#AskAlan, Pinehurst Edition
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#AskAlan, Pinehurst Edition

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#AskAlan, Pinehurst Edition

I’m not that old, but I am a dinosaur—I did my first reader mailbag circa 1998, when the Internet was in its infancy. I am delighted to begin anew with MyGolfSpy’s learned followers. Look for these Q and A’s around the big events and whenever breaking news demands it. Without further ado, to the questions…

#AskAlan If Rory never wins another major, will he be seen as this generation’s Greg Norman? Unfair to both players I think, but the media and fans love a tragic figure story. @BillsMafia1985

Given McIlroy’s oft-stated antipathy for Norman, I’m sure he would hate this comparison, but there is definitely something to it: two mega-talents who have achieved so much but somehow leave us wanting more. The obvious difference is that Rory has doubled the Shark’s career major championship victories; four wins is pretty heady company. That brings us to another player who is, I think, a better analogue for McIlroy…Ernie Els, who also owns four major championships. Els, too, could make the game look absurdly simple but a certain fragility kept Easy from fully realizing his awesome potential. Not for nothing, a missing piece in all three players’ résumé is the Masters. The exacting nature of that course, and the grandeur of the stage, has a way of flummoxing flawed champions.

Will Scottie win the career Grand Slam? Will Rory? Will Collin? Will a rollback change the calculus? Is there another “Phil” on Tour? @andy_sp1

Yes. No. No. Eh, not really, because 5% ain’t nearly enough. Is there another big, meaty book to be written about professional golf? I certainly hope so, because I’m already on chapter two.

#AskAlan: I’ve been thinking of the best way to have a tour that’ll satisfy sponsors, top-tier players, rank-and-file players, spectators and fans at home. Now my head hurts. Is this an impossible task that “Hockey Jay” has before him? @david_troyan

I think there is a solution that will satisfy all of these constituents with the possible exception of the rank-and-file, but, frankly, they are the least important folks in all of this. It starts with the PGA Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) consummating a deal, which has to happen to reunify the game. The Tour should use this inflection point to finally admit that its schedule is far too bloated; a little contraction will help the product. If we eliminate the weakest 10 or so Tour events, that opens up weeks on the calendar that can be filled by the LIV tournaments. Now we build bridges between the tours: two four-man teams at every LIV event will be filled by Tour players, adding some needed frisson (and giving the Tour guys a chance to feed at the trough). And LIV regulars get to accept up to seven non-member sponsor’s exemptions at Tour events, which will greatly increase the box office and give them pathways back; if the LIV players win a tournament, they automatically become full-blown Tour members and can come home without penalty.

Now that the walls are coming down, we can finally build a unified global schedule. The national opens of Ireland, Scotland, Australia, South African, Japan, Korea and Argentina become signature events, drawing the best players and restoring the lost luster of those proud old events. To help make all of this work, the PGA Tour has to reduce the number of exempt players to 100, or maybe 90. But PIF and Strategic Sports Group (SSG) investment means the Korn Ferry can double or triple its purses, so the displaced journeyman can still fly private occasionally. And they can be given preferred opportunities on a better-capitalized European Tour and an Asian Tour flush with LIV investment.

As for the beleaguered fans, a big chunk of the private equity and PIF money has to be used to used to improve the TV and streaming products: drastically fewer ads; ability to watch every shot of every player at every tournament; all the caddies and players wearing mics; various other improvements to win back the many folks who have been disenchanted by the lousy product and endless bitchiness. 

Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I think most of this is actually doable. It just takes some imagination and leadership. Alas, that’s been in short supply lately among the game’s stewards.

Alan, is it true you are actually Yasir Al-Rumayyan? You look so much alike. @dokktordogo

About the only thing we have in common is that we both love golf and have beards. Oh, and that Greg Norman is often an irritant to us. It’s not an accident that Al-Rumayyan has chosen golf as a vehicle for further ingratiating himself into the upper echelons of sport and business. He has Western appetites. In the MBS biography Blood and Oil, Yasir is described as having “a taste for fine cigars and after-hours bars in Dubai frequented by long-legged, short-skirted Russian women.” This is definitely a point of departure for us, as I prefer cheap cigars.

PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan

Hey Alan, I know the U.S. Open is pretty set for venues until I hit 50…and I’m in my 20s lol. But I wanted to #AskAlan why the USGA has not had the national championship back at Chicago Golf Club or Myopia Country Club like they did in the 1800s? Is the tournament too big for those courses? @derrickq42

Alas, those antiquated playing fields are much too short for the modern game, and, as you note, neither club has the infrastructure to host the traveling circus that is the Open. But they are perfect for the U.S. Women’s Open, which Chicago Golf Club will host in 2036. As the women’s sports continue to explode in popularity, and with Nelly Korda growing into the crossover star that the LPGA has always dreamed of, the Women’s Open is becoming one of golf’s showcase events. Pebble Beach last year was a milestone, and future venues include Riviera, Oakmont, Pinehurst No. 2, Shinnecock, the Country Club, Merion, LACC and Oakland Hills. These are fabulous courses, obviously, but very much associated with the dudes. I would love to see the Women’s Open branch out to quirkier spots like Myopia or places that never have and never will host a U.S. Open. Hello, Pine Valley, Seminole and Cypress Point.

