#AskAlan: What would you like to read about in Tiger’s forthcoming memoir?

In this installment of the #AskAlan mailbag, GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck fields questions about Tiger Woods the author, the 2020 Ryder Cup and if PGA Tour players might deal with some issues in China. 

Would you rather 1) get your first ace, 2) ghostwrite Tiger’s memoirs? -@sindap

Definitely 1 because I’ve already given up on 2. It would be fascinating to root around in Tiger’s head, even though I suspect it would lead to massive frustration. Still, if I could actually get him to be raw and real and produce an Agassi-esque memoir that is truly enlightening, well, that would be the journalistic achievement of the century.

What is one thing that could be written in Tiger’s [just announced autobiography] that would actually surprise you? #AskAlan -@JShamp

Well, we already know far too much about his sex life. The toxicology report after his DUI laid bare Tiger’s abuse of painkillers and prescription meds. I ‘spose the only bombshell would be if he admitted to using PEDs. Tiger could make the relatively convincing case that it was okay since for most of his career the Tour had no policy expressly prohibiting their use, and that he was just helping his body recover after repeatedly pushing it to the limit in the gym and various SEAL killhouses. Because there is so much more to the game than brute strength I don’t think think there’d be much of an outcry that Woods’s unparalleled record is tainted, but the fear of such a controversy would no doubt lead to self-censorship. So, I’m not expecting any earth-shattering revelations from this book. A few unguarded nuggets is probably all we will get.

How do you feel about the time off some of the top players have taken? Spieth and Fowler have not been seen forever. -@Swingtheclubken

I love it because I’ve actually had a chance to miss those guys!

As the tour hits their Asia Swing do you see any issues similar to what the NBA had when it comes to their dealings in China and the protests in Hong Kong?#AskAlan -@coachkirbychs

No doubt there has been a lot of back-channel education and, uh, pep talks from the Tour to the players on how to handle these kind of questions. I mean, when I went down to the Latinoamerica Tour last year to do a celebratory story every player received an email from PGA Tour headquarters strongly encouraging them to accentuate the positive. As the NBA has discovered, the stakes are much, much higher when it comes to the politics of China. Tour players are already more naturally cautious because as independent contractors their livelihoods are more delicate; witness how many top players are willing to do Saudi Arabia’s bidding. As I’ve written before, the entire European Tour business model is predicated on visiting countries with authoritarian regimes and/or abysmal human rights records. If pro golfers suddenly develop a conscience they will have far fewer places to play. LeBron James is currently taking a lot of heat for his comments about China/Hong Kong/free speech, but the bottom line is the Lakers are going to pay him $40 million this season no matter what. (He may lose a little in sales by way of Nike but won’t exactly feel it.) But if the Race to Dubai and Rolex Series and PGA Tour China suddenly disappeared it would have a profound effect on professional golf. So, expect a lot of carefully worded answers should any sensitive topics be broached during the Asian swing.

#ASKALAN Will Mickelson drop from 47th to outside top 50 in OWGR after this week’s at CJ Cup? He’s been in the top 50 since December of 1993…1,351 straight weeks. In his favor, there’s no cut this week. Thanks! -@MintzGolf

Answering this would compel me to understand the World Ranking algorithm and be able to predict Phil’s play, both of which are impossible. But Mickelson’s battle against the machines is really just a chance to stop and reflect on that he’s been so good for so long. Yes, his play can appear ragged from week to week, but this top 50 streak tells us all we need to know about the incredibly high level Phil has sustained for more than a quarter-century.

Phil Mickelson has been in the top 50 of the world ranking for the last 26 years.
Phil Mickelson has been in the top 50 of the world ranking for the last 26 years.
Getty Images

Do you think Justin Thomas should be offended that he is not on the Nine Bridges ad on Golf Channel? The ad says that Phil/Speith are likely to stop Bruce’s repeat win! -@anjipate

Of course not, but he probably is, and will likely shoot 30-under, win by 10 and then dunk all over the Golf Channel. It never fails to amaze me what bothers these guys. If I was young, immensely talented, generationally wealthy, and lucky enough to play golf every day on the world’s best courses, y’all could talk all the smack you want and I would be way too busy polishing my trophies/partying with models on my yacht to even notice.

