#AskAlan mailbag: Who deserves to win 2020 PGA Tour Player of the Year, and why?

Collin Morikawa has a strong chance at winning 2020 PGA TOur Player of the Year honors thanks to his PGA victory,

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In this installment of the #AskAlan mailbag, GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck answers your questions about this week’s Tour Championship, Dustin Johnson’s failures in the majors, who should be 2020 Player of the Year and much more.

Was Sunday at Olympia Fields the greatest finish in FedEx Cup Playoff tournament history? — @SteveThomsonMN

Yes, because it’s the only one I remember. Kidding! What DJ did to Spieth at the ’17 Northern Trust has to be in the conversation, as does Bill Haas’s up-and-down from a lagoon at the 2011 Tour Championship. But for sheer improbable giddiness I think the bang-bang double whammy of DJ and Rahm making crazy putts is very, very hard to beat.

If DJ doesn’t get Rahmed in the playoff he has 2 wins and opens with a mere 2 stroke lead at East Lake…. Fair? — @BobbyTeeItUp

I guess. An NBA team can sweep the first three playoff series but they’re back to square one when the Finals begin. The endless tweaks that the Tour has made to the FedEx Cup formulas all have the same goal: make the Tour Championship more compelling. The way Dustin is playing right now, if you gave him a four- or six-shot head start, the proceedings at East Lake could get very boring very quickly.

As a bow on the season, I was impressed Tiger was Top 40 on money list with only 7 appearances. Thoughts? — @honoluludon

The coin of the realm on Tour is now points, not money, and Tiger scored more than three-quarters of this season’s points way back in October 2019, with his win at the Zozo. Since then, he has been slowed by back issues, a long sabbatical as the Tour transitioned to its new reality amid the coronavirus and, of late, worrisome putting problems. Fair or not, Tiger will always be judged by the highest standards, but you’re right that it’s pretty impressive for a part-time golfer with a fused spine to have a win in any PGA Tour season.

Why does Dustin Johnson not get the same amount of criticism as Greg Norman for his major record? I’d argue Greg’s record in the majors is more impressive than his. Greg just got beat by flukes or guys who had the rounds of their lives, DJ has had implosion after implosion. — @War_Eagle1991

I think Dustin gets plenty of stick for having won only one major among his many, many chances. It may be tempered because he’s still only 36 and is clearly going to have plenty more opportunities. If Johnson can get to three major championship victories that puts him in very rarefied air. Of course, he’s got to get there first, and his uninspired play on Sunday at Harding Park to lose the 54-hole lead doesn’t inspire confidence that Dustin is ready to apply all those hard-earned lessons. For now, he’s definitely in the conversation for the most vexing career ever, up there with Shark and John Daly.

Alan, in this odd 2020 season which golfer(s) took a step forward in their game and which ones took a step back? Thanks — @forearmshiver

Forward: B. Todd, Morikawa, Horsfield, Højgaard, Niemann, Berger, Hughes, Hovland, Wolff, English, Rahm, DeChambeau, Scheffler, R. Palmer, Hatton, English, P. Casey, Dahmen, JT, DJ.

Backward: Spieth, Koepka, Molinari, McIlroy, Woods, Pepperell, Kiradech, Haotong, C.T. Pan.

Will Augusta have the Par-3 Tournament this year and can you help me get a bag? Lol — @TGolfer83

I think the Par-3 will happen and, alas, you’ve already missed your best chance to snag a bag, which is hanging out in the parking lot at the Asia-Pacific or Latin American Amateur and offering to caddie for free and hoping your guy wins and then brings you to Augusta.

Tiger Woods holds up Masters trophy.
Tiger Woods explains exactly why no fans at Masters will make ‘big difference’
By: Josh Berhow

More and more the Par-3 has become a TV spectacle so why not carry on the tradition? In the old days, before the wives and kids in matching outfits swarmed inside the ropes, it was more of a pure competition during which the players showed off their wizardry with their wedges; hopefully this year’s tournament, should it happen, will have that throwback vibe.

Who should be POY and why? — @TheTexasSteve

First of all, we have to define the terms. For the 2019-20 wraparound season, it has to be Collin Morikawa. He won the only major championship in spectacular style, conquered the House That Jack Built and was awesomely consistent, racking up a dozen top-25 finishes. But if we’re talking about 2020 as a whole, it’s way too early to tell since two of the three biggest events are still to come. I know when I get my GWAA ballot the 2020 Masters and U.S. Open will loom very large. If JT, DJ, Webb or Rahm wins one of those majors they probably become the POY frontrunner.

