to go too far afield. As great as the courses are in Australia and New Zealand, the antipodes are the must-play destination. Maybe we slip the Match Play in right after the Hawaiian swing – at that point you’re more than halfway there.

“What are the last three books you’ve read?” – Randy (@BigRandyNLU)

“The Accidental Life” by Terry McDonell, “Native Speaker” by Chang-Rae Lee, and “Blasted Heaths and Blessed Greens” by James Finnegan.

“Watched some NFL combine during golf commercial breaks this weekend. Which pro would run fastest 40? Slowest?” – Bode (@apbode)

Fastest: Tommy Fleetwood. He’s built like a gymnast…and maybe his caddie can chase him, threatening a high-5. Slowest: Colt Knost. Could probably clock him with a sundial.