Between Na and Harrington, there’s a lot of talk about personal pressure and how it affects a player’s game—and when they do well, it’s riveting (Tiger!). Then again, not all golfers who thrive “in spite of” dramatics are heroes (Reed, Daly…Tiger?). What decides the narrative? -@zuzanryan

A lot of it depends on the source of the drama. Patrick Reed has cut off all contact with his parents and sister while his wife and mother-in-law are out there on social media making disparaging comments about them. That is not going to generate a lot of sympathy for Reed. Per Kevin Na, he had a relationship end and then his ex sued him and her mom is picketing him at tournaments! Most folks are going to see that and feel sorry for Na. In these cases, the narrative is driven by what we know, which is hardly everything. (To quote Hollywood icon Bob Evans, there are three sides to every story: yours, mine and the truth.) Tiger is an interesting case study because he has been awful to many people close to him, been at the center of the most salacious scandal of the 21st century, had his private parts exposed on the Internet, seen his bleary-eyed mugshot beamed around the world after a DUI and yet he’s never been more beloved than right now. I guess that proves the redemptive power of sport, or that people really love a winner. (Na is benefitting from this, too.) Clearly, narratives are elastic. If Reed were to win a U.S. Open on Father’s Day and have his kids run out onto the final green no doubt some feelings toward him would thaw.

Bryson is clearly unpopular with his peers and likely a tough pairing in team play. Who do you think is actually willing to play with him in Australia? -@hpjagger

Well, Capt. Woods plays a lot of practice rounds with Bryson, so there’s one. DeChambeau and Kevin Na are also pals, so that would work if Na is a pick, which I think will happen. Webb Simpson is very easygoing and at the Ryder Cup has paired well with Bubba, so he’s used to having a nanny role. I think Bryson will be fine.

How much influence do you think some ‘new’ social media platforms like No Laying Up should have in golf? Or, others who have sprung up due to the ability to make a name through social media. -@TheGhostOfHogan

The use of ‘should’ in your question is interesting. There is no should. There are no gatekeepers. Not anymore. The influence of any media operation, new or old, is determined by the readers/viewers. If you put out good content, people will consume it, and that attracts sponsors and advertisers, allowing you to do more and better work, which then attracts even more eyeballs, which brings in even more money, and the cycle repeats. Social media alone isn’t enough to be an important player in this new landscape – it’s too shallow/ephemeral. No Laying Up has prospered, and earned access from players and tournaments, because their podcasts and video storytelling is excellent; the nonstop social engagement (and merchandise) is the sizzle, not the steak. Lotsa people make noise on Twitter and/or post ubiquitously on the Gram but in the absence of something of substance to regularly read or listen to or watch they are easily forgotten.

Alan, Ryder Cup tickets go on sale this week for those of us lucky enough to have received the PGA lottery info e-mail. I plan on going for the first time with some friends for two days if possible. Any spectating advice for this event? What’s your favorite thing about attending? -@forearmshivers

My favorite thing is getting hazed by European fans and players. But honestly the Ryder Cup is not an easy place to spectate, especially over the first two days, when the entire crowd is concentrated on only two or three holes at a time. Following on the rope line will be especially frustrating at Whistling Straits, with its semi-crazy terrain. My advice is to be strategic. Find a nice hill, or grandstand on the second or third hole, and stay there as all the matches come through. Then skip ahead to sixth or seventh hole, getting ahead of the crowd and waiting for the matches to come to you. Then do that on 10, then 14, then maybe try to follow one tight match to the bitter end. This way you’ll get to see all the players and matches. After one session you’ll figure out a few shortcuts and good vantage points and maybe you can try following hole-to-hole, but that ain’t easy.

Let’s flip it positive. As 2019 is winding down, what do you love that is happening in or to the world of golf? -@TheTwittah

I am shooketh because positivity is so rare up in here! But there is so much to love about the game right now: Shane Lowry singing in a tavern, Cameron Champ’s tears, Nate Lashley’s win, Max Homa’s Twitter, Eddie Pepperrell’s blogs, the Korda sisters’ good cheer, Steph Curry’s philanthropy, J.Y Ko’s putting stroke, Matt Wolff’s swing, Viktor Hovland’s giggle, Gary Woodland’s 3-wood, Jennifer Kupcho’s hybrids, El Camarón, Crunchy Pete, Harold Varner, Kevin Na walking in putts, Charles Howell hugging his family, Scott Harrington hugging his wife, Tiger hugging his kids … It goes on an on.

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