The putts that Rahm and DJ made were amazing and made for an incredible ending but was anyone else more nervous about the Mackenzie Hughes 5-footer on 18 or just me? — @JonathonJFelix

Oh, heck yeah. Both Rahm and DJ woke up on Monday and their life was pretty much the same as the day before, and that would have held true if Johnson had won the playoff.

Mackenzie Hughes celebrates his par.
FedEx Cup Playoffs: 8 bubble players who are in (or out) for the Tour Championship
By: Josh Berhow

There was real human drama watching an obviously nervous Hughes fan a weak approach into the bunker, play an incredible shot from the short-side and then wiggle in a career-altering putt. The money handed out at East Lake is gaudy but for Hughes — a longtime underdog finally playing his way into the big-time — that putt meant everything. It was awesome to see him hole it.

Some of the putting since the restart has been of an incredibly high standard, especially in those clutch moments on Sunday. Hypothetically, if course setups draw from the model offered by Memorial and Olympia Fields, will SG: Putting become the key? — @SportaSmile

It’s always key. On benign Tour setups so many players can overpower the course, so the best way to separate oneself is to hole a bunch of putts. On really tough setups more players miss the green in regulation and the chipping/pitching is extra challenging, so taking advantage of rare birdie chances and holing good-sized putts to save par are paramount. Really, I can’t think of any setup where the putting surfaces aren’t a monumental factor, although really bad Poa greens can be an equalizer since it’s difficult for anyone to convert.

What would it take to get a California golf writer to praise a Midwestern golf course? That question has to be formulated in the subjunctive, of course. Because it has never happened. — @HenriDeMarsay

Oh c’mon, I’ve been effusive in my praise of Sand Hills, Crystal Downs, Ballyneal, Wild Horse and Forest Dunes. The Cali golf cognoscenti loves Chicago GC, Shoreacres, Milwaukee CC and Prairie Dunes, while Whistling Straits is considered a neo-classic and Mammoth Dunes one of the best new courses in the land. You’re right that there is less enthusiasm for some of the traditional tournament venues like Medinah, Hazeltine and Bellerive but, hey, it’s not California’s fault the USGA and PGA of America lean toward uninspired layouts.

Having risen to No.13 in the OWGR, should Daniel Berger have received an invitation to the Masters in November and, in winning the AIG Women’s Open, should Sophia Popov have received an invitation to the upcoming ANA Inspiration? I say a resounding Yes and Yes. — @TheGolfDivoTee

Berger for sure. In the past the green jackets have extended special invitations to everyone from Shubhankar Sharma to Shugo Imahira. Yeah, these exemptions are more about breaking into international TV markets than righting wrongs, but the fact is the czars of the Masters can do whatever they want and certainly Berger should be in the field.

sophia popov rolls putt
Surprise major-winner Sophia Popov confronting an unexpected dilemma
By: James Colgan

The Popov situation is more nuanced, because Tours have always made rules to favor their members and plenty of players through the years have been victims of the bureaucracy. I think it would be great if she receives the full five-year exemption, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mike Whan makes an exception at the end of the season, which would be a very popular move. But I also thought the commish offered a persuasive and well thought-out case why, for the sake of fairness, it’s not being done now. It certainly swayed me.

Will each golf writer send Tim Finchem a personal apology or will you guys just send one letter with a bunch of signatures? Because the FedEx stuff has proven to be awesome. — @pmmacaluso

No such letter shall be forthcoming from me because my position about the Cup has never changed: the format is hokey and the promotion relentless but — and this is a huge but — I’m still glad it exists because we get great fields and compelling tournaments during what used to be a dead part of the schedule. The key to enjoying the FedEx Cup is not to think about the FedEx Cup and merely focus on the golf itself.

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Alan Shipnuck


GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck writes longform features and a monthly column for GOLF Magazine and has his own vertical on GOLF.com entitled “The Knockdown,” which is home to podcasts, video vignettes, event coverage and his popular weekly mailbag AskAlan. He is the author of five books on golf, including na­tional best-sellers Bud, Sweat & Tees and The Swinger (with Michael Bamberger). Shipnuck is very active on Twitter, with a following of 50,000.