Since many of the LIV contracts allegedly were only three-year deals, is the PGA Tour worried that that LIV will poach more players next winter? @IIIWoodD

Of course! The Jon Rahm signing was the ultimate warning to the Tour: come back to the bargaining table or we will raid your top players. It’s wild that anyone would still question Al-Rumayyan’s resolve. He plays to win, and if the framework agreement falls apart and LIV and the Tour go back to being bitter rivals, Yasir will not be shy about wielding the checkbook.

Will Jon Rahm ever wake up and smell the roses, or will he persist in his apparent delusion that a) he is still a member in good standing of the PGA Tour, and b) he will one day be welcomed back to his favorite PGA Tour events with open arms? @WillotheGlen

He may yet get to play Torrey Pines and Riviera and the Phoenix Open and a few more of his favorites, but for sure this has been a jarring change in workplaces for Rahm. He has immense pride and a deep desire to become a player for the ages, so it is far too early to give up on him. Rahm has learned a hard lesson that more money hardly guarantees more happiness. He will find his equilibrium eventually but it better be soon, because the sport is quickly moving on without him.

It’s been a jarring change in workplaces for Jon Rahm.

It’s obviously scary territory to compare Scottie to Tiger at this point. Is what he’s doing more akin to ’04 Vijay? @T_stebbins

That’s a great comparison. Singh won nine tournaments that year, including the PGA Championship. Scheffler is now at five victories, including the Masters, with another dozen tournaments on the schedule, including two majors and the Olympics. Vijay gets serious bonus points because he had to fight off prime Tiger and Ernie, while Scottie doesn’t have an equal with whom to contend. But Singh turned 41 in 2004. He won a bunch after that but ’04 was clearly his peak. Scheffler is only 27 and we don’t know yet how he will climb, only that he is going to reach rarified air.

How many players shun you given your reporting? Genuinely curious if it is just Phil or a few (players) or dozens? Looking forward to your next book. Thanks. @RisingorSetting

I was certainly concerned about that after Mickelson began slandering me with malicious lies, but I discovered that “Phil” increased my credibility with the players (and agents and caddies and wives). A bunch of them thanked me for writing the book; they had always been bothered by the adoring press Mickelson enjoyed, and they knew he was very different in private than in public. The book bridged those two worlds and people in the game appreciated the unflinching look at a very complicated person. Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka have been dicks to me on social media, so I give them a wide berth, but pretty much every player I approached for interviews for “LIV and Let Die” answered my questions, whether it was Spieth, DeChambeau, McIlroy, Homa, Rahm, Reed, Fowler, D.J., Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley, Gooch, etc. There are not many actual reporters left on the golf beat; at PGA Tour events, the scribes are outnumbered three-to-one by Tour social media staffers, or so it seems. I think the players still appreciate when someone asks them real questions about real things.

If he wins the U.S. Open and Open Championship this year, should Scottie get a “do over” at next year’s PGA Championship, and if he wins it does that count as winning golf’s Grand Slam? @gt_jake

I think the weirdness of what transpired at Valhalla definitely deserves its own special place in golf history. If Scheffler wins at Pinehurst and Royal Troon, his 2024 campaign should forever be referred to as the Detective Bryan Gillis Soiled Pants Slam.

When writing for a book do you use special software and is it different from what you use for articles? @BillsfaninIll

Nah, I don’t distinguish between the mediums. I’m a Mac guy and people make fun of me for using Pages, but for reasons I can’t quite articulate I prefer it to Word. I’ve tried using Google Docs but I often type on airplanes or in coffee shops and pressrooms, where the wifi can be spotty, and that makes me distrust GDocs. The weird thing is that after I’ve finished a story or a chapter in Pages I will eventually save it in Google Docs in case I want to retrieve it later on my phone or another device. Or, if I’m sending to someone, I convert into a Word doc. But if you’re asking if I use any kind of AI, that’s a hard no. I have never once messed with ChatGPT or its ilk and have zero intention of ever doing so. The whole notion offends me. The machines cannot conduct interviews or listen in on a player-caddie conversation or ascertain when a golfer is standing over a putt just a little too long. AI will never fully understand the emotion and human drama that makes sports so thrilling. So while I use a computer, I don’t want to become one. If sportswriters have any value left, it’s to bring our idiosyncratic perspective to events you’ve already watched and try to explain them in a unique way, or take you places you can’t go as a fan at home, or offer a historical perspective that might have gone overlooked. To make you feel something. But you gotta have perspective: I always say that my job is to give people something to read while they’re in the bathroom. If you think of it like that it’s hard to take yourself too seriously.

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Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck

Alan spent 25 years on the golf beat for Sports Illustrated and was previously the executive editor at the Fire Pit Collective. Author of nine books, including PHIL; LIV AND LET DIE; BUD, SWEAT & TEES; and THE SWINGER.

Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck





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      BrianL99

      1 month ago

      I’ve bought 4 audio books in my life. You wrote all of them. They entertain me and my dog, on my back & forth road trips between NH & FL, fall and spring.

      Welcome to spy world and keep the books coming.

      Now that I know there’s 2 of use who use Pages, I’m more optimistic about Apple continuing to support it.

      Reply

      Cory Frazier

      1 month ago

      Welcome the the “Spy” world Alan. Seems fitting given your background. Appreciate your insights and look forward to reading your reporting and your takes going forward.

      Reply

      Alan Shipnuck

      1 month ago

      Thank you, sir. Delighted to be here!

      Reply

      buddy

      1 month ago

      Justin and Brooks are both dicks, for sure. It’s hilarious how PGAT home ohz will say all villains went elsewhere but what about JT?

      Reply

      Robin

      1 month ago

      I think if you put the best players together at most tournaments, you would get tired of watching the same golfers over and over.
      I would rather watch the korn ferry or liv than to hear Jim nantz and that dumb cbs music during the masters.

      Reply

      PHDrunkards

      1 month ago

      Or that completely clueless nonce Tirico on NBC or any of the NBC Left bent brainwashed morons

      Reply

      Joseph Olchowy

      1 month ago

      Interesting read. I would ask one question. If the PGATour and PIF do come to terms and the Tour accepts PIF money, is Brandel Chamblee going to attack the Tour the way he has LIV and its players.

      Reply

      PHDrunkards

      1 month ago

      The ONLY reason why the PGA Tour will NOT go for a World Tour like the tennis one is because it would make the Americans have to travel the world and dilute their ability to win consistently, having to play AWAY from home all the time, away from their families and away from their home comforts, having to deal with foreign countries and foreign languages, worried that will further weaken their players, having to face the reality that yeah, travelling out of a suitcase for most of the year jumping from country to country is actually REALLY DIFFICULT for a player to keep their game up to par and will balance out the game by not having Americans be elites any more.

      Reply

      Doug Sutherland

      1 month ago

      Alan, it’s good to be able to “find you” again after the Fire Pit departure. I personally think that there was a little too much attention paid to LIV on those pages. That did make me less interested in going to the site. Best of luck with the new gig. Now for the important question, where’s Bamberger gone to?

      Reply

      andrew

      1 month ago

      totally agree. make them play around the world or lose ranking points. also ALAN…why use the phrase “pathways back” like the PGA is the only place to play. Remember the PGA is an artificial construct created in the sixties just like LIV. Time and being American is not what makes you top of the tree. Jack and Gary played all around the world ALL THE TIME, something the current PGA pros won’t do …or can’t handle?

      Reply

      Tbone

      1 month ago

      Have you thought about reporting on another sport other than golf. LIV is awful but by taking many of the interesting players has made PGA boring. Scheffler has little competition & is also boring. No Phil & Tiger, etc has really hurt the game. Golf is in a bad spot now.

      Reply

      Steven

      1 month ago

      Why did you find it necessary to write about Phil? Who cares what he is like when the camera is off? Did he refuse to talk with you when he was on tour? What did you hope to accomplish with this book? What I see is a petty attempt to capitalize on the backlash from the issues between the tour and LIV. I’m sure there are many players on the tour that are very different from their public persona. I’ve been told by many sources that one of the most popular players is a complete a-hole when the camera is off. I think the fact that you chose to single out Phil says a lot more about your character than his.

      Reply

      Alan Shipnuck

      1 month ago

      Well, he’s the second-biggest star of the last 30 years. An outsized, complex personality. He has had some of the highest highs and lowest lows in golf history. And then he turned into a muckraking agent of change who completely altered professional golf. Sounds like a pretty good subject for a biography! What, you want 300 pages on Corey Pavin?

      Reply

      Mark

      1 month ago

      Thanks for showing everyone what I have known for a long time about Phil, having worked in the Golf industry for 25 years I remember when I first heard about how he was when the cameras were off. I was a fan, not a huge fan, but I remember thinking no way, then every tour rep, pga employee I ran into over the years always had a story about how he was as soon as he was out of camera range. Total tool bag.
      I really enjoy your inside look on everything. We are happy to have you part of MGS now.

      Reply

      Vito

      1 month ago

      Thank you for the inside look at Phil. A lot of us knew what a dick he was when the cameras weren’t around. Marty Brenneman(Cincinnati Reds broadcaster) called him out years ago for an incident at the Memorial when insisted that a couple members 10 yr old kids be thrown out of the clubhouse. Marty happened to be their for that and reported it while on a Reds broadcast.

      Reply

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